‘Gentlemen Saints’ enter SFHS Hall of Fame

With tales of past greatness and vivid memories of gridiron victory, the 1977 St. Francis High School football team was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame during a pre-homecoming game ceremony Oct. 5.

 Coach Jim Swanson applauds the memories of his Saints’ 1977 Rum River Conference championship.  Photo by Sue Austreng

Coach Jim Swanson applauds the memories of his Saints’ 1977 Rum River Conference championship. Photo by Sue Austreng

That football team ignited the community’s passion for the game on the gridiron.

After going 0-35 in the previous four seasons, the ‘77 Saints won the Rum River Conference and advanced to the second playoff round of the state tournament.

How does an 0-35 team ever dream of winning a conference championship? By lighting a fire in those boys’ bellies, training them to “work harder than anybody else, be ready when your number is called and never, ever give up.”

And that’s just what first-year head coach Jim Swanson did when he took over leadership of the team that year.

Members of the 1977 St. Francis High School football team pose with cheerleaders and coaches as they are inducted into the high school’s Hall of Fame. Photo by Sue Austreng

Members of the 1977 St. Francis High School football team pose with cheerleaders and coaches as they are inducted into the high school’s Hall of Fame. Photo by Sue Austreng

Those “gentlemen Saints,” as Swanson always called them, lost only one game during the regular season and then – in state tournament action – lost to the team which would go on to become 1977 state football tournament champion, Fridley Grace High School (now Totino-Grace High School).

“That was the year we became a team, believing in each other and believing we could do something most thought was impossible,” said Corey Gilbertson.

Gilbertson and his fellow co-captains, Phil Stalpes, Dave Walton and Troy Ferguson, took the mike during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, reliving the glory days of the 1977 football season and thanking coaches, cheerleaders, parents and the community for the roles they played in that winning season.

The captains also recited the pre-game pep talk Swanson would give. And that pep talk always ended with this prayer:

“Pray in your own way, gentlemen. Pray not to win, for God willing we shall. Pray to give 100 percent of your bodies. Pray that no man on either team is hurt. Good luck. God bless you. I love each and every one of you men.”

Ferguson closed his comments by expressing the thoughts of all of the 1977 Saints.

“We love you, Mr. Swanson, and one of our prayers was answered when you became our coach,” he said.

After the induction ceremony, Swanson talked about what the honor meant to him.

“This has just been overwhelming to get back and see all the players. This is something I’ll always remember. That team – those players – created a bond that I think will stay forever,” he said.

Class of 2012 St. Francis Hall of Fame inductees 1977 St. Francis High School football team

On Oct. 5, St. Francis High School inducted into its Hall of Fame the 1977 St. Francis High School football team (listed numerically by order of jersey number):

10: Magnus Karlsson

11: Greg Schadewald

12: Chuck Madden

22: Mike Sizen

23: Tim Tollefson

24: Tom Combs

30: Bob Ott

31: Ellis Wangelin

32: Phil Stalpes

40: Randy Froemming

41: John Doll

42: Dan Ott

43: Scott Froemming

50: Dave Walton

51: Tom Jesse

52: Greg Coop

60: Troy Ferguson

62: Bernie Protas

64: Kent Reed

65: Rick Crist

66: Tony Kelley

70: Dan Hoglund

73: Jim Robertson

75: Carl Wagner

76: Mark Hanson

80: Bud Sundeen

82: Nick Bjergo

83: Paul Norton

85: Stan Sizen

86: Corey Gilbertson

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com


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