Lewis & Clark was having a great football season in 1923. Their record went to 5-0 with a 21-0 win on the road against Walla Walla on Nov. 10. Little did they foresee what that victory would bring.
Scott High School of Toledo, Ohio, was recognized as one of the top high school football teams in the country in 1923. During the preceding few years they had played teams from all over the nation, including Corvallis, Ore., and Everett, Wash. Scott wanted to host a strong team from the west, and sportswriters from Oregon and Washington had selected Walla Walla for that honor.
After LC’s win, Coach Zimmerman of Wa-Hi sent a wire east, cancelling the game against Scott, and recommending they invite the Tigers instead. In just a few short days, the Spokane School Board sanctioned the trip, and just three days after their victory in Walla Walla, Coach Leonard Elder, 20 players, and a small support staff boarded a train in Spokane for the trip east.
The city was excited about the game, and 4,000 fans saw the team off with cheers, chants and snake dancing at the train depot. Lending their support was the North Central team, who would face LC in their annual Thanksgiving Day game to close the season.
The trip east took three days, with stops along the way for workouts. In Toledo, Scott students met the team and escorted them to their hotel. The next day, the boys saw a show, got an automobile tour of the city, and finished the day watching a local high school football game.
A week after defeating Walla Walla, Lewis & Clark took the field against Scott in front of a crowd estimated at 10,000 to 12,000. Scott had won 15 in a row, including a recent 85-0 victory over a New York school. Although the Bulldogs dominated the statistics, the Tigers were competitive. Midway through the final quarter LC was trailing only 14-10. Scott scored another late touchdown to win 20-10, making it one of their closest games of the year.
In Spokane, telegraph connections had been set up and the play by play was sent back to thousands gathered at different locations, including the Davenport Hotel. Although LC wasn’t successful in their upset bid, they earned praise for their strong play, both at home and in Ohio.
Perhaps the trip was a bit too draining for the young men as their final game against underdog North Central wound up in a 0-0 tie. In spite of the disappointing end to their season, 20 Tiger football players were given a week they would remember the rest of their lives.