By Norm Clarke
Special to the Tribune
A century of Terry High’s athletic teams experienced it all, from early rockbottom futility to the “Purple Reign” glory years.
There was no place to go but up after THS suffered a 105-2 loss to Great Falls in 1914, just two years into the school’s existence.
The crushing loss — still listed in the record books as the worst in Montana high school tournament history — came in the first state tournament, apparently before the schools were separated into A, B and C classifications. Since the defeat left Terry with an 0-6 record for the season, it appears all schools were allowed to participate, regardless of enrollment numbers.
Terry’s only points came from Melvin Benz, according to the Terry Tribune’s archives.
That first Terry team’s home court was the Opera House.
Imagine the community’s pride when the Grandey Building opened in 1916, with spacious classrooms and a new gym that featured a balcony. It would be the home of Terry basketball teams for a half century, until the new high school opened in 1966.
Five years after the opening of the Grandey Building opened as a monument to the leadership skills of Charles W. “Prof” Grandey, girls basketball got its start. The maiden season included a 21-6 win at Mildred.
Football didn’t arrive at THS until 1926. Terry had its first football powerhouse in 1931, the year that that Frank Ward arrived after earning consensus basketball All-America honors at Montana State.
He was the equivalent of a rock star. Ward was one of the star performers on Montana State’s Golden Bobcats club that went 35-2 during the 1928-29 season and were declared national champions for the Helms Athletic Foundation.
Ward quickly proved he knew something about football as well. He put together a legendary Terry team that reeled off six consecutive shutout (12-0 over Circle, 32-0 over the Custer County reserves, 12-0 over the Sidney junior varsity, 52-0 over Circle in a rematch, 6-0 over Baker and 19-0 over Ekalaka to capture the Southeastern title).
The dominating Terrier defense was finally scored upon in Terry’s 13-6 victory over Northeastern champion Poplar.
That put the Terriers, led by Brad McFarland and Tuffy Feldman, in the state Class B semifinals.
The dream season ended with a 19-0 loss to Southern champion Harlowton on what was described as a bitter cold day that included a driving snowstorm.
Only Terry’s three-year reign as state Class C football champions in 1985-1987 tops Ward’s spectacular results.
Ward, who was hired to coach basketball as well (for a total salary of $1,600 for the year), guided the Terriers to what was arguably the school’s greatest basketball season.
Toughened by a barnstorming tour that took the Terriers as far as Livingston, Terry’s 17 wins in 25 games included an eye-opening 36-19 over Dawson County.
Ward’s well-drilled club qualified for the all-class tournament and pulled off a 28-14 upset of Butte Central in the opening round before losing to Great Falls and Bozeman to finish ninth.
What Ward had accomplished in one year didn’t go unnoticed. Billings High, later known as Billing Senior, hired him immediately.
No story about Terry High's 100-year celebration would be complete without a mention of Grandey, an educator and administrator of the highest caliber.
He ended up in Terry almost by accident. He moved here in 1907 for health reasons. The eastern Montana climate was better suited for his lung ailment than other locations he considered.
He left an indelible mark not only on our city, but Montana as well. From 1922 to 1945 he was president of the Montana High School Association.
(For more Terry history, inquire at the Tribune about the availability of "Tracing Terry Trails," which was written by Norm Clarke via a compilation of reports from the Tribune's archives)
Published July 25, 2012