The year was 1964. The leaves were turning to gold and so were the hopes and dreams of the two high school football teams here in town, Butte High and Butte Central. Both teams had an uphill battle to try and turn golden.
Both were coming off losing campaigns. The Bulldogs, under Sam Jankovich, had experienced the school’s first losing season in over a decade in 1963. The Central Maroons, under Huz Jensen, had struggled through its second straight losing campaign in 1963.
Both clubs won their opening game against the Anaconda schools. The Bulldogs polished off the Copperheads while the Maroons bested the Anaconda Central Saints.
The two Butte teams met in week two of the season. The Bulldogs’ Gary Barker scored a pair of touchdowns in the first half with one being a spectacular 51-yard punt return. Ray Becky was the star for Butte High scoring on two run in the second half, one from 60 yards out as the Bulldogs rolled to a 27-0 victory.
The game marked the only time all year either Butte school lost a game. The Maroons rolled through Class A Competition recording a 7-1-1 record for the year to win the state championship. Running back Ed Kelly led the way for the Maroons setting numerous school records during the season. Kelly had over 300 total yards in a key win over Billings Central to help secure the divisional and state crown.
The Butte Bulldogs went through their season undefeated winning all nine games they played in during the season. It was not easy for the Bulldogs. They edged Great Falls 14-13 and also got by defending state champion Missoula County 14-12. Butte High capped the perfect season with a 39-13 pasting of Kalispell at Naranche Stadium to secure the state championship.
When you add the numbers up the 1964 teams, they had a combined 16-1-1 record for the year, the best ever in the history of the city.
Two Central players, Ed Kelly and Steve Stosich, both made it as individual members of the Butte Sports Hall of Fame. Across town the stars were glowing brightly for all the Butte High players who made the local shrine. Seven members from that 1964 club were enshrined into the Butte Sports Hall of Fame. The list includes Rick Sparks, Jon McElory, Dick Wilson, Jim Street, Gary Barker, Ray Becky and Bill Sever.
Remarkably, Sparks, McElroy and Street were very successful high school head coaches. Those three men combined to win 23 state championships as head coaches.
The Maroons also produced a winner In the coaching ranks from that 1964 season . Steve Stosich won a state crown as a head girls softball coach and was an assistant coach on 20 state championship teams at both Butte High and Butte Central.
The special fall of 1964 will come alive this weekend again as both teams will be honored. Butte Central will holds its annual M Club dinner at 5 pm this Friday night at the Mac center to honor its 1964 champions. The Bulldogs of 1964 will be honored during the Silver B’s dinner held at the high school prior to the Bulldogs game with Great Falls Russell.
The fall of 1964 it was certainly golden on the football field for both Butte High and Butte Central.