The 1973 Le Mars Community football team is spoken of with awe and reverence due to their remarkable 10-0 season towards claiming the program’s first and only state championship.
The 1973 season might not have been possible without the disappointment of the 1972 season. The ’72 Bulldogs started off 0-3 before storming back to win five games in a row and ultimately lose their season finale at Storm Lake. Senior fullback on the ’73 team Doug Gunther remembers the loss to Storm Lake as a catalyst for change that led to the success of 1973.
Heading into the 1973 season, Le Mars did not know what kind of team they had, but they were going to find out quickly. They started off with a pair of tough games in Cherokee and Kuemper Catholic. The Bulldogs had never beaten Kuemper before, but, once they did in ’73, Gunther says they knew they had a special team.
The playoff system was very new to the high school football world in the state of Iowa at the time. Only four teams made the postseason in each class, and there were no districts to uniformly grade teams based on common opponents or other metrics. Gunther says their postseason hopes came down to the last week of the season needing a win and a Webster City loss.
Gunther recalls how the good news was passed along to the fans at the home stadium.
The Bulldogs marched their way to Decorah in the semifinals and disposed of them to advance to the state championship game. The Bulldogs took on Central DeWitt at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. Gunther says the team had to have different shoes to play on the turf in Iowa City.
The Bulldogs wasted no time getting in front and staying in front in the title game thanks to the help of Gunther. He scored the first of many touchdowns for Le Mars in the title game helping get the Bulldogs to a 27-0 lead at halftime. Gunther says, by that point, they knew they had things pretty secure.
Gunther would go on to lead the team in rushing with nearly 180 yards in the title game. Returning back to Le Mars was quite the experience. Gunther says the team was met with adoring fans as early as Remsen on their way back west on Highway 3.
This year’s reunion is the result of years of hard work to get everyone in contact to come back to town. Twenty-five players on the team are scheduled to return this weekend, and Gunther says it is a really special occasion to be a part of.
The returning members of the 1973 football team will ride a float in the homecoming parade and be recognized on the field at halftime of Le Mars’ homecoming contest with Sioux City West.