Monday, November 10, 2014

Veterans Day Rivalry Part 2, and a New Team Enters the Fray. More Memories from 1964 to 1968

1964. Well, it just had to happen. Six games played, Borah winning them all, 4 of them very close. There were a lot of similarities to the year before. This time Borah had the 9-0 record, while Boise had 8 wins and a tie. Borah started the season beating teams from 4 states: Missoula, Montana; Las Vegas, Nevada; Medford, Oregaon; and Richland, Washington. Once again the SIC title was on the line. It was back and forth game like many of the others. The most exciting play of the game was when Randy Hulbert returned a kick off for a touchdown for the Braves. Boise score late and quarterback Steve Preece tried to rally the Lions in the last two minutes, but the Braves held on. Preece and Boise end Kent Scott (#88 on the cover), who kicked a field goal and three extra points, both played for Oregon State, when the Beavers were known as the giant killers by beating two top 5 teams (USC and Purdue) and tying another (UCLA) in 1967. This game broke my heart, but the Braves were the better team that day. This was the last year with only 2 public high schools in Boise, and the 2 schools dominated. Boise was AP#1 at the end of the season, and Borah was #2. Borah won the state championship in basketball with a 24-1 record,and Boise won the state track championship with Borah finishing 2nd.

The “high flying” Capital Eagles entered the scene in 1965, and everything changed. The most exciting game of the 1965 season turned out to be the Borah-Capital game late in the season. Capital jumped ahead 13-0 early, but Borah’s Frank Ryther scored just before the half to make it 13-7. Joe Glaisyer scored two 2nd half touchdowns and Bruce Mors kicked three extra points to give the Lions a 21-20 victory (there were no two-point extra points in those days). On November 11 at Bronco Stadium Borah was looking for revenge against the Braves and quarterback Perry Gosset (#14 on the cover) who had been at the helm the previous season when Boise won, and the Lions got it. Led by quarterback Lon Troxel (#11 on the cover), the son of the Head Lion, Coach Troxel, the Lions won the game and the SIC title with a 9-1 record.

Dick Eardley, KBOI news director and Statesman writer, spoke at the Ed Troxel Appreciation Night celebration when Trox had resigned his teaching job at Borah to become an assistant coach at the University of Idaho. Eardley said he would interview the coach every year and ask him what the team looked like for the upcoming season. Coach Troxel would shake his head and say he just wasn’t sure if the team was going to measure up. Except in 1966. Eardley said when he asked him before that season – which turned out to be Troxel’s last – that Troxel just grinned. This was an offensive machine that averaged nearly 50 points a game, mostly on the ground. They had over 90 players, and four separate offensive units. In 4 of the 10 games, four of those units scored at least one touchdown. In the first road game of the year, they beat a team in Missoula, Montana, 60-6 that went undefeated the rest of the year and won the Montana state championship. Once again the closest game of the year was against Capital, with the Eagles taking a 16-14 lead at half before the Lions scored 17 unanswered points in the 2nd half. The Lions for the 2nd time in Troxel’s tenure went undefeated after beating Boise on Veterans Day, Borah’s last Veterans Day game at Bronco Stadium until 1969.

Back in 2001, a classmate and I were writing back and forth on email, talking about Coach Troxel who had recently died. My friend wrote, "When I was growing up, I thought Troxel was God." If you went to West or South Junior High in the 60's, he sure seemed almost bigger than life. I remember in the sixth grade he brought some track and field athletes to Jackson Elementary to sell us on track. He was a great track coach, too. At a surprise assembly in early 1967, the Borah student body listened to former players, opponents in coaching, and many others talk about Coach Troxel as we (I was a sophomore at the time) said good-bye to the only head football coach Borah had known. That evening there was an "Ed Troxel Appreciation Night" in the Borah cafeteria, emceed by Wanek Stein, one of the outstanding players of the first Borah team.

For my two years of varsity football there was no Veterans Day game in Boise for the Lions. For some reason the “powers that be” at the time decided that the three schools – Borah, Boise, and Capital – would now take turns playing the November 11 game, but rather than changing every year, it would be every two years. That meant that players like me, who grew up thinking this would be the biggest event in their high school careers, did not get to play in the game as either juniors or seniors. Bummer. The big game my junior years was Borah-Capital, the 9th game of the year. Both teams were 8-0, the first time two teams from the “City of Trees” were undefeated and untied that late in the season. The Lions were led by quarterback Danny Cafferty on offense, while the defense was lead by linebackers Danny Hearne and Paul Hietala, and a secondary that had not given up a touchdown pass in conference play. The Eagles had plenty of weapons, including two-way player John Grant, who was later an All-American at USC and a starter on the Denver Broncos’ “Orange Crush” defense that played in the Super Bowl in the 70’s.

It was a back and forth game until Capital scored a late touchdown, and then recovered a lion fumble to seal the win, 25-21. It was the second and final SIC loss for the Lions in the decade of the 60’s. After the emotional win, the Eagles had to play Boise the next week which entered the game with a 5-4 record, but with but a single conference loss. Capital was a huge favorite, but an upset would mean that the three Boise schools would end up in a three-way tie for first in the SIC. And that is exactly what happened. The pollsters had to choose which team would be 1st in the final AP poll, and they chose the Lions, which defeated Twin Falls 59-7 in their final game, the night before the Boise upset win over Capital.

1968 was a decade after the start of the cross-town rivalry. By September of 1968, Borah was one of the best-known football programs in the West. That is not an exaggeration. Hard to believe that in 1958 the “Lions” were not yet called the Lions until late in September when the students voted to make Lion the mascot. Though we did not get to play Boise on Veterans Day in 1968, when we played them in October it was still a huge game. We had the best rushing offense in the league (which was normal for Borah in the 60’s) and were averaging over 40 points a game and allowing less than 10. It was rainy and both defenses were playing well. The Lions led 10-0 in the middle of the 3rd quarter before the Braves recovered a fumble and then scored on a fake field goal to make it 10-7. It was looking like it might be like the old days, a nail-biter to the end. However, Bill Cady ran 46 yards on fourth down, and the Lions didn’t look back. The final score was 33-7. 10 years after their first SIC championship, the Lions would do it again, going undefeated for the season, along the way getting revenge against the other school in town, Capital, 42-14. The next two years the Lions would go undefeated on the way to a 34-game winning streak (still a state record) that came to an end in 1971. The Borah Dynasty of 13 of 14 SIC championships between the seasons of 1958 and 1971 was remarkable. When the Lions lost to Meridian in 1972 it was the first time since 1959 that a team outside the city of Boise had defeated the Lions in a conference game. And there would be no SIC championship again until 1975.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Stories of Veterans Days Past on the Home Front. Boise-Borah: A Decade of Rivalry, Part One, 1958 to 1963.

First Boise-Borah game, November 11, 1958. Biggest crowd ever at Bronco Stadium up to the time, around 12,000. Borah scored first, but Boise came back twice to take the lead 13-12. Borah scored in the last 2 minutes to win 19-13. Those were the days.


Here you can watch the entire 1958 Veterans Day in 20 minutes.

I don't remember the 1959 Veterans Day game as well as the first one. It was close again, with Borah winning 20-14 and a 2nd straight SIC title. Bill Francis was the Borah quarterback and I remember Wendell Babcock and Mike Grisham (#32 on the program cover along with lineman Randy Lind #70) running the ball a lot. Looking at the roster, neither team had a player who weighed more than 190 lbs. How things have changed. Another trivia note. Borah lost to Nampa that year. It would be 1972 before Borah would lose to another SIC team outside of the city of Boise.

I don't have a program of the 1960 Veterans Day game, which is really disappointing. I know it was a 6 point game and I know Lyle Hartley was the Borah quarterback. The Lions won their third straight SIC title, with only a loss to Lewiston denying them an undefeated season. What a decade it was for Borah, 1960-1969. Only 6 losses in 10 years. And if you add the 1970 season, only 6 losses in 11 years, and only one of those was by more than a touchdown. The picture I have is of the marching bands of both schools.

1961 was the first rout, Borah winning 27-7. Larry Howard was QB, and now I really wanted to be a quarterback. He was #11, a number that would be worn by a couple more starting quarterbacks at Borah in that era. For a while it was my favorite number, but things would change. Ray Littlefield was the Lion fullback, and he was a beast running the ball, on defense, and on the wrestling mat. Seniors Ray Miller and Laverle Pratt would both sign pro contracts, and Pratt would be a big star in the Canadian Football League. An undefeated season for Borah and a 4th straight SIC title. They were never really challenged.

1962. You'll notice that the programs aren't quite as fancy, but be patient.The Lions were heavy favorites in this game, but Coach Ed Knecht in his first year at Boise had the Braves ready. Borah jumped out to an 18-0 lead, but Boise would battle back to make it 18-14 before Borah scored again to win 25-14 and another SIC championship. I don't know if Borah ever had a more star-studded team. Quarterback Jerry Ahlin would star on both offense and defense at the University of Idaho before being drafted into the NFL. Steve Svitack played both ways and was also a state champion wrestler and pole vaulter before becoming Boise State's first All-American and playing in the NFL. Center Bill Smith was starting center at the University of Oregon. Dave Severn and Bill Bryson were 2 of the fastest sprinters in the state, the latter running a 9.4 100 yd dash in college, which was one of the top times in the nation at the time. Oh, and I was starting to notice cheerleaders. Well, I was all of 11 and in the 6th grade.

The 1963 and 1964 Veterans Day games were the best ever in my opinion, and I am an expert on my opinion. The 1963 season was the first year that teams were ranked by the AP, and Boise was 9-0 and ranked #1 going into the game. Borah was 8-1, having lost by 2 touchdowns to a team from Missoula, Montana to open the season. It was Lions' worst loss of the decade. Boise was 14 point favorites and looking for their first ever win over their cross-town rivals. Over 14,000 people attended and the game was televised for the one and only time. Most of the pre-game talk was about the arm of Boise quarterback Paul Gentle, but the star turned out to be Lion running back Dale Cady who scored all three of Borah's touchdowns. Statesman writer and future mayor Dick Eardley would call it the greatest high school game ever played in Idaho, and I think he was right. 21-20 Borah and SIC championship #6.

Those of you from the class of 1969 remember Coach George Nakano. George coached the Borah offense from 1968 to 1970 for Borah. He was the head coach at Caldwell in 1963, and the Cougars had a chance to upset Borah. However, Ron Imel ran for a touchdown with 15 seconds left and the Lions came back to win. Years later I was at a Borah practice, standing by Coach Nakano. Coach Pankratz was talking to his team about the '63 game that Caldwell could have won, and said, "They would have won the game if their coach hadn't gotten so conservative." Nakano was on one knee, picking at some blades of grass with a half-grin on his face. Pankratz looked over at me and said, "You remember that game, don't you, Don?" I nodded yes and pointed down at George. Coach Pankratz got a big grin on his face and said, "George, you remember that too, right?" Coach Nakano's response was, "Yes, Coach, I was just throwing up."

 Ron Imel, #13 for Borah had a great year from the spring of '63 thru the spring of '64. In May he was state champion in the 120 yd high hurdles, in November he was voted onto the all-state football team, and in February was named the number one basketball player in the state. A bit of trivia: in the 1965 football season at Boise Junior College Imel led the Broncos to the Potato Bowl (that's right, the Potato Bowl) with a 9-1 record against Cerritos Junior College. Unfortunately, the Broncos lost 41-13 in the fog. I listened to the game on the radio. The announcers could not see what was going on down on the field. The other pic shows 2 pictures of Borah's Dale Cady, the bottom one showing him score a touchdown. The official signaling touchdown is my PE teacher at Jackson Grade school, Norm Essen. Do any of you remember him? I later taught school with his daughter in Payette. Notice that the Boise jerseys had Beat Borah on the back. Not that day.


Next: One of my first heartbreaks over a loss.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Yes, classmates and friends, I am having another birthday

Most of you are 63 already, but I turn 63 on Friday, May 23. I tend to look back on these occasions. 50 years is a good, round number.
In 1964, my blood was freely flowing Green and Gold, the colors of our Alma Mater.

The class of '64 was unique because they were the original baby boomer class. May dad got home from the war in Europe in 1945, and my brother was born in 1946. He and his classmates were the 6th graduating class at Borah. 

In sports the class of '64 thrilled me and broke my heart. The biggest thrill was in the fall when they beat Boise 21-20 in the Veterans Day game.

  • The Boise brave captains from the top were Steve Brown, Paul Gentle, and Vern Morse. The Lion captains were Denny Neilsen, Ron Imel, and Tom Stuart. What a game it was. It was televised for the first and only time, and my Lions got it done for the 6th straight year. Ron Imel was one of my heroes. It probably is not a coincidence that he was a quarterback. In one calendar year, between May of '63 and March of '64 he earned the following honors: State champion in the 120 yard high hurdles, all-state in football, and AP state player of the year in basketball. However, he was part of the heart-break crowd, too. The 23-1 Borah Lions lost to Twin Falls in the 1964 state championship finals. And then the track team, which had won 3 state titles, finished 2nd to Boise in the state track meet.  I just did not like seeing Borah lose. One of the reasons was that Dale Cady, the star of the Borah-Boise football game and probably the fastest sprinter in the state for the decade of the 60's, pulled a muscle in the middle of the season and the team had to compete without him. See if his picture reminds you of one of our fellow classmates in 1969, who also happened to be a track star and, most importantly, the star of the '68 Borah-Boise game.

  • Five years later with names like Wadsworth, Minter, Griffen, and Phillips, the Lions would win their 2nd straight state track championship. Well, one of these days I'll write about something besides sports at Borah. Yes, I think I will. But not on my birhday. Oh, I got a green Schwinn 10-speed for my birthday in 1964. How cool was that.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

When Lions Were Kings VI

Who are these guys, where are these guys, and why are two of them not smiling?

First of all, from left to right: Yours truly, Craig Carroll (how did a junior get in this picture?), Erick Wadsworth, Darrell Burchfield, Bob Griffen, B.J. Johnson, and Don Minter.

This picture is from the Pasco (Washington) Invitational, a track meet in which schools from five states competed. The Lions ran away with the title, something that was no surprise, really.

So who's not smiling? Erick isn't. Erick won the 440 yard dash (remember yards before there were meters?) earlier that day.  However, the mile relay team which he anchored, and which had not lost in two years, did not win at Pasco. Some of you may remember that Erick did not take to losing very well (or fouling out of basketball games, but that's another story for another time) and that day was no different.

If you have followed track in Idaho you know that the rules changed over the years. When we were in high school Erick only competed in two events, but if the rules had changed earlier he most certainly would have been in three or four events, and probably would have won all of them. There is one story that I remember well. Basketball season had come to an end in 1969 and Erick had only been out for track for a few days. There was a multi-team meet at Meridian, and Erick decided, since he wasn't "in shape" yet, that the only race he would run was a heat in the 100. We joked about it on the bus on the ride over, but my laughter didn't last. Here was a guy who ran cross country, ran the mile and 440, and I, a sprinter, was in the same race with him. You guessed it. He beat me by 2 or 3 steps.

Don Minter was not smiling either. He won the 100 yard dash that day in Pasco and anchored the 440 relay team to victory. However, he was the defending Idaho state champion in the 220, but he finished fourth or fifth. He didn't like losing any better than Erick.

On the other hand, Bob Griffen should have been all smiles. He stood on top of the winners platform in Pasco for winning the 180 yard low hurdles, the long jump and finishing first -- or was it second -- in the 120 hurdles, along with running on the victorious 440 relay team. 

Craig Carroll was a phenom himself. As a sophomore he set the school long jump record and as a junior he finished third in the 100 yard dash in the state track meet. But it was his high jumping that literally drew a crowd. Craig used as his jumping style what was then called the "Fosbury flop". Dick Fosbury was a high jumper from Oregon State who won the event at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. If you saw his form today you might ask, "What's the big deal?" Nowadays all the top jumpers attempt to clear the bar going over back first, but except for Fosbury and a few others, nobody else was trying it in the sixties. Craig used it, and jumped well over six feet, and it was so unusual that at large track meets a crowd would often gather to watch. Some would would actually laugh because it looked so odd, but not the competition that he defeated.

As impressive as the football teams where in my high school days -- only one loss in three years -- that year's track team impressed me more. Even though the Lion football team of my senior year produced four starters on the Boise State team that one its first bowl game victory as a four-year school -- with one of them being an All-American, and a total of three getting NFL tryouts -- I guess I wasn't that impressed because it was pretty much expected at Borah in those days. However, when it came to track, I was quite in awe of guys like Erick, Don, Bob, Craig and others, like B.J., Darrell, Bill Cady, and Danny Knighton.

Track practice was really humbling. For example, maybe on a Tuesday Coach Arnold would have us run six 220's for our work out, and we were to work on our stride and run, say, three-quarter speed. I would have to run all out just to avoid finishing embarrassingly far behind, and I could hear these guys talking to each other as they ran, while I was half-certain I was going to die. It was not unusual for me to lose my lunch and breakfast while these guys were strolling to the locker room.

1969 ended with another state track title for Borah, the second straight and fifth in nine years. But Erick still wasn't smiling. The mile relay defended its title with him running the anchor leg, but he missed setting the state 440 record by a tenth of a second. I ran on the medley relay that day and we didn't get a ribbon. But it's a team sport, right? And at least I didn't lose to Erick in a sprint.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

One of my favorite yearbook pics: Don Minter as Santa Claus, giving the peace sign

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cardinals, Pirates, LA, Oh My


I don’t watch baseball that much anymore.  But I watched and listened to all that I could in the 60’s.  Right now, the Pirates and the Cardinals are playing for the right to go on to the ALGS.  I had several teams that I rooted for in those days, and Pittsburgh and St. Louis were two of those teams.  Among the reasons were that both teams had a player from the Boise Valley, where I grew up.  Vern Law pitched for the Pirates, and in 1960, the year they beat the Yankees in the World Series, he won the Cy Young award and also won 2 games in that seven-game series.  Larry Jackson pitched several years for the Cardinals before being traded to the Cubs, where he won 24 games in 1966 and finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting to a guy named Sandy Koufax.  I followed baseball almost religiously, and I remember Pirate names on the world champion 1960 team like Smokey Burgess, Bill Mazeroski, Dick Groat, Don Hoak, Bill Virdin, Bob Skinner, Dick Stuart, Elroy Face, Harvey Haddix, and, of course Roberto Clemente. 

In the mid-sixties I became more of a Cardinal fan, even after Jackson left St. Louis for Chicago.  Dick Groat was traded to St. Louis, where he played shortstop.  I chose number 24 as my number one year in baseball because that was his number and he was my favorite player.  Groat, along with Bill White at first base, Julian Javier at second, and Ken Boyer at third were the starting infield for the National League one year.  Curt Flood, Lou Brock, Mike Shannon, Tim McCarver, and, of course, the original “Mr.” October Bob Gibson were on those teams.

I was never a huge Dodger fan in those days, but I vividly recall 50 years ago this month watching them sweep the Yankees in 4 games to win the ’63 World Series.  Pitchers Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Johnny Podres, buried the Yankees.

So who am I rooting for in this game tonight?  Like a lot of folks I’d love to see the Pirates go on, since they made the post season for the first time in 22 years, and haven’t been in the World Series since the “We are Family” Pirates of 1979.  On the other hand, the Cardinal uniforms are just the coolest of all time. 

One of the reasons I don’t watch too much baseball is that the games start way to late in the eastern time zone.  So I’ll find out in the morning who won.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lions, Linemen, and Candy-Ass Backs

Listening to Greg Phillips interviewed on the radio last week brought back some memories.  Well, maybe the memories are never that far from my mind.  For most of us who graduated from Borah in 1969, high school football was our last ‘hurrah’, although some of us played 1 year of college ball.  But Greg, Ted Buck, and Darrell Burchfield (the Vandal) played 4 years of college football.  Jeff Phillips had to hang it up early at BSU, after his knee finally convinced him football was over for him, or he would have put in his 4 years, too.  Greg and Ted were part of the Boise State starting offense in 1971 that had 6 former Borah Lions in the starting lineup and captured the Camellia Bowl championship, the biggest NCAA Division II game at that time for small colleges west of the Mississippi. 

In high school Greg was the most vocal of the “five friendly fannies” – a term for interior linemen that a former college coach used to use – and he wasn’t afraid to give his opinion on spoiled backs.  I remember a late summer afternoon in ‘68 when I was standing around shootin’ the breeze outside the locker room with, I think, Bill Cady and Don Minter, while Greg, Jeff and Ted were working on blocking techniques about 50 yards away on the practice field.  And Cratz was working them hard.  A few minutes later they were heading into the locker room for a drink of water.  As they walked past, Greg couldn’t resist a comment (he rarely could resist one): “You guys are workin’ real hard.  Candy-ass backs.”  It wasn’t the first time I’d heard that description, and probably not the last.

 That whole line was quite a crew.  If you follow high school football today you might find it hard to believe that it was rare when a team had even one player weighing over 200 lbs in the starting lineup. When we were juniors, senior Bruce Cleveland was the only offensive starter over 200 lbs, and he weighed 205.  Ted, Greg, and Jeff tipped the scales at 225, 235, and 235 respectively, and with Darrell Burchfield weighing in at 200 at tight end, well, there was no line comparable.  Tony Wallace – who in my opinion was pound for pound the toughest Lion of all, weighed 180, which was an average lineman size.  And then there was center Tom Perkins at, uh, 170, and I think he was fudging a bit at that.  Of course, to me, he was the most important guy on the line because he was the one who snapped the ball to me every play.  And he was completely dependable.  The first game of the year I had a big blister in the palm of my left hand so I had to receive the snap with one hand, so all snaps had to be perfect.  And they were.

The truth be told, it was the offensive lines at Borah during those championship years that made the Lions almost unstoppable – the Lions were Kings of the Southern Idaho Conference for 13 of 14 years between 1958 and 1971  And they had to put up with a lot, including being told they were too slow, not tough enough, and then reading about the ‘candy-ass’ backs on the sports page of the Idaho Statesman.  But, hey, this blog is read by literally dozens of people.  So enjoy some glory, you…you…big time linemen.