Father Edward Flanigan, the founder of Boys Town, became nationally known in 1938 through the popularity of the motion picture Boys Town. In the picture he was portrayed by Spencer Tracy, who won best actor that year for his performance.
In 1944, the football team from the school was scheduling games around the country to raise funds. One of the teams selected as a worthy opponent was Spokane City League co-champion, Gonzaga High School.
Father Flanigan accompanied the team to Spokane for the contest. Upon arrival, the players were housed comfortably at the Davenport Hotel. Boys Town came to town with a 6-1-2 record on the season. Gonzaga was 7-1-0 under Coach Billy Frazier.
Coach Skip Palrang selected two boys with Northwest connections as co-captains to go up against the Bullpups, Johnny Brogan, from Coeur d’ Alene, and Lloyd Bucher from Lewiston. Brogan had scored three touchdowns in a win the week prior and was considered the star player for the team.
The game was scheduled for Sunday, November 19th at Gonzaga University. Prior to the game, the Boys Town players were guests of honor at a rally, which also featured University of Washington and Second Air Force players, who were to meet on the Gonzaga field Saturday. The Boys Town team was in attendance to see the college filled roster of the Air Force team humble the Huskies 47-6.
The next day, 8,500 fans attended the high school game, and it was a good one. Both teams relied heavily on a ground game, with Gonzaga using the running talents of Jim Presley, Bob Lucas, Chuck Tonani and Mike Scarpelli. Brogan broke free for a 65 yard run to score for Boys Town in the first half, which ended with the Bullpups leading 12-6.
At halftime, Father Flanigan addressed the crowd, after being rescued from a crowd of autograph seekers by former Washington State coach, Babe Hollingberry.
Brogan scored again early in the fourth quarter to tie the game. In the final minutes, Lucas dodged through tacklers to give Gonzaga the win, 18-12. Interestingly, all extra point attempts for both teams were unsuccessful on the day
Aside from the loss, Boys Town came away feeling well about their stay in Spokane, and traveled on to California for their next game.