Here’s a peek at what the Denfeld Hunters gridiron crew looked like 75 years ago, in the fall of 1944. That’s legendary coach Walt Hunting up top and center.
The previous year’s Denfeld team shutout every opponent en route to a 4-0-1 record. The final game of the 1943 season, a 0-0 tie with Duluth Cathedral, ended a 19-game winning streak for Hunting’s Hunters that extended back to the 1941 season.
The 1944 team was less impressive, posting a 3-5 record with wins over Crosby Ironton, Superior Cathedral and Eau Claire, and losses to Morgan Park, Superior Central, Duluth Central, Duluth Cathedral and Anoka. But the team was better than its record indicates — all but one of the losses were by a touchdown or less. The season-ending loss to eventual state-champion Anoka in the playoffs was by a 21-18 measure. The unbeaten Anoka team was led by future Minnesota Gophers’ running back Billy Bye.
World War II was fought during this era. A Duluth News Tribune article on Sept. 1, 1944, encouraged boys and girls who had summer employment in various fields, including war plants, to return to school and complete their high school education. Duluth Public Schools Superintendent Alvin T. Stolen is quoted saying, “Today our leaders are calling you young people back to school. … Be prepared to meet the tasks and opportunities of a promising future. Serve your country and yourself by staying in school.”
The football season started a little later then than in the modern era; the opening game was on Sept. 15.
Here’s the roll call of players in the team photo:
First row: L. Seczko, Bud Bostrom, Joe Boffa, Gordon Pilipovich, Bob Hughes, R. Bergman, Art Happonen, R. Anderson, Gordy Lundquist and Alfred Bassi.
Second row: John Hendrickson, R. Anderson, J. Liston, E. Isakson, Bill McLean, Dale Erickson, Wally Gustafson, D. Bodin, J. Prusak, Len Lundeen and R. Fleming.
Third row: Cliff Benson, E. Strom, Keith Stolen, R. Seseman, Bob Thorp, E. Goossen, Rudy Monson, John Price, D. Talafous, James Bianco and Fred Murphy.
Fourth row: Glenn Card (assistant coach), Walt Hunting (head coach) and Sid Skinner (B-team coach).
The two images below are from the 1945 Denfeld Oracle, which chronicled the 1944 football season.
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