BLAST FROM THE PAST: Remembering the Mustangs -- C-LW's 1972 Football team
CHANDLER -- When the season opened, Mark Spitz was making a "splash" in the Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany and when the campaign was reaching its end -- South Dakota Senator George McGovern was finishing up his campaign for the presidency.
McGovern fared about as well in his bid to unseat incumbent Richard M. Nixon, as the football opponents of newly-consolidated Chandler-Lake Wilson High School did in games against the Mustangs in the fall of 1972.
Starting with a 26-14 victory over future state champion Lake Benton at Chandler on Sept. 1, the fleet-footed, hard-hitting Mustangs ventured through a remarkable season that was capped with a memorable 54-0 win at Adrian on Oct. 27.
Eleven days later, Nixon defeated McGovern by an electoral vote tally of 521-17.
When Spitz was winning his seven swimming gold medals at Munich, the new season was just beginning for the Mustangs, under the guidance of Laddie Carda, who had coached the Chandler Eagles the previous 11 seasons.
"We had three firsts in 1972," remembers Carda, who is now retired and lives in Slayton.
"That was the first year of Chandler-Lake Wilson. It was the first year that we played 9-Man football, and it was the first year of the high school football playoffs in Minnesota."
For Carda -- a native of Lake Andes, S.D. and a 1960 graduate of Southern State College at Springfield, S.D. -- change was nothing new.
"I played six-man football for Lake Andes and then played 11-man in college," noted Carda, who was a running back for the 1959 South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference (SDIC) Championship Southern squad. "Then I coached eight-man for those 11 years at Chandler. Going to nine-man was not much different, we just added an extra back."
Adding that extra back turned out to be a big positive for the new program, as Carda implemented the four-back wishbone offense, which was becoming increasingly popular at the major collegiate level in the early 1970s.
"A lot of the top college teams, like Texas and Oklahoma, were running it," exclaimed Carda. "I liked watching it and had studied up on it some -- and with four fast backs, it seemed like it was something that might work for us."
Harda's hunch was a good one, for the Mustangs took a liking to it and produced a high-scoring offense that ran the football with authority.
"They were good at executing the wishbone," recalled Ellsworth's Dan Lorang, who was coaching the Panthers in '72. "Laddie's teams were always well-prepared and well-coached."
Lorang, who taught at Ellsworth for 37 years and coached at some level of the football program for 35 seasons, remembers both the quality of athletes that the '72 Mustangs had and how deceptive that wishbone attack was.
"They disguised the ball very well," explained Lorang. "With their fullback up tight, it was hard to pick up where the ball was. You had to respect the fullback dive, but they could fake that and option off the end or run a sweep with the pitch. It was a hard offense to defend against -- especially when all four of their backs were fast."
Those four backs that Lorang mentioned were junior quarterback Myron Erstad (165), senior fullback Brad Dysthe (208), senior halfback Roger Erstad (184) and senior halfback Brad Johnson (162).
Johnson, a sprinter in track, averaged 10.3 yards per carry that season as he rushed 69 times for 714 yards.
Roger Erstad, who rushed for 481 yards on 76 carries (6.3 yards per carry), was C-LW's tackles' leader in 1972, being involved in a total of 100 (61 tackles and 39 assists). He also intercepted four passes, recovered five fumbles and blocked a punt from his middle linebacker position.
"Roger was a great defensive player," praised Carda. "He went on to play college football at Minnesota-Morris."
Myron Erstad, Roger's younger brother, took over the reigns at quarterback during C-LW's second game -- a 20-0, 11-Man victory over Westbrook -- and played there the rest of the season.
"He was a better quarterback," explained Lakefield's Rick Vos, who had quarterbacked Chandler for the previous three seasons and was Carda's signal-caller for the first six quarters of the '72 season. "I was not quick enough to run the option, so when Myron and I switched positions it was the best thing for the team."
An all-around athlete at Chandler and C-LW, Vos also played basketball and baseball in high school before charting a 13-year amateur baseball career with the Lake Wilson Bison.
"I moved to end and had fun blocking and catching passes," continued Vos. "Myron did a great job running the offense and our whole team just jelled together. We had some big guys, along with good team quickness and speed."
Vos (178) had a highlight game offensively in the final game against Adrian when he caught three touchdown passes -- all halfback options from Johnson -- covering 25, 57 and 63 yards respectively.
'Brad could throw the ball, too," recalled Vos, who caught eight passes for 255 yards that season, averaging 31.9 yards per catch. "Winning that last game was a great way to end a fun season."
Dysthe, the biggest of the backs, scored a team-high 12 touchdowns -- along with a trio of two-point conversions -- and rushed for 400 yards on 64 carries. Defensively, he was second in solo tackles with 43.
Dysthe and Vos had both earned all-conference honors, as juniors, for a 3-6 Chandler team in 1971, while Johnson, Roger Erstad and senior guard Mark Staab (203) had all been selected all-conference as juniors for the Lake Wilson Raiders, who were 7-2 in '71.
Dysthe and Johnson (11 touchdowns, six two-conversions) each scored 78 points for those '72 Mustangs, while the Erstad brothers both scored 10 touchdowns (Myron had eight two-point conversions to rack up 76 points and Roger had six two-pointers to finish with 72 points), giving the four starting backs a balanced total of 304 points -- an average of nearly 34 per game.
Vos had eight TD's and a pair of two-point PAT's (52 points), while reserve running back Dave Holm (junior, 167) scored 40 points on six touchdowns and two extra-point runs.
Myron Erstad and Holm each averaged over eight yards per carry on the ground, as Erstad carried 45 times for 372 yards (8.3) and Holm churned out 217 yards on 27 rushes (8.0).
The Mustangs did not pass much, but the quartet of Myron Erstad (15-of-37, 205 yards), freshman Tom Bloemendahl (8-of-16, 145 yards), Vos (7-of-16, 90 yards) and Johnson (5-of-7, 186 yards) did complete 46 percent of their passes for 626 yards and 14 touchdowns, while being intercepted only four times.
"We mostly ran the ball in '72," explained Carda, who had coached an 8-1 team at Chandler in 1968 and would later guide the 1980 Mustangs to a fantastic 11-1 season. "We had the right backfield personnel for the wishbone and our line did the job play after play."
Anchoring that offensive line was senior center Gene Stoel, who was listed at 173.
"There's no way that I was that big, more like 150," said Stoel, who farms near Lake Wilson. "I was the smallest guy on the line, but I sure had fun playing that year. Beating Lake Benton in our first game was a good feeling, because they had beat us bad the year before (58-8, as Chandler), so getting that first victory together against them was a great way to start the season."
Staab, who finished the season with 33 tackles and 23 assists, played guard on offense and nose guard on defense, while junior Bill Freitag (202) played the other offensive guard and joined Dysthe as the other down lineman (end) when opponents had the ball.
Rodney DeKruif (junior, 140) played the other offensive end and was a defensive back, along with Holm and Mark Timmerman (senior, 160), who played safety for the Mustangs.
Bill Grogan (senior, 170) and Mark Haupert (sophomore, 150), Ron Vos (sophomore, 144) and Dan Staab (senior, 152) were among the other tackle leaders for Carda's squad.
DeKruif, a hard-hitter according to Carda, scored 19 points for C-LW on two touchdowns, a pair of two-point conversions and the Mustang's only PAT kick of the season.
Ron Voss scored a TD and a two-point PAT, while Bill Grogan and Bloemendahl each scored Mustang touchdowns.
Freitag recorded C-LW's only safety, as a total of 11 Mustangs were involved in the scoring that season.
After the Westbrook win, the Mustangs rolled through a double round-robin schedule in the depleted Tri-County Conference, which was reduced from seven teams to four when Adrian and Hills-Beaver Creek both began playing 11-Man and Chandler and Lake Wilson consolidated.
C-LW's first conference game was a 60-0 victory over Edgerton as Myron Erstad -- in his first game as the starting quarterback -- ran for two touchdowns and threw a trio of TD passes, connecting with Rick Vos, DeKruif and Holm.
Game 4 was a 74-14 win over Magnolia, which included Freitag's safety and a 55-yard pass interception return for a touchdown by Roger Erstad.
A 50-6 victory over Ellsworth improved C-LW to 5-0 and a 52-14 win over Magnolia pushed the mark to 6-0.
The Mustangs shut out Edgerton a second time, getting a 42-0 win that included a 22-yard TD pass from Johnson to Rick Vos on the halfback option.
Bloemendahl's pass lateral to Dan Staab, who fired to Holm to complete a 28-yard scoring play was a highlight of C-LW's 59-8 win over Ellsworth, as was a 35-yard TD pass from Bloemendahl to Grogan.
After having played 9-Man most of the season and missing out of the select point-system playoffs that only had eight teams -- in each class, from the whole state -- get the opportunity, the Mustangs were content to end the season with an 11-Man game at Adrian.
'The field was bigger and we got to play the whole game," remembered Johnson. "Otherwise, we (the starters) usually just played half the game -- the first and third quarters."
C-LW scored two touchdowns in each of the first two quarters, building a 28-0 lead, and then with all nine seniors getting a chance to play their last high school game, the Mustangs continued to roll, recording their fourth shutout of the season -- along with their ninth impressive victory.
"The double round robin hurt us in the point system," concluded Carda about missing the 1972 playoffs. I know that we could have played with them ."
Lorang agreed with his long-time coaching colleague.
"That 1972 Chandler-Lake Wilson team was certainly among the best 9-Man teams that ever came out of this area," he said. "They were athletic, experienced and good at executing -- that team had the whole package."
"It was just a tremendous season," concluded Carda, who coached at C-LW through 1991 and then was Murray County Central's head coach in both 1992 and 1993. "We had fun at practice and played well -- in all phases -- during the games. They were a great bunch of kids to work with."
So, now you know a bit more about those undefeated Chandler-Lake Wilson Mustangs, who successfully merged the Eagles and the Raiders in the fall of 1972 when songs like "Brandy" by Looking Glass and "Too Late To Turn Back Now" by Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose were climbing the charts at the beginning of the season and Rick Nelson's classic "Garden Party" was at the top of the charts when the season ended.