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Tuesday, December 18, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

Eagles struck right chords in ‘85 season

Don’t you miss campus activism?

OK, so some kids still care. They’ll raise relief funds for Darfur refugees and boot Taco Bell back to the strip mall, and at Calvin College of all places some seniors got a little gnarly about the president politicizing their graduation.

But where are the protest songs? Where are the new anthems? No one’s singing the next “Masters of War” or “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.”

No one’s writing the next “Save Eastern.”

We’ve gotta make the Big Sky our goal,

Even though we’re half-a-mil in the hole.

“You know, we recorded the first cut of that in the bathroom,” Rob Friese revealed. “That’s where the good acoustics are.”

Every college with a quad and an endowment has a fight song and an alma mater, but the 1985 Eastern Washington football team had its own folk song, plinked out on the edge of the tub and the toilet seat. It’s not the only reason the ‘85 Eagles are being inducted en masse Saturday into the school’s athletic hall of fame – hey, they did go 9-3 and make Eastern’s first appearance in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs – but it may have been the clincher.

It’s an eclectic class going in at halftime of the EWU-Portland State game: All-American gymnast Jo McDonald, sharpshooting guard Dick Edwards, basketball coach and scholar Jerry Krause and the running Carpines – Vic, Tony and Fred. Their accomplishments are nothing but legit, but there may not be an entity so thoroughly Eastern as the ‘85 Eags.

They were the whole package: the good, the great – guard Ed Simmons would play 11 years in the NFL – and the where’d-they-find-this-guy sleepers. They were rebound reclamations and walk-on high school nose guards – like Friese – who wound up playing cornerback. They liked their fun and they were salts of the earth – defensive back Bentley Williams, an ROTC guy like his head coach Dick Zornes had once been, returned not long ago from a National Guard tour in Iraq.

Yet they played not on campus, but at Albi Stadium in front of 30,000 empty seats. Their radio outlet, KXXR – Double-Cross Radio to those whose paychecks bounced – went under in midyear and the games wound up on a Christian station.

This bit of irony was not lost on play-by-play man Chuck Boyk, who earlier in the season had railed at the refs during a game in Bozeman, “Beat me, whip me, make me watch ‘The 700 Club,’ but please don’t make me watch these Montana officials!”

And even before the games started – before their winning could plead their case for them – these Eagles had to become advocates for a cause. The Big Sky Conference, after inviting EWU to apply for membership, stiff-armed them the previous spring, and a campus lobby was outraged at the tab football was running up with the approval of president H. George Frederickson and counseled for retrenchment to the old NAIA days.

Back before the Z-man, things were pretty rough,

We couldn’t beat the Loggers, and Western they were tough.

“It’s funny – when we start talking about it, I actually remember the spring more than the actual season,” said Frank Staudenraus, a defensive end from Ilwaco who led the team in sacks. “The season was phenomenal, but there was so much turmoil in the spring. By the time fall rolled around and we’d come through that, there was this momentum to the season that’s hard to explain.

“It got easier to practice, it got easier to not worry about whether we’d win or not and just play well.”

It didn’t seem to matter that eight of their 12 games would be played on the road. It didn’t matter that the senior class was the epitome of spare parts. Friese and Staudenraus had walked on and stuck it out for five years. There were three products of Washington’s now-defunct junior college league. Three more had ricocheted in from four-year schools – quarterback Rick Worman from Fresno State, guard Dave Flutts from USC and linebacker Chris Seidel from Idaho, of all places.

That didn’t make the 42-21 pasting the Vandals put on EWU very much fun for him. It made the rematch a month later – also in Moscow – in the first round of the playoffs that much more of a mission, for the players and for Zornes especially.

“We’d picked up a fumble and I made a block on a guy,” remembered Jim Ferster, then a young defensive tackle from Rogers. “I don’t know if he flew up over the top of me – it felt like it – but when I ran to the sidelines Zornes had this look on his face like he was going to kill me. I thought he wanted to tear my head off for something – I didn’t know what – and he grabbed me and said, ‘Nice (bleeping) block.’ He was so into it, even the praise made you shake.”

Eastern’s 42-38 win couldn’t have been more dramatic – Worman took the Eagles 91 yards in the 46 seconds, with Jamie Townsend breaking a screen pass for 74 and tight end Eric Riley catching the 12-yard game-winner with 12 seconds to play. But what’s best remembered is Zornes taking every gamble – two onsides kicks, a reverse on a kickoff return and a fake punt. It was the ubiquitous Friese on those last two plays, along with a fumble recovery that got the Eagles going.

And, of course, on guitar and vocals.

I think we made the bookstore mad by trying to take their dough,

But at $30 a textbook, they’d probably never know.

“Actually, that was supposed to be $50,” Friese said, “but they made us change it – I guess it was too harsh.”

It was Friese and his roommate, Dan Kegley, who started jotting down lyrics and blocking out a tune when the backsliders lobby geared up in the spring. Among the critics was Bob Siler of the campus paper.

“Bob got wind that we’d recorded it in the bathroom,” Kegley said, “and he slammed us in the Easterner. So we added a verse just for him.”

Siler says he’s mad at George, in the Easterner he pounced,

Old Siler he’s a know it all, that’s why he flunked out.

Hmm. Artistic license, apparently.

Assistant athletic director John Johnson managed to finagle the duo some time in EWU’s radio-TV studio, and a more professional cut started getting so many requests on KEWU that station management decreed it could only be played once an hour.

The song didn’t save Eastern football, any more than 9-3 did. But it allowed players a voice in their fate – an opportunity to poke fun at their critics and themselves – beyond just fretting about where they might transfer, and the season let them show their worth to the Big Sky, which accepted Eastern 18 months later.

All in all, it was better than a sit-in.

 

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