HUMBOLDT — When Humboldt Collegiate first started its football program in 1972, Tom Saretsky knew he wanted in.
“We played a lot of football in the community with the buddies,” said Saretsky, who was in Grade 11 at the time. “As soon as football came, everybody just wanted to play football.”
Patrick Miller, who was in Grade 12, said he heard about the program at school and wanted to give it a shot.
For Karl Breker, who was in Grade 9, his path onto the football team was less direct.
“My brother was on the ’72 team. I needed a lift home and I was standing by the parking lot,” he said. “One of the coaches asked me what I was doing. I said, ‘waiting for my brother.’ He said, ‘Go over there with the defensive back.’ That was my initiation onto the team.”
Breker would be on the team until 1976. He was part of the team in 1975, when they won Humboldt Collegiate’s first provincial football title.
The Mohawks football team celebrated the alumni of 1972 and 1975 teams at their season opener on Sept. 13. After the game, there was a social, followed by a breakfast the next morning.
Breker said there was a lot to learn in that first season, both for the players and the coaches.
The football field had no grass in 1972, there were no change rooms and the equipment was less advanced then.
“I played offensive center with [a helmet with] two bars across, no bars down, should have been at least three across and one down,” Miller said. “It was a good reason why I got my first concussion by doing that.”
That said, playing in the program was safer than what was happening before.
“When we used to play around, there was no equipment, and we would play tackle with no equipment,” Saretsky said.
Much of the camaraderie built among the 1972 team took place during practice.
“You practice every day, with these guys every day for a couple hours after school. You became close, you kind of look out for each other,” Saretsky said.
For all three players, being part of a team sport had a lasting impression. Miller said in his work life, he gravitated towards team players, while Breker said having co-workers support each other and watch each other’s back was important for his career.
In 1972, the team didn’t win a single game. In 1973, they won two. In 1974, they split the season and in 1975, they didn’t lose a single game.
“We had excellent kids with some newcomers from a few other schools that happened to be there that year. The team came together,” Breker said.
“It was certainly euphoric, to win the provincial title.”
Watching the Sept. 13 game, what struck Miller the most was the number of people there.
“When we take a look at the crowd that we saw last night, it just blew me away. I mean, in ’72, there really wasn't the same interest.”
Breker said he enjoyed watching the Sept. 13 game
“It's just been really good to see everybody out the game last night and the game itself was entertaining. We didn't end up where we wanted to, but it's been real good. Everybody seems to be very positive about it and it's been a lot of fun.”
Breker said when he looked at the players, he gathered they are more prepared than when he was playing. In his day, players just showed up on the field after a summer vacation, while many of the players now are keeping fit during the summer.
Brian Grest, one of the organizers of the celebration, said he was pleased with the number of people who came to the game, the number of alumni that showed up, the good weather and the support from local groups.
He did say that he’s still trying to build an alumni database with emails and phone numbers so the school can invite alumni to future games.
“We plan on doing this again next year, so we need to build that alumni database.”
The plan for next year is to celebrate the alumni of the 1996 and 1997 teams, both of which had won provincial championships.