Glory days on the field

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

Bring up his high school football days and Norm Kwong doesn't reminisce about being a star. The games don't even come to mind.

No, the man who would become a CFL Hall of Famer immediately thinks back to the equipment.

"I remember when we first started out, the old guy handing out the equipment to us was giving us hockey pants. He didn't even know the difference," the man known as the China Clipper recalls with a laugh.

"We had to tell him it wasn't football equipment, then he went and got us the right gear. It was so bad, we should have given it back but we didn't know any better."

Two things are certain when a new generation of young men take to the field today for the start of the city high school playoffs: They won't be wearing hockey pants.

But they will add a new chapter to the sport's colourful history.

Most of these young players will end their football careers after their high school days are done. But some have followed their football dreams all the way to Grey Cup glory.

Their names include Normie Kwong, Larry Robinson and Greg Peterson, all of whom have won Grey Cups with the Calgary Stampeders and all of whom played city high school football --albeit in very different eras.

Kwong was part of the resurrection of city high school football following the Second World War. Back then, it was a four-team league, with Kwong's Western Canada team squaring off against Central Memorial, Crescent Heights and St. Mary's.

"Not a lot of kids knew a lot about football," said Kwong, who also played junior football. "The kids today, they're better coached than when I played but you still got hit as hard and it still hurt."

A running back and defensive back, Kwong also coached, helping guide a young Harvie Wylie before he, too, became a CFL Hall of Famer.

Kwong was only one year removed from his high school days when he became part of the Stampeders' 1948 Grey Cup team. He would win three more championships with the Edmonton Eskimos. Although his 13-year career ended in 1960, he remains fifth on the CFL all-time rushing list with 9,022 yards.

A decade and a half later, Robinson began what would be a distinguished high school -- and professional -- career of his own.

However, he didn't have dreams of a CFL career. No, his motives were pure.

Well, kind of.

"You just played it to have fun," said Robinson, also a member of CFL's Hall of Fame. "Well, that and hope a cheerleader followed you around."

Robinson, who played for the Stamps from 1961 to '74, will always be revered in these parts for his game-winning field goal that sent the Stampeders on to their victorious 1971 Grey Cup.

However, Robinson's love affair with the game was sparked during his days at Western Canada high school.

"I always played in the backyard with the neighbourhood kids so I thought I'd try it out," said Robinson, who started as a receiver, was moved to halfback and finally quarterback.

"They used to play three games on Friday nights and fill at least one side of Mewata Stadium. Then, everybody would go to the dance," Robinson recalled.

"It was a pretty good Friday night."

About 20 years later, a young Greg Peterson would enjoy many good Friday nights on the gridiron, as a safety and running back for Dr. E.P. Scarlett high school during the late '70s. He was a star, winning the Harry Hood award as the city's top football player and frustrating a Lord Beaverbrook high school football player by the name of Stu Laird. He would, of course, become Peterson's teammate with the Stamps many years later.

"It was his job to shut me down when we played against each other," Peterson said of Laird. "He told me he was supposed to slow me down but I scored four touchdowns. I always joke with him about that, 'You did a pretty good job, didn't you?' "

Nowadays, Peterson's focus is guiding his son, Trent, and so many others to their own dreams.

"I get a lot of enjoyment watching these kids grow,"said Peterson, the former Stamps all-star who splits his time between a law practice, serving as colour commentator on the team's radio broadcasts and coaching the junior team at Lord Beaverbrook.

"The football in this city is really improving. With the atom, peewee, bantam and midget league, these guys really can focus on it. There are really good football players everywhere. Better than when I was playing."

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THE NEXT ONES

* MARCO IANUZZI

Running back, St. Francis

Ianuzzi can run like the wind and score almost at will.

"I think he's one of the best players in the province," said former Stamps coach Jim Barker.

* KEVIN LANE

Offensive lineman, St. Mary's

Already bigger than 300 lb., Lane is being pursued by several big NCAA schools.

"He's only 17, a young kid, but he's a man-child," said St. Mary's coach Bill McConkey.

* LUCAS STAVROPOULOS

Linebacker, William Aberhart

Uses speed, smarts and tenacity to lower boom on opponents.

"He's all over the field making things happen," said St. Francis coach Gino DiVincentis.

* CHENG WEI

Safety/RB, Sir Winston Churchill

Excels at both positions. Biggest skill is shiftiness that makes defenders miss.

"I think he might go further as a safety," said former Stamps coach Jim Barker.

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HISTORY LESSON

A few past Stamps who've come through the local high school system

WITH CFL YEARS, POSITION, HIGH SCHOOL

GREG VAVRA ('84-85), QB, Bishop Grandin

BOB VICCARS ('75-81), TE, Bishop Grandin

LIONEL GUNDRY-WHITE ('34-38 and '45-46), Central Memorial

GERRY SHAW ('65-74), DB/DE, Central Memorial

BARRIE CYR ('60-61), HB, Crescent Heights

VERN GRAHAM, ('47, 49-51), HB/K, Crescent Heights

GREG PETERSON ('82-92), DHB, Dr. E.P. Scarlett

MILES GORRELL ('78-82), DT, Henry Wise Wood

TOM KREBS ('79-83), OG, Henry Wise Wood

BLAINE LAMOUREUX ('73-75, 77-78), LB, Henry Wise Wood

DARCY KOPP ('86-92) , DHB, Father Lacombe

MIKE JUHASZ ('03-present), WR, James Fowler

TIM PETROS ('84-90), RB, J.G. Diefenbaker

STU LAIRD ('84-96), DL, Lord Beaverbrook

KENT WARNOCK ('87-92), DL, L. Beaverbrook

SCOTT MACARTHUR ('81-85), DE/C, Queen Elizabeth

DON MOULTON ('72-76), DHB, Queen Elizabeth

DOUG BATTERSHILL ('79-84), LB, Sir Winston Churchill

LAWRENCE DECK ('01-03), DB, St. Francis

JOHN FORZANI ('71-76), G, St. Francis

TOM FORZANI ('73-83), WR, St. Francis

CHRIS LEWIS ('97-98), WR, St. Francis

TOM SPOLETINI ('85-90), OG, St. Francis

TONY SPOLETINI ('89-91), RB, St. Francis

JOE FORZANI ('68-75), LB, St. Mary's

MIKE PALUMBO ('85-90), OG, St. Mary's

DARRELL MOIR ('79-85), S, Viscount Bennett

NORM KWONG ('48-50), FB, Western Canada

RUDY LINTERMAN ('68-77), HB, Western Canada

LARRY ROBINSON ('61-74), DHB/K, Western Canada

BOB TORRANCE ('91-93, 95), QB, W. Aberhart


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