Former Athletic Director John Cruickshank had an idea in 1972 that with the growth of Community Colleges, football would be a worthwhile sport not only for student athletes but also for the whole student body.
It would be something to rally behind and a focus for the growing school pride. There is really nothing that grabs the short ends of your soul like football on campus in the autumn.
He hired Bernie Custis from the Burlington Braves to coach this brand new program at Sheridan College. Along with assistant coaches Grant MacDonald and Bob Birthhelmer they struggled that formative year and used the lessons to good advantage.
Bernie and his staff, as they did with the Jr. Braves, lifted the Bruins to championship status in the scant span of two seasons and doing it from scratch was no mean feat.
The result in 1973 was a 7-1 record, Sheridan’s first ever OCAA Championship and a birth in the Canadian Community College Final at the University of Montreal.
On the field the team had all the elements, leaders and foot soldiers, committed and mentally tough. In Bernie’s own words there was a “great deal of respect and warmth” on the team. The key to success was respect, warmth and pride. Bernie exuded it and his players reciprocated. There were many different contributions. There was fullback Bill Harrison who scored 17 touchdowns and ran for close to 1300 yards in the eight games. He was one of seven former Braves who came to Sheridan. Others were flanker Scott Crichton, quarterback Barry Phillips, centre Fred Townsend, defensive tackle Jim Bentley, defensive end/place kicker Len Wheeler and half back Dan Medwin. Custis had accumulated a wealth of talent from every possible area. Craig Adams, a Buffalo boy, and two outstanding Oakville Trafalgar High products, Brain Craig and Bob Pritchard, worked in the offensive back field. Craig, also the punter averaged 43 yards a kick. In the defensive backfield there was former Barton Star Ernie Palango, and Toronto sprinter Jim Viaopoulous. There was even a Vietnam veteran, Wayne Hannah playing one of the guard spots.
This team was resilient and met every challenge but none so great as the Championship game, which was played in the snow against undefeated CEGEP Vanier Cheetahs. The harsh elements became simply something more to adjust to, to overcome, to defeat. It was highlighted by Scott Crichton’s electrifying 115-yard return of a wide field goal attempt late in the game when Vanier was threatening to take the lead. The final was 24-17.
This team was so good fundamentally it was manifested in their confidence that they knew; don’t panic, “maintain poise”, do what we do best, something good will happen.
They set a standard of performance that created in the Bruin Championship environment. It was the first of an incredible 6 Eastern Canadian Championships in a row.
Members of that team: Crichton, Phillips and Hall of Famer Ed Bajon returned to help coach subsequent squads. Backup quarterback Ed Skrlj became a starter for 2 more championships.