History in the making

Matthew Strissel
Wednesday, November 16, 2022
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The 2001 Fergus state champion football team celebrates after the win. News-Argus file photo

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This Lewistown Daily News file photo shows the 1964 Fergus County High School ends, center and quarterback who helped their team to the only Class A undefeated season in the state. The team is considered the state champions of that year. They include, first row: Ken Neilsen, Ken Romo and Buzz Mosman. Second row: Dave Miner, Doug Wood, John Fleharty and Kirk Fleming. News-Argus file photo

For the first time in 21 years, the Fergus Golden Eagles football team is playing in the state championship game. It will be the third time in Fergus High School history the Golden Eagles will have battled for the state title.

The first time was in 1921 when Fergus County High School went undefeated during the regular season. The team fell to Missoula, 33-0, in what was then called the Montana Interscholastic Football Championship.

For the next 80 years, Fergus would not see another state championship game. In 2001, however, it was worth the wait.

That season, the Fergus Golden Eagles capped off a perfect season, going undefeated and winning the state championship in a 12-9 victory over Whitefish. That same day, the Fergus Golden Eagles girls basketball team won their respective state championship as well. It is the only time a single school has won two state championships in a single day in Montana sports history.

That season opened with a 29-15 victory over Colstrip, then a 35-14 win over Glendive. The next two wins for Fergus were shutouts, defeating Sidney, 42-0, and Browning, 38-0. Their next bout was against rival Havre in a 34-7 win. Next the team faced Laurel where they came away with a 20-12 victory. The Golden Eagles then defeated Belgrade, 29-24. Their final game of the regular season was a 38-0 shutout over Park.

To start the playoffs, Fergus defeated Hamilton, 34-9. In the semifinals, the Golden Eagles gained a 20-12 win over Butte Central. For the championship game, Fergus defeated Whitefish, 12-9.

While Fergus has officially competed in the state championship three times, there is another team that could be called the unofficial Class A state champions.

In 1964, there was no state championship game played, per the Montana High School Association rules, and Fergus was the only Class A team with an unbeaten record. The team also boasted five shutouts that season, outscoring their opponents collectively, 182-32.

The 1964 season opened with four straight shutouts. The Golden Eagles defeated Park in a non-conference game, 42-0, for their first game, then defeated Laurel in another non-conference matchup, 19-0.

For their first conference bouts of the season, Fergus defeated Glendive, 20-0 and Wolf Point, 13-0. The first team to score points on the Golden Eagles was Sidney where Fergus gained a 21-13 win. The game was nearly an upset as Fergus was tied for first place in the Eastern A Division and Sidney was in last place at the time.

The next game was homecoming for the Golden Eagles where they played the Glasgow Scotties. The game was considered the Eastern A championship match as both teams were the only remaining undefeated clubs.

Fergus pulled out a 7-6 win, with the PAT being the deciding factor after each team scored one touchdown. While Fergus was able to score theirs, the Glasgow defense could not. According to the Lewistown Daily News, the Fergus defense stopped the Glasgow PAT, but was called for a penalty and they had to stop them a second time. With a strong effort, Fergus was able to get the second stop and gain the win.

The Golden Eagles then played their only other nonconference game of the season against Anaconda. This time it was a one-score game where Fergus won, 12-6.

Fergus then played a conference match against Miles City. In a brutal bout where 150 penalty yards were given, and two Miles City players were ejected from the game, Fergus gained a 21-7 win.

In the final game of the season, Fergus won another shutout, this time against division rival, Havre. Fergus defeated Havre, 27-0.

Some consider the 1964 Fergus football squad as the finest football team Lewistown has produced.