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


Bill Pierce’s almanac: West Valley’s championship run

Coach Greg Gavin and the West Valley football team were on a mission as the 1976 season began. The year before, the Eagles had made it to the AA state championship game, only to fall 11-0 to Sumner in a driving rainstorm on the coast.

With a number of returning players, West Valley was looking to repeat their appearance in the title game. With Scott Dickinson, Greg Donais, Derek Wunch, Jay Jackman, Dave Ayuno, and other players returning, the team was confident of its chances.

The Eagles opened the season with two impressive non-league wins against Coeur d’ Alene and Hermiston, Oregon, before beginning Frontier League play against Medical Lake. The year before the team had tied for the League crown with Pullman and East Valley and only advanced to the state playoffs by narrowly winning a three-way Texas tie breaker.

There weren’t going to be any tie breakers in 1976 as West Valley totally dominated the Frontier League. The closest league win was a 28-7 victory over arch-rival East Valley

Entering the playoffs at 9-0, the Eagles were the No. 1-ranked AA team in the state. They began the playoff quest at home against Othello. In a game much closer than anticipated, the Eagles escaped with a narrow 28-21 win.

In the semifinals the following week in Yakima, West Valley easily handled No. 2 North Thurston, 22-0.

The championship game was held in Renton. The Eagles’ opponent for the title game was a surprising Hoquiam team that entered the game at 6-5. In spite of Hoquiam’s modest record, it proved a worthy opponent.

By the fourth quarter West Valley had built a 24-7 lead. The Grizzlies rallied for two scores to narrow the margin to 3 points. Hoquiam then recovered a fumble to begin another drive in hopes of taking the lead. The West Valley defense rose to the occasion when Duane Reisenaeur intercepted an errant pass to end the threat. Dickinson scored with 2 seconds left to give the Eagles a 30-21 victory, making West Valley the Spokane area’s first football state champion since the inception of the playoffs.

The goal that Gavin and the West Valley Eagles set at the beginning of the year was accomplished in grand style as the team returned to Spokane with the AA state trophy in hand an unblemished 12-0 record. 

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

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