Joe Albi Stadium has been home to any number of spectacles and oddments in its lifetime of seven decades – dirt track racing and Willie Nelson, rodeo and Billy Graham, soccer and marching band festivals. But let’s be real: It was built for football – mostly high school football – and it was football that produced the biggest moments in the joint’s history. Here are our top 10.
No. 10: Inside out
July 9, 2011
The whole point of the Arena Football League was to take the game indoors. So what were the Spokane Shock doing playing Albi? Broadening the brand. A curious audience of 16,233 saw a 76-49 victory over the Utah Blaze, who trotted out 44-year-old geezer Todd Hammel at quarterback. “It’s kind of like melding a regular football game with the county fair,” offered one first-time spectator. “It’s the same people.”
No. 9: The Ryp
and Rehkow Show
Oct. 18, 2012
Not even 1,000 people were there to see this wild bit of history. Shadle Park quarterback Brett Rypien broke Greater Spokane League records for single-game and season passing with a 577-yard performance. But Austin Rehkow of Central Valley blasted a record 67-yard field goal – second longest in national high school history – to send the game into overtime, and the Bears pulled out a 62-55 victory when Scott Hilpert intercepted Rypien’s last pass.
No. 8: Down go the Griz
Nov. 16, 2002
There were other significant steps Eastern Washington’s football program took during its two stays at Albi – wins over Idaho in 1984 and 1997 come to mind. But the tenor of the rivalry with Montana was cemented with a 30-21 victory over the defending national champions that snapped a 24-game UM winning streak. Jovan Griffith skittered through the Griz for 199 yards to the delight of about half the EWU-record crowd of 17,142 – the other half being Montana’s well-traveled fans.
No. 7: First impressions
Oct. 29, 1954
Rogers quarterback Don Ellingsen had broken his collarbone in a game against Walla Walla, so backup Ken Eilmes made his first start on the biggest of stages – in front of 22,500 Shrine Game fans against Gonzaga Prep. The Pirates accomplished nothing in the first half, but overcame a 10-0 deficit in the final 15 minutes for a 14-10 victory, a 71-yard pass connection between Eilmes and Jack Fanning the game-turning play.
No. 6: Snake charmer
Nov. 9, 1968
Ken Stabler had a Hall of Fame pro career ahead of him, but as an Oakland Raiders rookie he was shipped off to play two games with the Spokane Shockers of the Continental Football League. In a 28-13 loss to the Orange County Ramblers, Stabler completed just 10 of 29 passes for 71 yards with three interceptions, and collected the standard $150 game check. But though the game drew just 3,500, for the next 20 years five times that number of NFL barflies in Spokane insisted they’d seen the Snake light it up at Albi – and make last call at every watering hole downtown.
No. 5: Grand theft Clancy
Sept. 19, 1964
His team up a point and having caught a pass for the only first down needed to run out the clock, Stanford’s Dick Ragsdale was dumbfounded when defensive back Clancy Williams wrested the ball from him and gave Washington State new life. Quarterback Tom Roth scored from a yard out with 17 seconds left for a 29-23 shocker that made new coach Bert Clark a winner in his debut – after his gamble to go for two on a previous point-after-touchdown had failed.
No. 4: Etter-ly brilliant
Oct. 26, 1962
Gonzaga Prep quarterback Frank Etter dashed 14 yards to the end zone with 12 seconds remaining – barely keeping a foot inbounds as he crossed – to give the unbeaten Bullpups a 14-7 victory over Lewis and Clark. A Shrine game crowd of 19,000 peered through the fog to watch the Pups slug it out with Wally Gaskins, Butch Slaughter and the Tigers, whose only previous loss had also been to Prep.
No. 3: Dance fever
Nov. 18, 1972
Politically incorrect? Depends on whether you vote Cougar or Husky. When Gary Larson performed a knees-pumping jig after a third-quarter sack, it was instantly labeled a “war dance” and an insult to Washington quarterback Sonny Sixkiller, a Native American. Larson has forever insisted it was mere celebration – and the Cougars had much to celebrate, dropping Sixkiller six times and romping 27-10 in the battle between two Top 20 teams in front of 34,100.
No. 2: The last gasp?
Oct. 16, 1970
High school football attendance had already started to ebb as the calendar turned 1970, with TV and other amusements splintering the audience. But that didn’t stop 22,000 from coming out to watch Ferris turn back G-Prep in a battle of unbeaten teams. Mike McLaughlin had a 71-yard TD burst and Archie Grant rushed for 115 yards and two scores for the Saxons, who beat Prep for the first time in their six-year history.
No. 1: The 12th man
Oct. 17, 1970
The score was already 44-8 and a 27-year-old Vietnam vet and Washington State sophomore from Richland named Terry Smith had seen enough. So when Eric Cross swept left and headed toward another Stanford touchdown, Smith vaulted out of the stands in the southeast corner and met him at the 2-yard line, right shoulder lowered. Cross plowed into the end zone anyway – just another insult in a 63-16 win – and two cops corralled Smith before he could clamber back into the bleachers. But urban legend holds that a hat passed through the crowd of 30,400 raised more than $800 for bail, though it somehow disappeared after Smith forfeited a $50 bond.
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