The Short History of an Oregon Seventh Grade Football Season (Part 1)

A Father and Son coached the Ogden Junior High Raiders’ seventh grade football team in the fall of 1986. The school was located in a rural area of Oregon City and surrounded by fields, pastures, a creek, wetlands and stands of alder, oak, Doug fir and cedar. Beavers and otters inhabited the creek. Salmon spawned, there, too. Deer and pheasants foraged on the football field. Bald eagles and blue herons often showed up.

It was Morning in America according to Ronald Reagan and he was well into his second term of laying the foundation to destroy America. Thirty-five years after this seventh grade football season concluded, at least one of the players ended up drug addled and homeless and living along creeks and rivers not all that far from the school.

(That, however, is another story, not just an Oregon story, too, and left to detail later, in another literary project. It will unfold in the form of a mini memoir where the Son volunteers at a Christian street mission in Oregon City that serves the homeless and encounters one of the players 35 years after coaching him.)

The school opened in 1965 and was named after an English Indian killer and fur trapper, Peter Skene Ogden. Its colors were sky blue and gold. The school’s mascot said it all. The logo was a bearded man with an eye patch clutching a dagger in his mouth.

Ogden Junior High had an undistinguished history as a football school. Their attendance boundary tended to produce plodding lineman and fullbacks but no players with any breakaway speed, which is all it took to dominate junior high football, or any level of football.

Over the years, teams typically ended with 3-3, 4-2 or 2-4 seasons so finishing with a winning record was always an announced goal from Ogden’s coaches, mainly hack social studies teachers who handed out worksheets, rolled film, and called it teaching.

This was the first and only year the Father and Son would coach together, but later they would reflect and rate it was their best collaboration of all time. They would recount stories of that season, and in particular one player, Touchdown Tommy Eubanks, who in fact, never scored a touchdown and fell down a lot.

The Father was a master teacher who played in a single wing offense during his Oklahoma high school football days in the immediate post WW II era. The Son had just graduated from college and was thinking of becoming a teacher. He had played football in his youth and loved the game until high school came along and martinet coaches killed that love. The interesting part of the Father and Son’s relationship to football and each other was that the Son had once scored three touchdowns as a Gardiner Cavalier in a 56-0 rout of his Father’s Ogden seventh grade team of 1977. They talked occasionally about that game and how the Son’s coach wanted to run up the score against a city rival.

They promised each other they were not that kind of coach. They pledged to make participation about team, make it fun, and find and deploy opportunities for seventh grade boys to learn something more valuable besides football, which was supposed to be the point anyway. If they won some games, so be it. They would play hard, with guts and honor. They would go out for pizza after games whether they were victorious or not and tell glorious stories of sacks and touchdowns and Father and Son would pay for it and tell the team to police their tables out of respect for working people.

The Son was the head coach and did all the offensive and defensive playcalling. That might sound like an odd arrangement since the Father was older and already established as a coach, but he insisted. Besides, he admitted the Son knew a lot more about football. For coaching a six-game season, the Father and Son were each paid $600.