1972 Streeters team celebrates 50-year anniversary

SAUK CENTRE- During their run to the first-ever Class A Prep Bowl in 1972, the Sauk Centre Streeters football team created memories to last a lifetime, both on the field as dynamic, immensely-talented football players and off the field as friends and highly-valued teammates.

And five decades after their unforgettable 10-2 campaign, Streeters’ players, coaches and cheerleaders returned to Sauk Centre for a 50th anniversary celebration Sept. 23-24.

“The enthusiasm is just above anything, because it’s great to see a bunch of guys I haven’t seen for 50 years,” Dave Kortan said, a member of the 1972 Streeters football team. “This is everything you could have thought of and more.”

Created by a seven-member planning committee consisting of former players, the reunion began Sept. 23 with a golf outing and a social at Sauk Centre American Legion Post 67. It was during this day that most of the Streeters got a glimpse of old compatriots. While the group was altered by aging, the experience unlocked the same joy and comradery that contributed to the team’s unparalleled playoff run.

“They were close as a team then, and they’re still close now,” Pete Lysaker, former Sauk Centre boys’ basketball coach, said. “It’s really great to see.”

Friday’s gatherings were simply a lead-up to the main sequence of events on Saturday, starting with the 1972 Streeters taking part in a brief halftime ceremony. As their names were called over the loudspeaker, members of the team walked onto the field and received a strong ovation from the crowd attending the Royalton-Sauk Centre matinee football game. 

“You walk down there and you get goosebumps,” Kortan said. “I can remember the shape of the field, the same as what it was (back in 1972). 

With the team reuniting for the occasion, remembrance was the main theme. As former defensive lineman Dave Neal stood alongside his former teammates at midfield, he thought back to his football career, which included a game-saving fumble recovery in a state semifinals showdown with Hibbing. While jumping on that ball was an impactful moment in Neal’s life, it is nothing compared to the lifelong relationships he built on the gridiron.

“I remember playing football there, that was the coolest thing for me,” Neal said. “There were a brief couple of years I was able to be out on that field, and playing out there was a great experience. I enjoyed the game and getting together with the guys; all of my friends were participating.”

Once the football contest completed with a 32-6 Sauk Centre win, the 50th reunion roster returned to Sauk Centre American Legion Post 67 for a short get-together before the final event: a banquet, which included speeches from Lysaker and coaches Bob Brophy, Dennis Pettit and Dennis Suelflow. Hearing and seeing these coaches again reminded many Streeters of an important speech held during the halftime break of the aforementioned Hibbing game, when Sauk Centre trailed by two touchdowns. 

“Coach Brophy got up and said, ‘This is going to be the half of football you will remember for the rest of your life,’” Joe Brisson, a member of the 1972 Streeters football team, said.

True to Brophy’s words, Sauk Centre reached the state championship behind an incredible three-touchdown comeback, visiting Metropolitan Stadium for a chance at winning the Prep Bowl. While it lost to Burnsville, the Streeters will not forget the moment they knew the whole state was watching.

“It was on television for the whole state of Minnesota,” Neal said. “In 1972, that was a big thing, nothing like it is today.”

The time spent in the Twin Cities was an eye-opener. Many of Sauk Centre’s players rode the elevator up and down at the Curtis Hotel since they had never ridden one before, and the athletes almost could not even use the Minnesota Vikings locker room because of their size discrepancy. 

“The showers were way big,” John Brisson, a member of the 1972 Streeters football team, said. “We’d have to stand on our tippy toes just to turn the water on. It was a great experience.”

All of these events, and more throughout 1972, were recollected in conversations by the former teammates over the course of the two exciting days of recognition. And while the Streeters did not come away with a state championship trophy, their 50th reunion event was a winner. 

“It’s just good to see everyone’s face and everyone smiling,” Joe Brisson said. “I thought the turnout was good.”