Franklin Countys First News

A Season to Remember: The Farmington High School State Basketball Champions of 1949

The 1949 Farmington High School team.

By Roger G. Spear

The 1947-48 High School Basketball season saw Farmington High capture the state Class M Championship. This would be the second time in a decade this had occurred.

As the 1948-49 season unfolded there was significant speculation as to whether there would be a repeat of the previous season. After all, key players such as Captain Don Kenney, Cecil Kendall, Lee Gray and George Berry had graduated. Coach John Bodnarik had moved on at Gorham State Teachers College.

The season got under way in late November with a game against the High School Alumni Team. This would be the first game played at the Community Center in over a year since sagging roof trusses had put it out of commission.

Bernard Davis

A repeat championship would be a formidable challenge for new coach Ron Carlson. But Carlson wisely retained Bodnarik’s brand of ball that featured a slow and deliberate pace and a zone defense. Optimism prevailed because the team would be built around returning lettermen Paul Brinkman, Roland Roux, Dick Johnson, Allan Smith, and Granville Knowles. Rounding out the team were newcomers Joe Green, Jack Tarbox, Collis Ames, Bernard Davis, and Joe Linscott. Team manager was Richard Russell. Roux had been instrumental in the team winning the prior year’s Western Maine Tournament and Brinkman led the team to a decisive 55-36 win over Pemetic High School (Southwest Harbor) to capture the State Championship.

The High School’s 1948-49 regular season opener was against the Don Graham-coached Kingfield High. In crushing Kingfield 65-29 (in front of over 1,000 fans at the Community Center) the Greyhounds showed they were going to be contenders and thus gain a large following throughout the season.

Farmington’s second game was a 37-27 win over the always competitive Jay. Leading scorers for the Greyhounds were Roux 14, Brinkman 9, and Johnson 8.

An early season game of significance was played in Lewiston against its much larger team coached by Farmington summer resident Johnny Dickson. (A year earlier Dickson, a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals, had signed West Farmington’s Sonny Collette to a professional baseball contract.)

It is typical to this day that larger schools usually defeat smaller schools. That was the case in Lewiston, as the favored Blue Devils won 58-43. Regardless of the final score, the Greyhounds demonstrated they could play competitively with a much larger school that also had an excellent team.

Farmington got back to its winning ways with a 45-34 triumph over Hallowell High. Farmington had a balanced scoring attack with double digit scoring from Smith 10, Roux 12, and Johnson, 10. The team continued to dominate smaller schools and in December downed Phillips High School 54-31 led by Smith’s 13 points.

On Dec. 15, 1948, a non- high school game of great interest was played at the Community Center. Gorham State Teachers College came to town to do battle with Farmington State. Interest was high because John Bodnarik was the Gorham coach, who the year before he had coached Farmington High to a state title, the first since 1941 when the team was coached by Mickey Maguire. Also adding to local interest was that Don Kenney, the 1948 state champion team’s captain, was now playing for Gorham.

Galen Sayward and Joe Linscott

Busloads of Gorham students arrived to watch the game and participate in a torch light parade prior to the game. Over 1,000 fans witnessed a “barn burner” with Gorham coming away with a nail biting 54-53 win. There was confusion at game end when Farmington State’s Verne Byers scored what appeared to be the winning basket in the final second. However, the referees ruled it was after the whistle.

Joe Green

At the Christmas break, Farmington had only one loss. During the break the good fortunes of the team only got better. A junior transfer arrived from Guilford. His name was Galen Sayward. The first-person Galen met was Paul Brinkman, who had heard Galen was an outstanding player. Paul invited him to the team’s practice that day to meet coach Carlson and tryout. Galen recently told this writer that he shot “lights out” at the practice and the next night he was in uniform and scored 12 points against Rumford.

On Jan. 17, 1949, F.H.S. played arch-rival Wilton Academy. It was the Eagles home game but it was played at the Community Center to accommodate all the fans who wanted to see the game. (During the season Wilton often used the Community Center because their large following couldn’t fit into their smaller gym.)

Twelve hundred fans were on hand to witness a see-saw battle that ended with the Greyhounds on top 37-33 in a game where the score was tied eight different times. Late in the game the Eagles were down by one point 32-31 when Greyhound Allan Smith sank two consecutive field goals to clinch the win.

A week later the two rivals played again and the Ernie Scribner-coached Eagles, led by Thayden Farrington and Lyman Toothaker, avenged their earlier loss before 1,400 fans at the Community Center. The final score was 35-33.

Those two hard fought games proved the teams were well matched. The final determination of the best of the two would come in the up-coming Franklin County Tournament.

Farmington’s loss to Wilton started a three-game losing streak. The second loss was to Rumford 51-49 and the third to Jay 48-40. Fans were becoming concerned. Were the wheels coming off their beloved team? They had previously defeated all three of those teams. However, the Greyhounds recovered to defeat Rangeley 46-32 and Mexico 43-27 to close out the regular season with an impressive 12-4 record.

On to the Franklin County Tournament. Pre-tourney favorites were the larger schools, Wilton, Farmington and Jay. All three were considered equal based on regular season encounters.

Coach Carlson was confident that his Greyhounds were well prepared for the County tournament. He had Paul Brinkman capable of scoring between 20 and 30 points per game; an excellent floor general in Dick Johnson; two speed demons and prolific scorers in Roland Roux and Galen Sayward; an outstanding set-shot scorer in Allan Smith; a fast-breaking guard in Joe Green; and capable reserves Granville Knowles, Collis Ames, Bernard Davis, Joe Linscott, and John Tarbox, who had contributed throughout the season.

Farmington won its first tournament game against Phillips 74-33. In the quarterfinal they got by Jay 40-36. For the championship they faced defending champs, Wilton Academy. As in their two previous match-ups, there was a total scoring difference of just two points.

Fourteen hundred fans packed into the Community Center to witness the local game of the year. Farmington’s cool performance and accurate passing prevailed over Wilton’s excessive fouls in attempting to stop Farmington high scorers Brinkman and Roux. The fouling didn’t work as Brinkman scored 21 points and Roux 16. By game end, four of Wilton’s five starters had fouled out. The Greyhounds dominated 58-45. Farmington was the best in the county in 1949 and it was on to the Lewiston Armory to defend its Western Maine Championship.

In the preliminary round, Farmington downed Kennebunk 45-35. In the semi-final they had little trouble beating Jay 35-24.

The championship game against St. Ignatius High School (Sanford) was a struggle for the Greyhounds. Paul Brinkman committed three personal fouls in the first quarter and had to sit on the bench much of the game. Coach Carlson effectively coached around this setback. Collis Ames took over Brinkman’s position and played excellent ball and scored 5 points. At half-time the score was knotted at 16-16. At the end of regulation play the score was tied at 32-32. Brinkman was back in the game down the homestretch. He drained a charity toss in overtime to nail down the Western Maine Championship for the second year in a row. Final score 37-36.

The following week the Greyhounds returned to Lewiston to defend their State Championship against Milo High School. Local fans, unable to attend the game, listened to it on radio station WLAM through the sponsorship of Farmington’s Charlie Sinskie’s Motor Mart. This writer recently asked team member Joe Linscott what it was like being in a state championship game. Joe’s response, “I had a pretty good seat!”

Coach Carlson had his team ready; the game plan was simple, play like they had played all season. Over 2,000 fans were on hand to see if Farmington could again win the State Championship.

The Greyhounds dominated with quarter leads of 15-9, 26-12, 45-21, and a final winning score of 54-35. Joe Green played an exceptional game; Brinkman’s greatness was on display scoring 15 points; Roux closed out his high school career scoring a game high 17 points; Dick Johnson was the shrewd floor general that controlled the pace of the game to his team’s advantage and scored 13 in the process; Galen Sayward and Allan Smith shared the right forward position and both excelled. Every member of the team got playing time. It was a total team effort en route to another State Championship.

The Franklin Journal announced “Farmington better find time for a holiday to honor these Champions who have given this community publicity that progressive towns and states would gladly give thousands of dollars to secure.”

The 1949 Laurel yearbook proclaimed “You have to be good to be State Champs.” Simplistically well stated! The team made the Farmington community proud in 1949.

The following year (1950) the Greyhounds defended its Western Maine Class M title for the third straight year. Paul Brinkman was awarded a trophy as the most outstanding player and sportsman.

The Greyhounds in a rematch with Milo for the State Championship in 1950, lost 49-48 when a late rally came up short.
After two seasons at Farmington H.S. coach Carlson joined the FBI.

Meanwhile, the 1948-49 season, one we now commemorate on this, its 70th anniversary would be the last time either Farmington High or its Mt. Blue Cougar successors would win a state boys basketball championship.

The performance of this year’s Cougar Team is such that 2019 may well be the year when a similar landmark may be observed.

In any event 1949 will always be a season to remember!

Roger G. Spear, UMF V.P. Emeritus, is a well-known authority on local sports history and is currently working on a manuscript of local baseball, 1885-1956. He can be reached by e-mail: rgspear@maine.edu.

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12 Responses »

  1. Great article Roger, the number of people attending the games in those times is impressive. The old Community Center must have been jumping!

  2. Great write up. So sorry that Paul Brinkman's name was not correct under the picture. He was a wonderful doctor as well as a great athlete. Miss him!

  3. Another Great Story Roger!

    Was particularly intrigued about the sort of come to the rescue role of the "newcomer" transfer student - what was his name now - oh yes, the indomitable and ever enduring future Bowdoin classmate of George Mitchell's, Galen "Bob" Sayward,

  4. Last person on the right in the front row is Paul Brinkman. I think the caption had the last name mixed up a bit.

  5. Thank you for writing and sharing this wonderful history about a Team of young men.

  6. Awesome article. Lots of good information.... Thank you for taking time to do the research on this item, and sharing it with all of us.

  7. Great article Roger....An incredible amount of detail to this 70 year FHS sports accomplishment.

  8. Very good article roger as usual. I used to attend most of the games.

  9. Roger, you do real good work. Congratulations. The kids on that team got lucky because that was at a time and place that if you showed up to play you made the team, Unfortunately, for many of the "kids" of today attending larger and more impersonal regional schools, they do not get the same breaks that my teammates got.
    I have a comment about one of our departed team mates, Dick Johnson. Dick was the main play maker on that team and had a very special talent for "keeping his eye on the ball". It is regrettable that Dick could not be present at the many alumni reunions held in the years following his graduation. He was also very special because he was among the many who made sacrifices for the rest of us by serving in Korea during that conflict. Bernard Davis, a very dear friend was another.

  10. Roger,
    Enjoyed the article so much. Thank you. mary

  11. What a great article. The ending scores were so close in so many games. Impressive!! Paul Brinkman was my childhood doctor, Richard Russell a friend of my family and Bernard Davis was my neighbor growing up on the Holley Road (also a family friend. ) So neat to read about them and their teammates.

  12. Well researched and written, Roger.
    I had the privilege to hear of these games from Roland Roux and he had great pride in those teams. The area has a great sports history and your stories are very entertaining. Thanks.
    For the record, Roland could beat you with his shooting well into his 70's.

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