HELENA — John Lagerquist, former "Voice of the Fighting Saints" and Helena broadcaster, was behind the call when Helena Capital defeated the Fort Benton football dynasty in its first high school football game 50 years ago on Sept. 8, 1973.
“They won their home opener 7-6 and they won another game that year, too," Lagerquist recalled. "But it was a tough road home because (they were) playing against true (Class) AA squads. It was a tough first couple of years, but they won their first state title in 1978, so it only took them five years to win that first one.”
Lagerquist was back up in the booth for Capital's home game against Missoula Sentinel last Friday.
“As far as the football field is concerned, it hasn’t changed much,” he said.
Not having a clue what was going to happen and no way to “practice,” Lagerquist tried watching a game on TV and doing play-by-play while recording it on an old reel-to-reel tape machine.
"I played it back, but I had no idea if I was keeping up or not," he said. "We didn’t have video recording back then. I call it my baptism by fire, but I made it through that first game, and I loved it."
Helena Capital would win its first Montana state title five years later 1978.
“So much cold and snow you couldn’t really turn anything loose,” Lagerquist said of the low-scoring game. “There (are) guys that are retired as doctors and stuff that played when I first started doing games, so 50 years is a long time."
Lagerquist would go on to become the "Voice of the Carroll College Fighting Saints" for years, working alongside NAIA and Montana legend Bruce Parker in the early days of Montana sports. He covered the Saints in eight national championship football games, six of which resulted in national titles, and 15 trips to the Men's and Women's NAIA National Basketball Tournaments.
“Finally, I asked Bruce Parker, I said, 'Bruce, I’m think about retiring.' He says, 'Well, would you stay here as long as I’m here?' I said, 'OK, I will.' Well, then Bruce took the job down in Billings at Rocky (Mountain College) and as soon as he took the job, I called him up and said, 'Hey, buddy, I’m done.' So I called the radio station and told them it’s time. (But) I really miss it, I do," said Lagerquist.
Lagerquist has a genuine concern to "make things better" throughout the Helena community. He served on the Board of Directors of the Carroll College Saints Athletic Association, a group that raises scholarship dollars for student-athletes.
“When Nelson Stadium got built, that was a big deal,” he said.
But his efforts aren't limited to athletic-related events. He also supports numerous student groups and charities in the Helena community and is currently a commercial realtor in the Helena area.
As the voice of the Bruin home games from 1973-78 and again in the late 1980s and early 90s, between high school and collegiate athletics, Lagerquist has broadcast as many or more games than nearly any other Montana sports broadcaster throughout the Big Sky.
"It got in my blood," he said, "and I couldn't tell you how many games I’ve done in my career since then."
Additional information provided by Carroll Athletics.