Legends Stadium in Kalispell is a well-lit landmark and a kernel of the community’s story. It’s where generations of young men and women have competed, where youngsters have developed a lifelong passion for sports and where supportive fans have celebrated their pursuits. It’s an athletic arena but also the vibrant source of countless memories dating back to the early 1900s.
The first high school football team in Flathead County played here back in 1904. By the 1940s, it was one of the state’s finest athletic complexes and home to some of the state’s best football teams and track and field athletes. It almost went away in 1952, when the complex fell into disrepair and the school board debated whether to move the field to the county fairgrounds or an empty lot south of Dry Bridge. But the community spoke out loudly to keep the local field in its unique neighborhood setting in the heart of Kalispell.
In 1977, Rawson Memorial Field, as it was called for decades in honor of former Flathead principal Kenneth Rawson, received a significant upgrade thanks to a $45,000 investment from the school district and $10,000 from Flathead Valley Community College, which used the facility for collegiate events. New lights and poles were installed, along with the two practice fields to the west of the varsity field.
In 2004, the school board changed the name of the complex once again, renaming it Legends Stadium to honor the outstanding students, teachers, coaches and administrators who embodied its rich tradition and history.
Now the century-old facility is undergoing its latest evolutionary change. The grass field, raggedy and crowned from years of wear and tear, is being removed this summer and replaced with synthetic turf. Construction began last week, and the new turf should be ready by the arrival of football season in August.
To commemorate the occasion, the Beacon dug through history books and yearbooks, scanned old newspapers and interviewed longtime local sports acolytes to craft a comprehensive yet imperfect list of great memories upon these departing grassy grounds.
Lots of monumental moments were left on the cutting floor. What about the 1985 Braves team that boasted the state’s best offense — outscoring its opponents by an average of nearly three touchdowns per game — and trounced Havre 43-0 in the regular season finale? Or the 1996 Braves, who featured one of the state’s best all-around players in Josh Herzog and won their final regular season games in do-or-die fashion to secure their first playoff appearance in nine seasons.
There isn’t enough room to properly recognize all the great games on that field, but here’s a good start. This is intended to spark conversation and debate and elicit even more memories. Email me your suggested additions at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll add them to this list online.
Nov. 10, 1939
This historic night marked the first time Flathead hosted a state championship game. Kalispell fans turned out in droves to celebrate the occasion as the hometown Braves defeated Miles City 25-0 in the Class A chipper. The victory over Miles City advanced Flathead to a matchup against larger Class AA opponent Great Falls on the road. The Bison defeated Flathead 47-6 and ended the Braves’ season at 6-3 overall.
In the Class A title clash, Flathead’s John McQuirk connected with Paul Kampfe for a 25-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Standout Braves fullback Joe Dieringer pounded in two more scores and the Flathead defense limited Miles City to only seven first downs in the game. Donald Dunn scored the Braves’ fourth TD. Other standout Flathead players included Louie Bain, Bert Baldwin and Arnold Christianson.
The Braves returned to the Class A title game in 1940 but lost to Glendive, 2-0.
Nov. 4, 1950
One of the all-time great Kalispell football teams under the guidance of legendary coach Frank Little, the 1950 Braves steamrolled through the season and clashed with the Helena Bengals on this fateful night. Only a few years after becoming a Class AA squad, the Braves defeated the Bengals 37-19 and advanced to the state championship game. Arnie Riebe led the Braves’ formidable ground game, which piled up 402 yards in the contest. Riebe scored two touchdowns, and Frank Landon, Harley Remington and Jim Strodtbeck each scored once. Tommy Little, Frank’s son, was another standout senior.
The home victory propelled Flathead into the title contest against a familiar rival, Butte. Flathead traveled to Butte and played on Thanksgiving, Nov. 24, in an epic game between two powerhouses. The title game, held in subzero temperatures with a large contingent of Kalispell fans in attendance, was tied at 21 before Flathead erupted for 21 unanswered points and captured the school’s first Class AA state championship. Tommy Little, Landon, Remington and Dick Wilson accounted for the scores. The victory put Flathead’s final record at 8-0-2 overall and was Flathead’s first win over Butte and legendary coach Harry “Swede” Dahlberg.
Nov. 22, 1951
In front of 4,600 frozen fans in the Flathead County High School stadium on Thanksgiving Day, Flathead and Butte deadlocked at 7-7 in the Class AA state championship game. The highly anticipated rematch of the 1950 title game did not disappoint in terms of excitement despite the co-championship outcome. Flathead quarterback Frank Landon connected with Lew Anderson on a 22-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and Dick Wilson kicked the extra point to give Flathead a 7-0 lead. But Butte quarterback Bob Renz charged the Bulldogs down the field and scored a quick TD to tie the game before half. Flathead had three more opportunities to score in the second half, but Butte’s defense proved too stingy. Late in the fourth quarter, Flathead reached Butte’s 10-yard line, but two running plays were stuffed and two passes were incomplete.
Flathead ended the season as one of the most dominating teams in Kalispell history, outscoring opponents by an average of 21 points per game.
Nov. 14, 1958
On a snow-covered field in front of 3,000 fans, the Flathead Braves defeated the Helena Bengals 39-13 to win the Class AA state championship, its first outright championship since 1950. Traveling to road games on a raggedy bus named “Desire,” Flathead journeyed through the season under first-year head coach Jim Sweeney and became a true Cinderella story.
The Braves (8-1) dominated the title game, which kicked off at 1:30 p.m. Eight different players scored while the defense limited Helena to 174 total yards. Flathead all-state quarterback Ken Christison passed for two touchdowns and rushed for a third. Gordon Schlabs, later named all-state at lineman, caught one touchdown and Dave Counsell caught another. Mike Huggins passed for another TD for Flathead, connecting with Leon Rydberg. All-state fullback Jim Meacham and all-state halfback Kip Croskrey rounded out the Braves’ scoring. Larry Jones was also an all-state star for Flathead at lineman.
Flathead finished the championship season 9-1 and would win the title again in 1959 on the road by capping a perfect 9-0-1 season. Huggins, a co-captain of the ‘58 title team with Schlabs, went on to play basketball at UCLA under legendary coach John Wooden. Sweeney left Flathead in 1959 and moved on to coach at Montana State University, Washington State and California State University-Fresno, where he holds the all-time wins record at 144.
Nov. 7, 1970
Flathead ended an 11-year championship drought with a dominating performance under the lights in Rawson Memorial Stadium. Following an 8 p.m. kickoff, the Braves rolled up 400 yards of offense while the defense was perfect as Flathead trounced Great Falls Central 41-0. Flathead, led by all-state players Bill Carr, Dennis Lennick, Randy Augusta, Greg Harris, Howard Savage, Dick LaMarr and Gary Fetveit, finished the season at 9-0-1 and secured the de facto Class AA state title. There was not an official postseason playoff bracket that year.
Under head coach Don Christensen, Flathead boasted one of the all-time great scoring offenses, led by all-state quarterback Rod Moore, who was named the state’s offensive MVP. All together, the Braves tallied 231 points, the most in Montana that season. The Braves defense only allowed 53 points all season. The only blemish on the team’s record was a 13-13 tie with Butte.
Oct. 12, 2007
Anticipation and excitement merged under the lights of Legends Stadium for the inaugural crosstown football game between the Flathead Braves (4-3) and the new Glacier Wolfpack (0-7). The first showdown between Kalispell’s two teams featured a pair of talented quarterbacks who would go down as two of Kalispell’s all-time greats, Flathead junior Brock Osweiler and Glacier sophomore Shay Smithwick-Hann.
The Braves made their dominating presence felt right away when Osweiler handed off to running back Bryce Stacy on the first play of the game and Stacy scrambled 65 yards for a touchdown, making it 6-0 within 13 seconds of kickoff. Osweiler threw for 195 yards and three touchdowns as the Braves won 49-13. Stacy ran for 135 yards and three TDs.
Sept. 30, 2011
In the 10 years of Kalispell’s crosstown football rivalry, this has been the best showdown to date.
With the crosstown series knotted at two apiece, Glacier (4-1) and Flathead (3-2) collided in a high-scoring rollercoaster ride that featured 978 yards of offense, 13 touchdowns, two field goals and three two-point conversions. Three TDs were scored in just the final 51 seconds of the first half.
Glacier led 49-22 entering the fourth quarter before the Braves mounted a thrilling comeback. Flathead quarterback Matt Tokarz hit Kevin Grosswiler for a 38-yard TD and then found George Sherwood for a 79-yard score. With barely four minutes remaining, Tokarz scrambled for another TD to make it 49-44. The Braves regained control of the ball and charged all the way to Glacier’s 16-yard line with an opportunity to win in the final minutes before the Wolfpack forced a fumble. Tyson Hubbard recovered on Glacier’s 12-yard line, and the Pack went on to score an insurance touchdown, settling the final score at 56-44.
Glacier quarterback Taylor Hulslander finished with 384 yards passing and five touchdowns, and Tokarz ended with 272 yards and four touchdown passes, along with 133 yards rushing and another score. Glacier’s Kyle Griffith had 162 yards receiving and Sherwood had 182.
Nov. 15, 2013
Glacier had advanced to the Class AA state semifinals the previous two years but had fallen short of advancing to the title game both times. Third time’s the charm. The second-seeded Wolfpack (10-1) overpowered Great Falls C.M. Russell (7-5) 52-7, earning a trip to the championship game for the first time in program history and the first time for a Kalispell school since 2000. The game was also significant because it was the last game coached by Jack Johnson, C.M. Russell’s legendary coach who retired after 41 seasons. During his tenure, he won 340 games and 12 Class AA state championships.
Glacier quarterback Brady McChesney passed for 308 yards and three touchdowns, while Todd Ogden rushed for 110 yards and a TD. Devin Cochran caught seven passes for 222 yards and three TDs. Orie Mann had 17 tackles.
Nov. 21, 2014
Fireworks lit up the sky above Legends Stadium and many of the 4,000 fans in attendance flooded the field on this historic night for Kalispell. A year after losing to Bozeman in the title game, the Glacier Wolfpack left nothing to chance, rolling over Great Falls C.M. Russell 56-19 to win the Class AA state championship, the program’s first and the first for a Kalispell team in more than 40 years. It was the first state title game victory in Kalispell since 1958. The Wolfpack capped an undefeated 13-0 season with one of the most dominating victories ever in a championship game, piling up 529 yards of offense and holding the Rustlers’ vaunted rushing attack to only 98 yards.
The Wolfpack outscored opponents 645-164 on the season. Glacier’s 56 points were the most ever scored by a Class AA team in the title game, and the margin of victory — 37 points — was the biggest in the Class AA title game since 1973.
Junior running back Thomas Trefney had 205 yards and four touchdowns, with each score coming in the first half as Glacier jumped ahead 35-19.
Senior quarterback Brady McChesney was 19 of 34 for 255 yards and four TDs, finishing his stellar prep career with 82 touchdown passes, which surpassed former Flathead Brave Brock Osweiler, who had 80. Senior Jacob Janke caught a pair of touchdown passes, while senior Logan Jones finished with 70 yards and added another score. Devin Cochran led the team in receiving with 137 yards and a TD.
Sept. 16, 2016
The Glacier Wolfpack trailed the Great Falls Bison 20-3 with barely eight minutes remaining. That’s when something spectacular happened. The Pack, led by backup quarterback Brady Peiffer, rattled off four unanswered touchdowns — two by Jackson Pepe and one each by Patrick O’Connell and Scout Willcut — and pulled off the improbable comeback, winning 31-28.