For 32 years, Dave Sawyer has had a front-row seat at Mora Mustangs basketball games, a position he has enjoyed as the team’s public address announcer.
“I’ve witnessed Mora teams knock off a number of number-one-rated teams quite a few times,” Sawyer said. “Numerous prolific scorers (have) that graced the floor.”
Now the Mustangs have played their last game at the high school gymnasium — a Section 6AA win against Holdingford on Wednesday, March 10.
When the Mustangs move to their new arena in the 2023-2024 school year, Sawyer plans to go right along with them.
In the three decades Sawyer has served as PA announcer, he has called the play-by-play for more than 570 games, including both girls and boys basketball.
“At some point a couple years in, I started writing down the number of games I announced. So it could be 579. It could be 583,” he said.
A 1974 graduate of Mora High School, Sawyer played basketball for the Mustangs until being sidelined with an injury before his senior year.
“Then I was the student manager,” he said. His father Glen drove the team bus; his older brother Donn played basketball, too. “So I grew up around it. My dad was the custodian at the school before he quit to farm, and we would go to the school with him and shoot baskets while we waited for him.”
Back then, students played on what is now the stage of the auditorium where theater and music productions take place.
“The same chairs are still there, on the south side,” he said.
Sawyer started his career as PA announcer with a few games during the 1990-91 season, first with the girls basketball team and adding a few boys games later that season. He gotthe gig when his then-sister-in-law Delaine told him that the school district was looking to fill the position.
“I contacted Mora athletic director Karl Deis, and I thought it would be fun to try,” Sawyer said. “We struck a deal, and here I am 32 years later still enjoying the games.”
Sawyer’s interest in public address announcing came about when he was a youngster in the 1960s. While listening to Gopher basketball home games called by Ray Christensen on WCCO radio, in the background he could hear the PA announcer say the players’ names when they scored, fouled, entered the game, etc.
“(The announcer) had a very unique voice which I thought was fun,” Sawyer said. “Jules Perlt announced over 1,000 Gopher games, and that voice stuck with me all these years.”
Remembering Perlt’s voice reminds Sawyer “that I need to be a little ‘charismatic’ when announcing Mora games, especially at times during a close, exciting game,” he said. “A big three-pointer at a clutch time is fun to announce.”
He admits that trying to remain unbiased when calling a game is difficult. It’s been easier on those occasions when he has called section games hosted by Mora, when he isn’t rooting for a specific team. If he had his druthers, he would
Two years ago Sawyer paused his announcing of Mora girls basketball so he could watch his granddaughter Jerah Nelson play basketball for the Ogilvie Lions. This kicked off another adventure.
“That actually turned into announcing over 50 Ogilvie games, since they didn’t have a full time announcer,” Sawyer said. “I have had a wonderful experience announcing for my granddaughter the past few years.”
HArd to choose
Because he has announced so many games, Sawyer finds it difficult to choose highlights to reflect upon.
“I believe the greatest experience is having so many fine athletes say ‘thank you’ for announcing the games,” he said.
He is grateful that he had the chance to announce the games his son Brad played more than 20 years ago and that he can carry on with calling Jerah’s games for Ogilvie.
He credits his wife Jill for offering encouragement “since she knows how much I enjoy the games.”
“I’m very grateful that I was given the opportunity,” he said, adding, “It is sad to realize that the last home game was the last to be played on that court, but there will be more memories made in the new gym.
“And I sure plan on continuing my career as long as I can still do the job.”
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