TED REEVE PICKED MACLEAN'S ALL-CANADIAN'S
All-Stars Of 1949 -Fast, Tough
Quarterback Frank Filchock, Montreal
Flying Wing Tony Golab, Ottawa
Halfbacks Royal Copeland, Argonauts Tom Casey, Hamilton Wildcats Howie Turner, Ottawa
Snap Don Loney, Ottawa
Inside Wings Rattler Matheson, Calgary John Aguirre, Calgary
Middle Wings John Wagoner, Ottawa Mike Cassidy, Regina
Outside Wings Woodrow Strode, Calgary Matt Anthony, Regina
THE FOOTBALL season of 1949 was marked by (a) more American imports, (b) the adoption of the T formation by the majority of the teams, (c) the much more frequent use of the shifting or 5-4 defense and, unfortunately, (d) certain distressing signs indicating that if something constructive is not soon done to bolster intermediate and junior rugby football our game, like the Roman armies of old, may soon be turned over to the mercenaries.
The importing business, many of our clubs found out, can be as perplexing at times in football as it is in the budget of Sir Stafford Cripps. Ottawa and Calgary continued to show good judgment and some good luck in their choice of hired help from across the border. Montreal did fairly well mainly with imports who had already been acclimatized. Toronto Argonauts, somewhat out of practice at the business, almost ruined their season by uncertainty in this department and also by taking on the T formation with a cast ill-suited to its intricacies.
Some of the other outfits paid too much for too little or, when they did manage to capture a Clawson (Winnipeg), a Casey (Hamilton Wildcats), or the like, found that they did not have enough local talent for a supporting cast that could win. Regina (taking a leaf from the Calgary system of 1948 when they brought ’em in from Vancouver and Winnipeg as well as Honolulu) raided Eastern Canada as well as the Southern States and got pretty fair results in both directions. Thereby managing to supply the Stampeders with the season’s most loyal opposition on the Prairies despite injuries to Belden, Regina’s highly rated Florida quarterback.
Some splendid football was played. Three teams —Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal—when they had their full starting lineup on deck and a skilled Q.B. directing them—were perfect action pictures on the attack. Then the T formation and its variations made for large and at times exciting scores. The same formation
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lacking .such perfection could give a fairly good club the feeling and the appearance of a bunch of big boys trying to play football in a clothes closet. Prediction: next fall there will be a swing back to the single wing, double wing and what you might call the onetwo-three alary system that used to lend variety to our gridiron shows.
It was both a good and a bad autumn for the oldest of the major leagues, the Ontario Rugby Football Union. Raids by western and Big Four clubs left the Tigers, 1948 banner winners, shorthanded. In the fight for survival in Toronto, Balmy Beaches had managed to outlast their rivals, the Toronto Indians, but had taken such a financial beating in recent years that they came up in ’49 with but a shadow of their former strength. For years the backbone of the league, their hard luck in the biggest town on the circuit shook the entire organization.
Aside from that, the Ontario Union teams had a good, close race featured by hard if not overpowering football. Sarnia Imperials continued to go along with their speedy home brews; Windsor Rockets, aided by two or three colored imported backfielders, revived a good deal of interest in that town which, in the past, has turned out so many rugby greats for other teams; and the battling Hamilton Tigers showed up with a hard-running, good-tackling club.
The loop, however, lacked a powerhouse such as the Beaches of 1946, the whirling Wildcats (when the team was in that loop) or the stylish Indians of a few years back. Many hearty shin benders, line crashers and dashing dodgers in the open field were among those present; Hapes and Caine, the Tiger imports; Stewart, the DiFrancisco brothers, Gaudaur, Damiano or others of that same team; the jackrabbit Knowles of Sarnia and their hard - tackling Fisher; McKenzie, Beaches great lineman, held up somewhat by coaching duties and business; Mike, Krause, Dawson and Murphy, the Windsor speed boys, and Ghetti, their playful big middle. But for once, and we say it with tears in the good eye, we have not placed one ORFU stalwart on our so-called All Stars. This, of course, will hardly ruin their entire winter but we, personally, do not like it because the senior conference has done more for football over the years than any other Canadian organization.
Buffaloes are Scarce
The other development, widespread (and some of them were very widespread indeed), the use on defense of the five-man line and the four-man secondary, was brought about by the practice in recent years of making the centre secondary on the 6-3 the target for the night. Or the afternoon. He had so much traffic to handle that many coaches moved back another lineman to aid him.
This lattice-work defensive lineup usually holds end sweeps in check and can be bothersome, when worked correctly, against the forward-pass attack. A heavy line smasher of the Reese (Alouettes) or Golab type will sometimes ruin it as he gets a good start through the “fives” and a real ram at the “fours” but such buffaloes are becoming scarce, mainly because no one, nowadays, will give the big fast linemen a chance to lug the ball in the old Sprague, Timmis, Laddie Cassels, Ross Craig manner.
For the purpose of this treatise the 5-4 is mentioned owing to its demands on certain characterist ics in the backer-
uppers and the somewhat lonesome linemen in front of them, as well as the opportunity it affords the coach to use perhaps a lighter but faster man on the secondary on one of the flanks of the 5-4. All of which you may have noticed in this season’s games, yourself, if you haven’t been too busy working out the figures on the odds-book, which have also become an important feature of our fall pastime.
Well, Here We Go
So much for generalizations and what Mr. Weller, Sr., used to refer to as the allybi. Let’s get at the selections, remembering that injuries still intrude on every lineup.
The quarterback having become more important than ever, we may as well start with that position and commence the debate by choosing Frank Filchock of Montreal Alouettes to fill in for our side.
Why Filchock instead of Spaith of Calgary or Andy Gordon, Villanova’s gift to Ottawa? Well, we could argue that one all night. Spaith can pass, think, do a fair defensive chore and kick with anyone in the country. Gordon was a great find for the Rough Riders as he relieved Bob Paffrath for other chores and gave the Masters’ men a solid front, a strong pass attack and fine field generalship. Andy is also a strong tackier and can butt a line for good gains when necessary.
So maybe we are picking Fearless Frankie on seniority. Perhaps we are influenced by the fact he was such a star in the National League with the professional New York Giants and is still just about in his prime. We think he is possibly a better runner than hife brilliant rivals, being adept at faking a throw then bursting round the end. He is a wizardly ball handler and to see him on the run, ball in one big mitt, waiting for the right instant to whip one of his buzzing passes, is a treat for everyone but the defense. In the early season games he seemed to have lost a step defensively and could have been developing one of those Montreal midriffs. But as the season progressed he got into his former pass defense and tackling stride and aided Lew Haynlan notably as a field director when the other team had the ball.
After that let’s try something easy— the plunging back or flying wing if you wish to give it the Ridley touch. Chorus—Tony Golab! Still the best, probably the hardest-hitting plunger of the past decade and certainly the surest tackier in modern football. The 215-pound Air Force man from Windsor, gifted with the large frame of his Polish ancestry, was starring as usual for the Ottawas when struck down about three quarters of the way through the season with serious injuries. This and added pressure of his flying corps duties probably means it is Antonio’s last year upon the Canadian gridiron. The game will not be quite the same without this young veteran who came up with Sarnia Imperials as a big, free rambling youngster a dozen years ago. His line smashes into the clear, his tremendous straight-arm and the way he could swoop in from his secondary spot to haul down the fleetest ball carriers or thump into the heaviest plungers all had a distinctive stamp. So, with his selection again this year, goes our humble salute to a fellow who has been a splendid asset to our sport.
A season of frequent high-scoririg games and one in which tackling at times seemed to be a lost art was made to order for the running backs and half a dozen standouts flashed across the chalk marks. We have mentioned some of the ORFU scooters;
out West Thodos and Kwong and Hood of Calgary and Wardien and rangy Ken Charlton of Regina had some big afternoons and evenings. That Calgary loop-over-the-tackle was an exceptionally effective play for their quick breakers. But for speed, experience and all-round brilliance we have to settle for three eastern stars: Howie Touchdown Turner of Ottawa, Royal Copeland of Argonauts and Tom Casey the colored mainstay of the Hamilton Wildcats.
Turner, the Carolina flash who regained his celebrated college style two years ago after a skilful knee operation, is in some ways the most valuable allrounder in the backfield division. Very fast and elusive in the broken field or an end sweep, he can do a good chore on either end of a forward-pass play, is a good defensive back in the tertiary or at safety and ranks with Spaith, Sandberg (Winnipeg), Casey and Krol (Argos) or Kijek (Alouettes) when they are in one piece, as one of our few remaining punters. He is a well-packed 170-pounder and a fierce competitor.
‘‘A Dark Cloud of Joy”
Copeland has been a dashing, dodging, leaping flash for years and the inspirational driver of the Argonauts although only 26 now. The North Bay product of Toronto high-school football is a perfectly proportioned athlete of six-foot, 190-pound dimensions. His leg drive once more is amazing since recovering from an ankle injury that slowed him down in 1948. Time and again tacklers have had him stopped only to see him burst away again.
Deprived of his partner, the astute Josephus Krol, for a good part of the season, the Argo ace had to carry a double burden. He is a fair passer and though his tackling was unaccountably poor for a time, he has improved defensively too. It is as a runner and pass receiver, though, that he shines. His leaps into the stratosphere to haul down forwards are sensational for there is something of the circus athlete in this highly charged performer. He is, like Golab, an easential part of Canadian-style football.
The willing but overworked Wildcats appeared at Varsity Stadium one early season afternoon with a new arrival from the New York Yankees, a colored halfback just under six feet and weighing a deceptive 185. He had been at one practice and had not seen a game in
Canada. But a dark cloud of joy burst across the field that afternoon. This Casey struck out all right—in all directions and always at top speed.
Wildcats on defensive lapses, kick formation collapses and some hard luck continued to lose. Casey, the clean - cut, mustached, well - spoken colored chap continued to break away on flying rushes, leaving tacklers behind him with an uncanny swerve, shift and change of pace. In spite of the American habit of “nailing down” his left foot when waiting to kick, he got away some prodigious punts; he rushed about the premises to make remarkable tackles and went spiritedly at it all as if he considered the windy Hamilton Stadium his beloved alma mater. How the Yankees ever let him get away we will never guess.
Our trio of halfs had to be good for once again we find ourself worrying more about Wagner than a Conservatory student. But our fretting is about Virgil Wagner, not Wilhelm Richard. The Alouette Amerk has been such a consistent ball carrier from scrimmage or on the end of a pass, such a game, honest trier and modest team man in his seasons here that we would like him as a part of any club, real or mythical, that we could assemble. Then there is his team-mate, Toronto’s Bob Cunningham, mettlesome young husky who is a great tackier despite two shaky shoulders that cause him to be taped until he is in the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle and a runner who ranks with Copeland although more of the cutting, swerving, tacking type.
Then our backfield might be faulted for lack of a blocker such as Paffrath of Ottawa or the placement-kicking Capriotti of the Tigers. Useful gents indeed. We used to generally pick a rearguard of a passing Q.B., two speeders, preferably with a kicker among ’em, and Golab and a recently exact facsimile of Tony—not too plentiful. In the West the big Edmonton import, Pierce, or Bandiera of Regina or Pantages and the still rambunctious Paul Rowe of Calgary might qualify. But on a 5-4, Casey or Filchock could well look after a flank and with that in mind the wing line we choose contains a couple of huskies who can play the centre slot. Meanwhile just think of Turner, Copeland and Casey on the run.
No Time to Argue
One matter of anxiety of late has been the lack of large Canadian linemen. Where do all our whoppers get to nowadays? The old Argo infantry who carried the Double Blue to three Dominion titles showed flashes of their bone-crushing best but are now a bit the worse for wear. Steck of Ottawa, McKenzie of Beaches, Ianonne (Calgary), Valiquette (Wildcats), Stevenson (Alouettes), oldsters McCance (Alouettes) and Mogul (Edmonton) and some others can hold their territory but it is so easy for the bank-roll clubs to go across the border and pick up ready-made insides and middles from the colleges or veterans from the pro leagues. Why wait for our own to grow up? As most of our college grads mature enough for senior slogging do not continue in football and as it takes about three senior seasons to bring a large lad into the brawn and experience needed to cope with the close-in experts from the U. S. A., it is easily seen that our native halfbacks and outside wings have a much better chance for regular play. And pay.
Centre, though, is one spot held here this year by a Canadian. Don Loney of Ottawa, big and football wise, a hard tackier, good play diagnoser and with Amerk experience in Carolina, is about the best in the business. Doug Turner,
long a rival (another Canadian by the way), started a little late with Calgary and Loney also retains enough of his early open-play training (he came off the Montreal sand-lots) to be an accurate snapper of the old Barker, Cox and Cummings school. Too many of these T-formation centres get so used to handing the ball out to the quarter that when it cornes kick formation time and the hooter should be back about 12 to 15 yards (most of them stand too close at that) the kicker looks like something seen out of the wrong end of the telescope and wild throws have been plentiful and costly.
For the inner line (and we haven’t got time to defend ourself, so here goes) we have taken Aguirre and Matheson of Calgary for guards and Wagoner (Ottawa) and Cassidy (Regina) for middles. Other imports such fis the rotund and roaming Scott and his partner Czaplak on a stubborn Wildcat wall and the veteran Trawick of Alouettes, many times a choice, have lx'en dangerous anti durable and so much of a lineman’s work goes unseen that every close fan has his favorite that he will often watch in preference to the ball.
First argument will be that Aguirre worked at tackle. On a 5-4 defensive the linemen are all about the same. The big Basque’s finest work has been often done against the opposing inside. On the Calgary system he and another front ranker try to pile up the centre and slant-charge in such a way that it keeps the interference from getting a crack at the centre secondary. Last year in the Grey Cup final this worked so well that Chuck Anderson roamed free to make scores of good tackles against Ottawa. Aguirre, though, was the solid rock upon which much of the force of the Riders’ drive was being broken. Big, fast enough, durable and young, this clean-cut grad from the Pacific Coast professional loop is an excellent all-round lineman. His partner Matheson, more of a veteran, joined the Stampeders this season after years of big-league experience and his rangy frame, quickness and familiarity with defense against the T has made him an ideal backer-upper. He is a tall, wiry, hard-looking fellow. He is good, when called on, to lead the interference on the attack. Les Lear has certainly picked his imported talent wit h care.
John Wagoner, out of Carolina State U. and a term in the Eastern minor league, was Ottawa’s best lineman in ’48 and his absence from a large part of the final match was costly. His steady play, his ability to tackle, block, rush the kicks and the passer and an added knack of lx>ing at home on either side of the centre have again been evident all this season. A scholarly young fellow working out-of-season for a master’s degree, this fast six-footer(215 poundsof him), with good hands against interference, is an ideal middle wing. Also a good advertisement for the American imports who, in days gone by, were
sometimes looked upon as football “bums.” Not often, mind you, but a gent like Wagoner certainly makes it easier for the entry of Americans coming this way in the future.
To one Irish monicker on the team in Casey (the black Irish) we add another in Mike Cassidy, the powerful Regina lineman up from Alabama and enjoying his second season in the West. This tall, hard-charging right tackle can get into an opponent’s backfieid in remarkable style, fighting through blocks, knocking off mousetraps and with enough early foot to haul down the passer fading back for the throw. On a team plagued with injuries, Cassidy’s fighting spirit has been a great “lift” and he can tackle downfield with the best of the ends. Four years on the strong Crimson Tide of Alabama readied him for his role of Regina’s most valuable player.
For the O.W.’s we have a repeater, Wtxxly Strode, the giant Negro with Calgary. The other is a fast-moving Montreal product and a close candidate for three seasons, Matt Anthony, who arrived with Regina via the Alouettes and Ottawa. Strode, a long-striding, towering pass catcher is so well built he looks almost slim but he is a muscle man of parts, a pro wrestler in the offseason, an intelligent, fine-looking big fellow who can haul down Spaith’s sailers in a manner that is heartbreaking to the opposition and also cover his flank with a great reach of those powerful grasping hands. Anthony, an expert lacrosse player, has the “two-footed” running ability that comes to the performers in that hardhitting, quick-breaking game. Matt is a big young fellow, very fast on the get-away, a good pass receiver and a fine tackier downfield or on formation.
Flip McDonald is a whitè counterpart of Strode starring with Ottawa. The entertaining Sugar Foot Anderson who plays the opposite end to Woody is a sky - scraping deceptively fast comedian. Red Bell of Regina, Chuck Anderson of Alouettes, Jones the diving Wildcat, Smylie of Argos (injured a good hit this year), turbulent Master Toohy of Alouettes and many other Americans or home brews featured in frays this year at outside wing but, if we had left out one of the above pair, Bill Clawson, the Blue Bomber’s big battler from Minnesota, would have received the nod. He fought the good fight with a weaker-than-usual Winnipeg squad and with another season of our game to go on should be a standout.
Looking over our Maclean’s myths we find them with less bulk than usual but of very solid, lean and hard stature. It would be one of the fleetest sides ever assembled in Canada and of terrific tackling ability. A second squad might be picked to beat ’em and while you are doing that we trust you enjoy it as much as we have enjoyed watching the teams this autumn from the foothills of the West to Peel Street in the East. ★