2018 Hall of Fame Inductees
The St. Vital Mustangs has a proud and rich tradition of amateur football in Winnipeg. There have been many individuals who have contributed to the success of our organization. In celebration of our 70th Anniversary of our football club we will be honouring the following teams and individuals who made exceptions efforts to our organization.
1972 ST VITAL MUSTANGS
MANITOBA MIDGET FOOTBALL CHAMPIONS
Dick “Whitey” Howard, President Manitoba Midget Football League presents championship trophy to St Vital’s Ron Hemmersbach (25) and Mike Brown (64) following the Mustangs 20-14 win over the Fort Garry Lions at St Vital Memorial Park. Photo by Bob Holliday.
After going through the season undefeated with a 6-0 record the Mustangs would go on to win the 1972 Midget Championship, in the mud, at Memorial Park by a 20-14 score over the Fort Garry Lions. Doug Sexsmith would be the man of the hour scoring a touchdown with three minutes left but it would be game MVP Dave Henry that would score the other two and lead the team to victory.
With this success the 1972 Midget’s became the first St. Vital Mustang team to win a championship since 1955. In the words of Jeff Younger “the core group of players from this team went on to play Juvenile and Junior football for the Mustangs winning championships at both levels. Many of these players also went on to become members of the Mustangs coaching staff and or executive for many years to follow leading the Mustangs to become the powerhouse of football in Manitoba”.
1955 ST VITAL MUSTANGS
Manitoba Juvenile Football League Champions
They played with hand me down equipment and uniforms but in 1955, a group of 17 and 18 year old young men became the first Mustang team to win a Championship, in the Manitoba Juvenile Football League. Having finished as runners up in both 1952 and 1954 it was to be third time lucky in 1955. The Mustangs again finished first in the league and got their just revenge on the Norquay Rams winning a two game total point final by a score of 11-9. The Rams won the first game 9-0 with the Mustangs winning 11-0 in the second.
In the first game it was evident that the week’s lay-off had done the Mustangs no favor and the Rams “had a fairly easy assignment to get into the lead. They pushed deep into St Vital territory without much opposition from the Mustangs defence and set up a three point lead early in the game…”A Mustangs fumble in the last quarter gave the Rams possession on the St Vital 35 yard line. Two plays later quarterback Gerry Young heaved a perfect toss to Mike Debroni for the touchdown….” St Vital Lance, November 3rd, 1955
Emotions had run high during the game and this coupled with “poor officiating the game ended in something resembling a brawl both players and spectators taking part”. (St Vital Lance November 3rd, 1955) This set up a very interesting final game with the ponies needing to overcome a nine point deficit on their own ground.
With one of the most powerful teams in league history and not wanting to lose a championship for the third year in succession the Mustangs “finally found the latch to the door they have been knocking on for the past two years, topping the Norquay Rams 11-0 to win the first Juvenile league Championship in their history”. (St Vital Lance, November 10th, 1955)
Entering the game down by nine points the Ponies were not to be denied. Scoring their eleven points in the first half and then playing it safe until the final whistle. The St Vital Lance reported “Victory was never sweeter for Mustangs coach Art McOuat”.
According to team quarterback George McOuat, the family was “ecstatic” to win the ‘55 championship and it certainly felt better than the “bummed out” feeling they had following the loss in 1954.
Mustang player, Don Butt recalled the final game as “an unspectacular tough battle played on a cold November day on a frozen field with no traction”. Regardless of the weather or the state of the equipment the ‘55 Mustangs were a team that had a “never give up attitude” – an attribute that they would carry with them for life. .
Coach Barry Smith, felt it was very “exciting” to win a championship but in a recent conversation reflected on where the team had come from, its early beginnings and the time and effort that had been committed was just as important as the championship itself. “From nothing, it was amazing how it all came together”.
1952 ST VITAL MUSTANGS
Although there was football being played in St Vital prior to the formation of the St Vital Mustangs it was mainly geared towards adults playing with the St Vital Bulldogs in the Intermediate Football League. That is not to say that there had not been some attempts to start programs for younger players. Gary Bircham, who was the trainer of the 1952 team, referred to some “six man football being played at half time during the St Vital Bulldogs games”
However, it was a young man named Art McOuat that really got the ball rolling and created what has now become the modern day St Vital Mustangs. Art had heard that there was an individual looking to start a team so his grandson could play. At the same time, Art, trying to find a place for his brother to participate, contacted him and being the organizer and leader he was, implemented a team geared toward youth that has truly stood the test of time -The St Vital Mustangs Football Cub.
Recognizing the void in the community Art, who had never played football himself, had a vision and through hard work, a lot of determination and help from family and friends, the St Vital Mustangs entered the Manitoba Juvenile Football League in 1952. With no money, Art personally financed the league administration fees and acted as the team’s first Head Coach.
Nineteen year old Art would recruit his friends Barry Smith and Dennis Falconer to help coach and Gary Bircham as the team’s trainer. Although Barry had played some football with Elmwood and St Vital in the Intermediate League the group had limited football experience. Barry explained “we were very fortunate that a retired St Vital police officer Bob “Scotty” McKay who had played and coached the St Vital Bulldogs Intermediate team, gave us a playbook and spent a lot of time with Art explaining it”.
With coaches in place the team then turned its attention to finding equipment. Art started to contact the existing senior’s teams “begging” their help. As described by the McOuat family “The St Vital Bulldogs “had some old pads, pants and a few pair of cleats. That combined with the use of personal or borrowed equipment (much of it supplied by the players and their families) a few old kit bags from the war days as tackling dummies and we were underway”.
What appears to be the first recorded article on the team appeared in the Winnipeg Tribune on September 15th, 1952 in a column entitled “St Vital Juveniles Defeat St Boniface”. It read:
Growing up on Glenlawn Avenue, Glen was exposed to football at a very early age as he spent many hours at Memorial Field. When he was old enough he joined the Mustangs in the early 70’s and played two years of bantam football. In 1973, he started his volunteering with the club as the equipment manager of the midget team and would continue his involvement with the Mustangs primarily as equipment manager for the various teams until the late 80’s. With football and a dedication to the community in his blood Glen would serve many years with the organization. His commitment to the Board spanned almost two decades where he put in many an hour ensuring the success of not only the teams but the organization as a whole. Always a constant, his primary role was as Vice President of Equipment where he saw to it that the Mustangs had the best equipment available and that it was always well maintained. As if this portfolio was not big enough Glen assumed many other tasks including but not limited to the following:
- Board of Directors / Club Secretary
- Annual Fund Raising Dinner Committee
- Selection Committee "St Vital Mustang Award"
- Clubhouse Rules Policy Committee (Chair)
- Trophies Committee
- Vice President Nine Man Football
- Director Winnipeg Affiliated Football League
- Mustang Bingo
- Mustang Canteen
In addition to these duties, Glen was instrumental in working many fund raising events and selling numerous tickets. He never missed a work party and in the words of former Mustang President Gord Cooke:
“During my years as Mustang President, Glen was a constant source of advice and support during my tenure. It was always reassuring to the Board (and players) that equipment issues were always under control even during years when the equipment budget was underfunded”… “Glen was an integral part of the great success of the St. Vital Mustangs history, the many league championships won by the Mustang teams & left a very impressive legacy with the St. Vital Mustangs organization”.
Stew played six years (2 juvenile – 4 Junior) with the St Vital Mustangs. In 1974, Stew lead the Mustangs to a Juvenile Provincial Championship and was on the losing end of the Eastern Juvenile Final where the Mustangs lost to the Laval Scorpions. After playing two years with the juveniles, Stew graduated to the Junior squad where he led the team to a championship in 1976 and 1977 but lost to the Hamilton Hurricanes in the Inter-Conference Final in 1976 and the Edmonton Wildcats in 1977. In 1977, he led the league in passing yards and was named a league All - Star twice.
Showing a true commitment to the Mustang organization, Stew turned to coaching in 1979 joining the Midgets as an assistant coach. He remained with the Midgets until 1983 when he became a member of the Juniors coaching staff, focusing much of his time on the offensive backfield. Stew would leave the team following the 1987 season which saw the Junior Mustangs compete for National supremacy in the Armadale Cup Final.
Although Jim did not play football with St Vital, he went on to become a Mustang coaching legend. Jim’s career began with the bantams in the mid 70’s and his success reached a crescendo specifically with the Midget program. Starting as an assistant coach he assumed the Head Coach role in 1981 and won his first Provincial Championship in 1983. He would repeat in 1984, and three peat in 1987, 88 and 1989. Although this was a remarkable accomplishment perhaps what is more remarkable is that between 1981 and 1989 the Mustangs would appear in nine straight Provincial Championships. Jim continued to coach with the Mustangs until 1991. Given his expertise “Coach Ladd” also served time on the Mustang Board of Directors.
In the words of former Mustang player and coach Brent Kaneski, “Jim was instrumental in helping take the organization to a new level. Having coached the Midget program through most of the '80s, his coaching efforts were tremendous, but in many respects, Jim’s efforts to promote the interests and high standards of the St. Vital Football organization tended to be at the forefront of everything he did. Occasionally controversial, to the point where he could make others uncomfortable, the fact is one could never question Jim's sincerity or how much he cared about his players. Jim was certainly not there to just “put in time” or “win championships” – though he won more than his fair share. He truly believed he was there to do much more than just coach football and he made all of us, players and coaches, look at our experience in a different light.”
It is very clear that Jim was an extraordinary man who based his success on respect and trust. At the same time he taught his players what it meant to be successful and what you had to do to get there. He was a mentor to many a player and coach who would go on and be successful in not only their football careers but in their professional lives.
A former Mustang player who played Midget and Juvenile in the 1960’s, Bill spent almost 30 years with the Mustangs, coaching for 23 of them. He coached Bantam, Midget and Junior, experiencing the most success at the midget level. Bill was the Head Coach of the 1972 and 1973 champions and was an assistant with the five time champions of the 80’s. Following the 1989 year he took charge of the Mustang Junior program where he was Head Coach for two years.
Bill was given a tryout with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, was the President of the Manitoba Midget Football League, the recipient of many coaching awards and sat on the St Vital Mustang Board of Directors for a number of years, serving as Executive Vice President in 1985 and 1986.
A long-time resident of St Vital, Bill was a stalwart of the St Vital Mustang organization as it transitioned into the organization it has become today.