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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Bill Pierce’s almanac: Small-town football

Back in the day, because of low enrollments, rural communities often had no local football team to cheer for as the equipment and players for eleven man football was more than many schools could handle.

In 1944, Superintendent George Tucker thought it was high time Fairfield High fielded a team after years of inactivity.  Nearby schools, Tekoa, Otis Orchards, Spangle and Rockford had opted for the six man game, allowing them to organize teams. So Tucker, who was also coach at Fairfield, followed their lead and set up an independent six-game schedule to re-introduce the game to the school.

It was a successful season. The Beavers went 4-2 and ended the year with a close win over Whitman County champion, Endicott. Ray McCLung and Gerald Haas co-captained the squad, and Eddie Kienholz, who centered the team, later played some college ball.

Deral Adams, a future educator, coach and official, played for Fairfield in the 1940s, and remembers when the opportunity arose, and the numbers allowed, an eleven-man game would be occasionally be played in the middle of the six man season.

Otis Orchards was a powerhouse team for much of the 1940s, with the Mustangs often posting huge scores against opponents year after year. In 1947, they ran the table again, ending the season under the lights at Central Valley defeating Rockford 62-12. Jim Clift and George McCarty were among their top players.

In 1948, the league went to eight-man football. That made it tough for some of the schools, as that year Spangle only had a roster of nine players.  Injuries could easily end a season.

The schools continued to play into the 1950s, but low enrollments still made it difficult for many small schools to support a football program.

In 1957, the new Freeman High gathered in the students from Rockford and Valleyford. A few years later, Liberty High opened, taking in pupils from Fairfield, Latah and Spangle.  Otis Orchards became East Valley.

As the years went by other schools began the process of joining with former rivals to enlarge their numbers, such as Lind-Ritzville-Sprague. That continues to this day, and makes forming a football team to represent the smaller towns much easier.  

Bill Pierce
Bill Pierce is a sports blogger who writes the weekly nwprepsnow prep sports almanac.

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