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Bill Sprinkle was once a Great Falls Central Mustang and a pretty good one, too.

He played at GFC in the 1960s and was a standout in football, basketball and track.

Starting this year Sprinkle and numerous other GFC graduates will have a chance to watch the Mustangs enter the athletic arena again.

The school, which closed in 1973, reopened last year. It is bringing back athletic teams this year which will wear the traditional blue and gold colors.

Sprinkle, now an assistant director at the MHSA, helped the Mustangs win the 1962 Class A football championship and played during their first year in Class AA the following year.

“It’s a neat feeling to have Great Falls Central back because it did so much for us in the ’60s," Sprinkle said. “There is a certain benefit to private education like Billings Central and Butte Central, the camaraderie and the spirit.

“I’m kind of surprised they’ve done so well at this stage. I didn’t know if there was a market in Great Falls at this time. There are a lot of Mustangs around the state who will be watching."

School recently accreditedThe school had 25 students this past year, according to principal Hugh Smith. Smith hopes to have as many as 50 students enrolled this year.

The school earlier received its accreditation from the State Board of Public Instruction. That process must be completed before a school can join the MHSA.

“They will be eligible when they pay their dues," said Jim Haugen, executive director of the Montana High School Association. “They got a lot done in a hurry to be eligible."

Now, it’s up GFC to decide which activities it will sponsor.

“We’ve been assigned to 8C for basketball and we’ll co-op with Power and Dutton for football," Smith said.

Smith said the school would try to field a volleyball team and could possibly have teams in cross country, golf and track. Dues to the MHSA are $225 per sport.

Limited varsity scheduleThe basketball teams won’t be able to play a full varsity schedule because regionalized scheduling was completed in January.

However, Smith said the basketball teams will play “some varsity games. We have the right to play in the district tournament. We’d like to give our kids a chance to get involved."

Smith said Father Frances McInnis has bought the home uniforms for the both the boys and girls basketball teams.

McInnis taught at GFC in 1963-64, moved on to Miles City Sacred Heart the following year and then back to Great Falls where he taught for 27 years at the University of Great Falls.

“They were a little short of money and I wanted to give the kids a boost," said McInnis of his decision to donate the uniforms. “We had a great year. The kids were happy."

According to McInnis, Great Falls Central began after the consolidation of three private schools.

“In the late ’40’s, there were three Catholic schools in Great Falls," McInnis said. “The Ursuline school for girls, the St. Thomas home for girls and St. Mary’s was co-ed. They consolidated into Great Falls Central in 1950 or ’51."

The school stayed in Class B until 1955-56 when it moved up to Class A. The Mustangs found success by winning state football titles in 1957 and ’62. In 1963-64 the school was elevated to the AA ranks.

“We didn’t know if we could do that," Sprinkle recalled. “We played Great Falls High for the first time and got beat 2-0."

The winning points came on safety when center Dick Kuntz snapped the ball over Sprinkle’s head.

“He’s the assistant superintendent at Great Falls and we’re best of friends," Sprinkle said. “He snapped it over my head. He said, ‘Sprinkle, you couldn’t jump high enough.’ I said, ‘It was 15 feet over my head.’ We both took the blame."

The Mustangs remained in AA until the school closed. Sprinkle said the school’s enrollment peaked in the late ’60’s with about 750-800 students.

Among the graduates are former Billings Senior football coach Pat Dolan, whose staff also included former Mustangs, Jim Kohles and Jim Dow.

Ed West can be reached at 657-1325 or ewest@billingsgazette.com

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