High school sports season had its fine – and touching – moments


It’s surprising just how quickly another high school sports season passes.

Every one has its own set of inspiring stories, and the 2013-14 school year produced quite a few.

There were a number of young freshmen who signaled a potential for great things, and some outstanding seniors who capped memorable careers.

Like Jessie Kunz-Pfeiffer, who saved perhaps her finest save in goal for the Central Valley girls soccer team for last.

The Lady Bears battled their way to the state Class 4A girls soccer championship game against Issaquah by beating Greater Spokane League rival Mead in a shootout in the semifinals.

The Bears didn’t get many chances against Issaquah, but made the most of the ones that presented themselves and the game was tied after regulation and two five-minute overtime periods.

Kunz-Pfeiffer had a 3-2 lead when Issaquah stepped up to take its fifth penalty kick of the shootout.

For whatever reason, she just knew she was going to dive left to stop that last shot. Her guess was right and the Lady Bears won their first state soccer title.

“This was my last game ever playing soccer and to go out like this is just surreal,” she said later.

That’s the kind of story that will keep the grandkids spellbound a couple of generations hence.

Freeman produced a Class 1A football team that will live on in legend.

Not only were the Scotties undefeated en route to their second trip to the state championship game and their first state title, they dominated.

Freeman played a brand of defense rarely seen. Tough, physical and athletic in ways that don’t find a way onto stat sheets. The offensive and defensive lines were big and fast. And the running game was both fast and bruising.

The team was a treat to watch from the stands, but from the sidelines, you saw something special.

Football teams have special relationships with the coaching staff and this crop of Scotties was no different. The fact that two of the team’s coaches were recent Freeman graduates – Jon Dresback and his brother, Andrew – helped.

Watching them interact was special, but what happened after each and every win was in a whole new category.

After a game was decided, after opponents’ hands were shaken and hugs between teammates were shared, the entire football team would sprint to where Jim Wood stood. They would crowd around the head coach and chant one word over and over.

“Joke, joke, joke,” they would chant while wearing big, broad, sweaty smiles.

And the coach would proceed to tell them a joke. Not just a one-liner. A story joke – the kind with a set-up and a punch line.

In another setting, they just might elicit a groan, but to these young men, they were the highlight of the night.

As with any sports year, there were goodbyes.

Drew Vanderpool resigned as head boys basketball coach at East Valley for the second time, ending a 27-year coaching career. He said he was looking forward to spending Christmas and Thanksgiving with his family for a change.

One of the saddest goodbyes was to Howard Dolphin, the longtime East Valley track and field coach, cross country coach and mentor. Many of his former athletes and colleagues gathered at West Valley, where he spent the final years of his long career assisting his son-in-law, Jim McLachlan.

“I ran into Howard a couple years ago,” longtime University coach Bill Ames said over the weekend. “I was walking down the street in Honolulu and I saw this guy who looked really familiar. I said ‘Howard?’ We had a great visit.

“Every time I coached a track meet against Howard Dolphin, I just knew I was starting out 27 points down.”

Steve Christilaw can be reached at steve.christilaw@gmail.com.

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