The story of Colorado's first sanctioned high school football season, and championship game, in 1921

 

Nearly 97 years ago, the formation of a group of schools into an athletic conference gave rise to what became the first-ever sanctioned high school football championship in the state of Colorado.

But the high school football landscape back then was quite unorganized. As a result, three teams claimed to be champions in 1921. Only one is actually recognized as the first-ever champion.

This is the story of that season.

• • •

Colorado High School Athletic Conference

(Colorado Springs Gazette/Pikes Peak Library District Special Collections)

On April 2, 1921, representatives of 35 schools at the annual teachers' conference met to organize into "one athletic unit" across the state, according to the Fort Collins Courier. That group formally organized what became the Colorado High School Athletic Conference — later changed to the Colorado High School Activities Association in 1943 — a month later.

At the first meeting of Conference's Board of Control, the group set June 1, 1921, as the "final date for filing application" for league membership.

The initial membership was expected to be 60 schools.

The new athletic conference organized into small geographic leagues. Many of these leagues were actually formed in March 1921, before the official creation of the state league.

Scheduling was left up to the individual schools. There was one condition to that, however, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette: Schedules should "not conflict with semifinals and finals in the championship eliminations."

It is worth noting that the Colorado High School Athletic Conference did not officially set pairings for the state football playoffs until 1923.

• • •

Setting the stage

Most teams around the state played six or seven regular season games, and some had separated themselves as contenders by winning a league championship.

As the teams had organized themselves into leagues, those leagues were matched up against one another into what amounted to semifinals. Longmont and Wray matched up in one; Colorado Springs and Lamar played in the other.

But were these semifinals? The day of the games, the Rocky Mountain News reported that the winner of Longmont/Wray would play the Colorado Springs/Lamar winner "for the title of the northern, eastern and southern sections of the state." Not for the state championship.

• • •

Longmont

 

Heading into the 1921 season, not much was expected out Longmont, which had started practice in mid-September.

But led by coach "Hop" Dotson, Longmont opened the season with a 27-0 win over Denver North on Sept. 24, and then beat area rival Fort Collins 37-0 a week later. That game soon proved to be incredibly significant.

They then picked up a forfeit win over Windsor, due to illness, beat Eaton 34-0 the following week, and followed it with a 7-3 win over Boulder. Longmont then tied Loveland 7-7, setting up what amounted to a league championship game with Greeley on Nov. 5.

(Longmont Ledger/Colorado Historic Newspapers)

That day, Longmont defeated a Greeley team which hadn't lost in two years prior to the 1921 season. Before the season, the Colorado Springs Gazette had referred to them as a "wonder team."

Longmont won 7-0 in front of 4,100 paying fans. Their lone touchdown came when Greeley fumbled a punt and they returned it for a score. The win was front-page news in the Longmont Ledger.

The town seemed swept up in the football team's success. In mid-November, two men collected money to purchase "sheep-lined overcoats" for the team to wear on the sidelines, according to the Longmont Ledger. Another local group donated sweaters.

They built a "huge bonfire," according to the Loveland Reporter, and made speeches celebrating the team after the Greeley win.

Heading into the semifinals, Longmont was 6-0-1, and had outscored opponents 119-10.

In the lead up to the game, set for Nov. 19, 1921, it had been billed as "the greatest game ever played in eastern Colorado." The Rocky Mountain News expected "a record crowd" because "the business houses in Wray will close at noon."

That Wray team, champions of the Northeastern Conference following a 21-0 win over Sterling the week prior, was known for its passing attack, something that had been legalized 15 years earlier. In the semifinal, that included eight completions in the second quarter, as well as two "sensational forward passes" which allowed Wray to gain fifty yards in the fourth quarter.

But Longmont — referred to at various times as the Leopards, the Battlers and the Beetdiggers — won at Wray 3-0 "on a heavy dirt field," according to the Fort Collins Courier. It was a "line-smashing game," according to the Rocky Mountain News.

The lone score came on a drop kick from Wray's 15-yard-line in the fourth quarter, though Longmont did have a touchdown disallowed for only having six players on the line of scrimmage.

Wray did have one last shot when it drove down to Longmont's 25-yard-line "in a succession of brilliant forward passes," per the Rocky Mountain News, but time ran out. The game was actually called early, so that Longmont could get back to Denver on a train, which was set to leave a 4:08 p.m.

And, indeed, a record crowd did attend, per the Rocky, as the game was played "in some of the finest football weather ever experienced here."

Longmont was set to move on to play the following week.

• • •

Colorado Springs

 

The Colorado Springs team (now Palmer High School) was a known power at that time, and their 1921 team returned seven letter winners from an 18-player team that finished as state runner-up to Greeley in 1920. They were led by second-year coach Dan Kline.

Sporting new brown and white striped jerseys that season, their stars were expected to be Al Brown, the captain who played on the line, as well as Dan Warner, the team's fullback.

Colorado Springs had been without a league: The Denver schools were grouped together, and the southern schools created a league, as did the northern schools. "The Terrors stand alone," the Colorado Springs Gazette reported on Sept. 11.

Ultimately, they scheduled many of the Denver schools, but were in a league by themselves. Their schedule was set: Springs would open with games against Pueblo Centennial in consecutive weeks, then play West Denver, Pueblo Central, East Denver, and Manual. They also scheduled Cheyenne, Wyo., for a game on Nov. 11 — Armistice Day, which had marked the end of World War I three years earlier.

Colorado Springs' schedule was to be wrapped up with a contest against Cañon City on Nov. 26, two days after Thanksgiving.

The Terrors — a nickname earned by the football team after a newspaper dubbed them "holy terrors" in 1894 — opened their season with a 31-0 win over Pueblo Centennial, and then followed it with an 18-6 win over Centennial a week later. They returned home to for a stunning 0-0 tie against Denver West (which they later attributed to injuries and ineligibility), then beat Pueblo Central 31-0.

Colorado Springs, nagged by injuries in the early part of its season, spent its bye week in Manitou Springs to heal up, taking "mineral baths" and "vapor baths," according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. They were preparing for their biggest game of the regular season, a road trip to East Denver, where Roscoe C. Hill, the city's former superintendent, was now principal.

That game was so big that 125 Colorado Springs students took a special train to go watch the game in Denver. More than 3,000 total fans were in attendance. It would "make or break the local team as a state championship contender," according to the Gazette.

The Terrors won that game, 21-0. They followed it with a 72-0 thrashing of Manual, prompting the Gazette to declare that Colorado Springs looked like "the strongest team in Colorado in the scholastic class."

(Colorado Springs Gazette/Pikes Peak Library District Special Collections)

The string of shutouts continued with a 45-0 Armistice Day-victory over Cheyenne, a team expected to win the Wyoming state championship, and one who beat an opponent 127-7 in the weeks before they played Colorado Springs.

That set the Terrors up to play at Lamar for the southern championship, with the winner playing the winner of the other semifinal "for the championship of Colorado," according to the Colorado Springs Gazette on Nov. 15.

But this caused a conflict: The semifinal was set to be played on Nov. 19, with the winner advancing to play again the following week. Colorado Springs was scheduled to play Cañon City that week.

The Gazette reported that if Colorado Springs beat Lamar, "the state interscholastic league will order [Colorado Springs] to meet Longmont or Wray ... on November 26, the victor gaining the state title."

The population of Cañon City was not happy. The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that it has received a number of telegrams from Cañon City stating that "if the Terrors call off the Thanksgiving game, the business men of that city, the chamber of commerce, and all school officials will claim the state title and blacklist the local institution."

Colorado Springs ultimately decided to cancel the game with Cañon City before they even played in the semifinal, citing the fact that Cañon City was "not in the state league," according to the Gazette. Colorado Springs claimed it did not know that fact when it scheduled the game, and genuinely seemed to regret having to cancel the game. They also offered to play Cañon City on Dec. 3 or Dec. 10.

"Coach Dan Kline believes Cañon City has the strongest team in southern Colorado, barring the Terrors," the Gazette reported. But a telegram from Colorado Springs to Cañon City sent on Nov. 18 points to why they made the decision to cancel: "We want to do our part to make the state league successful."

And so Colorado Springs moved ahead to play Lamar.

The Rocky Mountain News referred to the Terrors as a "wonder team" before their semifinal against Lamar, champions of the Arkansas Valley League after going 4-0-1 in league play. (La Junta was second at 3-0-2.)

Lamar, regarded as "experienced and exceptionally fast," per the Gazette, had outscored opponents 143-7 en route to the semis.

The day of the game, Colorado Springs' home field, Washburn field, was "snow-covered" and "soggy," according to the Gazette. And still, missing four starters, Colorado Springs beat Lamar 10-0 to advance to the championship game thanks to a touchdown and a drop kick.

Wynan Cool, who was deaf, played a key role in the win, the Rocky Mountain News reported, having been thrust into action due to a number of injuries, including captain Al Brown.

The Rocky called the Colorado Springs/Lamar game "the decisive battle for the southeastern scholastic football title." Other newspapers reported that Colorado Springs had won the Southern championship.

At this point, Colorado Springs was 7-0-1, and had outscored opponents 220-6. The Terrors were set to play the following week.

• • •

"STATE OF MUDDLE"

 

Longmont won the Northern title, and Colorado Springs was the Southern champion. As members of what was then the Colorado High School Athletic Conference, they were set to play for the state championship.

Or were they?

On Nov. 21, the Monday following the semifinals, headlines in the Rocky Mountain News declared: "SCHOLASTIC GRID SITUATION OF STATE IN MUDDLE" and "LITTLE HOPE FOR DECIDING COLORADO CHAMPIONSHIP."

There was contention as to whether or not the best teams were even playing for the championship.

• • •

Cañon City and Fort Collins

 

Cañon City, which was 5-1 at that point, laid claim to the Arkansas Valley championship. (As a note, Trinidad also laid claim to it, saying their only loss, to Pueblo Central, "was a lost on a fluke.") Cañon City had avenged their only loss, in the season-opener against Florence, later in the season.

In their final regular season game, Cañon City beat Denver North 96-0 on a muddy field, only allowing North to cross midfield once. They also beat Manual, Englewood and one of the Pueblo teams, and had outscored opponents 181-0 in their wins.

Fort Collins claimed "to be the strongest team in northern Colorado, despite Longmont's championship," according to the Loveland Reporter. This was partially based on the fact that Fort Collins and Longmont had won the same amount of league games (five), though Longmont hadn't lost, and Fort Collins had. This technicality could have forced the two teams to play another game to decide the league championship.

The Fort Collins team, according to the Fort Collins Courier, were known nationally: "The fame of the Lambkins has spread all over the country and they are recognized as a top-notch team."

Fort Collins also beat the vaunted Greeley team in October, and broke their winning streak. The win prompted the Loveland Reporter to note that "there is now hope of [Fort Collins] getting into the state championship game. The improvement in playing by the Lambkins since they were beaten by Longmont was a matter of much comment."

But Fort Collins' initial claim seemed to disregard the fact that Longmont beat Fort Collins 37-0 on Oct. 1 of that season. Ultimately, the Fort Collins coach conceded that Longmont should be the northern champion, having already beat his team. As a result, the Loveland Reporter wrote that "Longmont will be given the undisputed claim to the northern Colorado football championship."

Cañon City, meanwhile, was not a member of the state conference. In the Nov. 21 edition of the Rocky Mountain News, the paper reported that "Cañon City High School has not joined the state high school football association, owning, it declares, to the fact that the location of Cañon City makes it difficult for the team to meet other high schools in the state without great expense."

The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that Cañon City did not pay its dues to the state league, "and therefore is not considered a member by the board in control of the interscholastic association."

The Cañon City Daily Record came to the defense of their local team. On Nov. 17, the paper wrote an editorial stating that "Cañon City is a the logical contender for the southern Colorado championship, conference or no conference."

Their strongest argument was that Cañon City had beat Pueblo Central, which had beat Lamar. Lamar, of course, had been Colorado Springs' opponent in the semifinal.

But on Nov. 16, 1921, the Gazette concluded the following: "Reports that Cañon City is a contender for the state championship are inaccurate. Cañon City is out of the conference and therefore cannot be considered as even entrant for a championship."

• • •

Gunnison

 

Then there was Gunnison, champion of the Western Slope, which many regarded as the best team in the state.

Gunnison had only started a program three years earlier when coach A.C. Krause arrived. But they also hadn't lost since, and in 1921, had been blowing opponents out all season long, outscoring them a combined 330-0. Included were the following: 69-0 over Cedaredge, 76-0 over Montrose, and 56-0 over Grand Junction.

They were so dominant, and their wins were so one-sided, that rumors of ineligibility swirled around three Gunnison players. A month before Delta was even due to play Gunnison, the school claimed that two Gunnison players had graduated years earlier, and another "is practically 21 years of age," according to the Montrose Daily Press.

(Montrose Daily Press/Colorado Historic Newspapers)

Around that same time, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel wrote that "so many questions of ineligibility have arisen in regard to the Gunnison football teams over the past two or three years, and so much dissatisfaction exists among the other school people of western Colorado ... that any victories Gunnison seems to win are without the usual credit and honor that is accorded under more favorable circumstances."

The Daily Sentinel also reported that Grand Junction High School was hoping for Gunnison to be "ruled out of" the Western Slope Conference entirely.

This all promoted the Telluride Daily Journal to come to Gunnison's defense in late October, writing that the team was bidding "to make history not only for itself, but for the entire slope." They argued that if Gunnison had been playing ineligible players for two-to-three years, and no one had said anything, "the supposed sponsors of good sportsmanship who are voicing protests today stand condemned by their own statements."

The Daily Journal concluded that "it is an easy matter" to prove ineligibility, and those accusing Gunnison of playing ineligible players should prove it: "It is their duty."

On November 7, the Daily Journal wrote the protests of ineligible Gunnison players "have been about 0.9 percent founded, and 99.1 percent poor sportsmanship," reporting that Grand Junction J.F. Beattie coach said only one player "can be suspected" of ineligibility, and that even "without him Gunnison would still be by the far the strongest team on the slope."

The Montrose Daily press ran a similar story the same day, noting that Beattie hoped that Gunnison "would be privileged to represent the western slope in the inter-sectional contests to determine the state championship."

The Rocky Mountain News reported that the Gunnison team "lays claim to being the strongest football aggregation in Colorado."

In early November, efforts were already underway to "schedule a postseason eastern slope game, which will serve to demonstrate the superiority of the brand of football played in this section," according to the Daily Journal. By November 12, Gunnison had an opponent: Fort Collins. The game was due to be played on Thanksgiving Day.

The Fort Collins/Gunnison matchup was billed as the "biggest scholastic contest ever witnessed here" by the Fort Collins Courier. A "record crowd" was expected. The Rocky Mountain News called it a "momentous" game which would either "mean the elimination from the state race of the west slope team or strengthen their claim for a game to decide the scholastic grid title of the entire state."

• • •

Championship matchup set

Gunnison had been late in joining the state league, according to various news reports, including the Rocky Mountain News and the Colorado Springs Gazette. They were not eligible to play for a state title. And Fort Collins, which had lost to Longmont, had not won the northern championship.

The president of the Colorado Interscholastic Football association was John Corey of Denver South High School. He announced that "the league had no jurisdiction over the Cañon City team," the Rocky reported, and that the Longmont/Wray and Colorado Springs/Lamar games had indeed been semifinals, with the winners set to play "for the championship of the two sections of the state."

The Colorado Springs Gazette published a telegram signed by Corey, and R.W. Truscott, a member of the board of control of the state conference: "The league has ruled that the Terrors shall play Longmont for the state championship on November 26, and Colorado Springs is expected to abide by this order."

(Pikes Peak Library District Special Collections)

So it was Longmont and Colorado Springs in the title game of what was colloquially called the "state league." A one-paragraph note about that matchup appeared in the Fort Collins Courier on Nov. 22, noting that the two teams would play for the "state title." The Rocky Mountain News, which was quite inconsistent on the issue, wrote that the contest would "decide the interscholastic championship of Colorado."

But, on Nov. 21, 1921, the Rocky Mountain News also wrote the following: "The last hopes for inter-league clashes which would definitely decide the championship high school eleven of the state have gone glimmering, with the official announcement that the Colorado Springs Terrors will play Longmont next Saturday in a game for the title of the northern and southern sections of Colorado."

The newspaper continued that that Cañon City was "left out in the cold under the new arrangement," and that "Gunnison, champions of the entire west slope, will have no chance to test their mettle against the winners of other scholastic leagues this season."

It was a sentiment echoed by the Cañon City Daily Record: "By her record, Gunnison is certainly the best team in western Colorado, and shows worthy ability as a formidable contender for the state title. Cañon City also has the right by her record to battle for greater honors, but because of a so-called conference, both teams are left out in the cold."

The Daily Record proclaimed that "any so-called championship honors are a misnomer."

The Rocky concluded the following: "The Colorado eleven will have no clear title to state honors."

• • •

The championship game

 

After some initial confusion about a date, the Colorado Springs/Longmont matchup was scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, at 2:30 p.m. "in front of the new grandstand at Boulder County fair grounds." The fair grounds at that time were located at Roosevelt Park in Longmont, which had undergone major flooding in early June of that year.

They were to play within the race track at Roosevelt Park. The Loveland Reporter promised "the largest crowd ever at a game in northern Colorado" with "all of Longmont [turning] out to see the game."

The Colorado Springs football team, a group of 22, arrived via a five-hour train in Boulder before the game. It was a Wednesday, at 7:15 p.m.

A "large number of our citizens" from Longmont went to meet the team at the station in Longmont on Wednesday morning, but Colorado Springs never arrived. They had decided to stay overnight in Boulder, at the Boulderado hotel, and arrived instead in Longmont on Thursday, the day of the game, because coach Kline thought if they arrived earlier "the excitement would be too much for them."

Longmont decorated its town in blue and white (their colors) and Brown and white (Colorado Springs' colors) in advance of the game. They hung signs that read "Welcome, Terrors!" in their windows.

(Pikes Peak Library District Special Collections)

Stores closed throughout Longmont in anticipation of the game. The Longmont Ledger reported that "the city has been turned upside down for the great football game." They had sold $2,140.17 worth of tickets for the matchup — more than 5,000 people would attend.

Among the three officials for the game was R.W. Truscott. Truscott was the temporary president of the Colorado High School Athletic Conference from May-October 1921, a member of the initial board of control, and later CHSAA commissioner from 1926-1948.

Colorado Springs had been missing their captain, Al Brown, for three weeks — he was out "with an infected leg," the Rocky Mountain News reported, but was expected to play. The Terrors "possess a triple threat in the plunging, kicking and passing departments, and show pretty interference," the Rocky reported ahead of the game, referencing their strong defense.

Thursday arrived. It was time for the championship matchup. Kickoff was 2:42 p.m.

Colorado Springs opened the scoring with a field goal in the first quarter. Longmont nearly answered, driving to Colorado Springs' 3-yard-line, where the Terrors forced a turnover on downs.

The Terrors added a second field goal in the second quarter, this one from 20 yards, to make it 6-0 just before halftime.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, and then Colorado Springs added yet another field goal in the fourth quarter to push their lead to 9-0.

(Courtesy Longmont Museum)

In that frame, Longmont's offense finally got going, using "the aerial route." The team "made some exceptionally fine passes" the Longmont Ledger reported, "but to no purpose." All Longmont could do "was to get the ball in the middle of the field and lose it."

The Rocky Mountain News wrote that Longmont "fumbled whenever the Springs goal line was in danger."

In the fourth quarter, Colorado Springs added a touchdown on a six-yard rush from Al Bevan. That made the score 16-0.

"The game ended 45 seconds later with the ball in Longmont's possession in the middle of the field. Terrors state champions," the Colorado Springs Gazette wrote.

The star of the game was Colorado Springs' Dan Warner, who kicked all three field goals and had an interception.

The Longmont Ledger summed up the contest in this way: "We have nothing to say, the best team won. ... No hard feelings should be indulged in and no alibis should be made."

The Colorado Springs Gazette declared Colorado Springs to be "the interscholastic champions of Colorado."

The Fort Collins Courier reported that Colorado Springs owned "the high school championship as far as members of the state association are concerned."

Even the Rocky Mountain News, arguably the strongest voice supporting Gunnison and Cañon City's claims, declared that Colorado Springs "won the right to claim the state football championship" by beating Longmont.

But even then, the Courier wrote, "Cañon City and Gunnison challenge Terror supremacy." And the Rocky declared, "Three High School Elevens Claim State Title After Turkey-Day Victories."

 

• • •

"A three-cornered tie"

 

Cañon City shutout Trinidad 34-0 in a game also played on Thanksgiving, and still wanted a shot at a championship, according to multiple reports at that time. It was Cañon City's sixth-straight shutout; they finished the season 6-1 after losing their first game.

Cañon City expected to have a shot at Colorado Springs, given that their scheduled contest had been cancelled. And Cañon City still wanted that game, especially after the win over Trinidad. But they didn't want to play on Dec. 10; they wanted to play on Nov. 29, a Tuesday.

They sent the following telegram to Colorado Springs:

By its win over Trinidad, and its season record, Cañon City feels it has all rights to play Colorado Springs for the general high school championship of Colorado, both conference and nonconference. Cañon City still feels that Colorado Springs should be bound to pull off the cancelled Thanksgiving Day game, and hereby challenges Colorado Springs to play in Cañon City, Tuesday, Nov. 29.

Colorado Springs coach Dan Kline and the superintendent of Colorado Springs schools discussed the offer on the train back from Longmont. Colorado Springs was due to travel to Utah for a regional championship game on Dec. 1.

They declined the offer, citing Cañon City's refusal to play on Dec. 10. Weeks later, Cañon City organized a southern Colorado basketball conference. They did not invite Colorado Springs to join, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

The Gazette accused Cañon City of pushing a "malicious advertising campaign ... in Denver newspapers" — something that might explain the Rocky Mountain News' relatively aggressive stance against Colorado Springs as the state champion.

"Every year," the Gazette wrote, "there is a squawk by some four or five teams from unknown sections of the state."

Gunnison had topped Fort Collins 18-0 in their big game that was also on Thanksgiving, and played "football of a college caliber," according to the Fort Collins Courier. The Rocky Mountain News wrote that "Gunnison outplayed Fort Collins in every department of the game."

Gunnison finished the season 8-0.

Later that week, after recapping the game, the Gunnison News-Champion wrote the following: "The result of the Thanksgiving games leaves a three-cornered tie in the state high school field: Gunnison, Cañon City and Colorado Springs."

Indeed, A.C. Krause, the Gunnison coach "announced after the game that he wished to arrange a game for Saturday with the Colorado Springs team," according to the Rocky Mountain News. If they wouldn't play, Gunnison "would claim the title of the state high school football," Krause said, but he "preferred to meet the Springs team in order to have a clear title."

In fact, the News-Champion also reported that Gunnison tried to schedule a game with both Cañon City and Colorado Springs, but wasn't able to, "so the tie will have to remain undecided." (In an odd twist, Cañon City had wanted to schedule Gunnison in September 1921, but no game ever materialized.)

The Gunnison Republican wrote a recap of the Fort Collins/Gunnison game under the headline "Refusal of Springs To Play Makes Cowboys Colorado Champions." The article is framed at Gunnison High School, and sits in the Cowboys' trophy case today.

The Gunnison Republican wrote that "when they tried for games with Colorado Springs and Cañon City, claimants for State honors, and were refused, they made their claim for championship honors by far the strongest, as their past record is incomparably better than either of the other two."

Indeed, neither Colorado Springs (8-0-1) nor Cañon City (6-1) had unblemished records. Gunnison (8-0) did.

Shortly thereafter, according to the News-Champion, a telegram had arrived from the Cañon City Chamber of Commerce. It stated that "Gunnison and Cañon City had equal right to claim the state championship with Colorado Springs."

The Gunnison Empire was even more forceful, scolding Colorado Springs for not accepting the proposal to play a game: "Fort Collins has this to its credit — they played and tried to win. To that extent they have several other eastern slope teams faded for nerve. The others jockeyed our boys out of a game, evidently knowing that playing meant defeat. There is not a single doubt that Gunnison on the Western Slope has the champion football team of the state."

And yet, there was not only a doubt, but this fact:

The Colorado Springs Gazette, Rocky Mountain News and Fort Collins Courier had each reported multiple times that neither Cañon City nor Gunnison were members of the state league. They were not eligible to even play for the championship, let alone win it.

Colorado Springs won the Colorado High School Athletic Conference championship, and still owns the first-ever sanctioned championship in the history of Colorado high school football. That school is now Palmer High School.

Two weeks later, the championship team from Colorado Springs — by this time referred to as the "interscholastic champion" by the Rocky Mountain News — fell to the Utah state champion, East Salt Lake High School, 28-0, in a regional championship matchup which had been prearranged. It was the first regional championship game since 1909.

The next year, in 1922, Fort Collins beat Colorado Springs 16-7 to claim the state title.

Colorado Springs and Fort Collins also tied for the championship in 1923, with Colorado Springs moving on to win a national championship by beating a team from Boston.

Cañon City didn't reach a championship game until 1926, losing to Fort Collins, but ultimately claimed its first championship when it tied Greeley in 1929. That game, too, had some controversy, according to All Hail the Tigers, the definitive book on Cañon City High School's history:

Cañon City appeared to have taken a lead with a touchdown pass with one minute left, but the play was ruled illegal because the quarterback was within five yards of the line of scrimmage, which was a rule at that time. The game ended in a scoreless tie. Greeley had initially agreed to play again if they tied, according to All Hail the Tigers, but "refused to follow this plan" after the game. And so it was ruled a tie.

The earliest trophy and banner in Cañon City's gym is from 1926 — the school doesn't claim a championship in 1921.

• • •

Colorado Springs championship roster

(1921 Colorado Springs HS yearbook)

  • Coach: Dan Kline (second year)
  • Orville Elgin, halfback
  • Al Brown (captain), lineman
  • Al Bevan, halfback
  • Dan Warner, left half
  • Forest Phelps, fullback
  • Glen Ryan, quarterback
  • Field Phelps, end
  • Otha Strain, end
  • Hugh Honnen, tackle
  • Dick Legget, center
  • John Murray, guard
  • Wyan Cool, guard
  • Eddie Allen, sub halfback
  • Ray Ryan, guard
  • Clarence Ryan, sub end
  • Don Long, sub end
  • Zeke Long, sub halfback
  • Louis Dick, sub center
  • Ed Auld, sub guard
  • Melvin Hymas, sub guard

• • •

This story was sourced using newspaper clips — primarily the Fort Collins Courier, Rocky Mountain News, Loveland Reporter, Longmont Ledger, Montrose Daily Press and Telluride Daily Journal — via the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection, microfilm archives at the Denver Public Library and the Pikes Peak Library District Special Collections in Colorado Springs, and as well as internal CHSAA records, and the 1922 Colorado Springs High School yearbook.

• • •