There is a unique football stadium that sits at the corner of South Detroit and Glanzman. Its formal name is Charles W Matthews Stadium, but I have always known it as the Bowsher Bowl.
I became familiar with the Bowsher Bowl in 1965. St. John’s High School (SJ) had just opened and fielded a freshmen football team. The first class in the history of SJ following the Jesuit concept: begin with a freshmen class then add a class every year. The freshmen football team from the class of 1965 was tremendous. Their first season they went undefeated. To go undefeated for the brand new school was huge and in its first football season unprecedented.
The last game of the year was played on a cold November afternoon down in the Bowsher Bowl against a very good Bowsher football team, led by their outstanding captain, Mike Archambeau. There were no grandstands in the Bowl at that time – just hillsides. Eager young students from St. John’s and Bowsher and their parents packed those hillsides. A veritable Rockwell painting, with the hillsides full and the two freshmen teams below.
The game was hard fought and close toward the end. I got lucky with a not-so-great pass that our tight end, an outstanding player, Joe Kulwicki, caught and turned into a touchdown. St. John’s won 8-6 to remain undefeated.
Indelibly etched in my mind, the students swarmed the field like we had just won a championship and they carried me off of the field. I was much thinner then – today someone would need a forklift. That was my introduction to the legendary Bowsher Bowl.
Back in ‘75
Now let’s move on another 10 years – 1975 – and back we go to the Bowsher Bowl but now with full stands for seating. St. John’s versus Bowsher – both excellent football teams. They were meeting to determine the blue division Championship with the winner of the game going to the Shoe Bowl. My brother Terry was an excellent starting safety and wide receiver for Bowsher. I was coaching at the time for St John’s. During the game, Terry got knocked out when he collided with a stellar wide out, St. John’s Jack Brady.
It was very strange being on the opposite sideline, coaching against my brother when he was injured, but Terry made it back into the game. As the game was coming to its conclusion, it looked like Bowsher was headed to the Shoe Bowl. With the ball at midfield on fourth down, they decided to punt with 20 seconds on the clock. The game was over. Bowsher punted as the clock was running down and the Bowsher faithful headed to the parking lot, assured that they were going to the Shoe Bowl. But, St. John’s Ron Bureau returned the punt down the visitor’s sidelines to score the winning touchdown just as the clock expired.
Ten years later
Ten years later, in 1985, Bowsher and SJ squared off again in the Bowl. Both teams were exceptional. SJ had a receiver named Rob Chudzinski who put on a real show that day, running for over 200 yards and scoring multiple touchdowns with one-handed catches. SJ again came out on top over a very good Bowsher team.
Then University of Miami coach, Jimmy Johnson, saw that game on tape, while scouting two fantastic Bowsher receivers, but was so impressed with Chudzinski that he offered him a full ride to Miami. The rest, as they say, is history. The next time you ride by the Bowsher Bowl take a quick peek at the stadium. It is filled with special memories, incredible games, ghosts of almost wins and a remarkable South End rivalry between Bowsher and St. John’s down in the Bowl.