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The Greatest Season Ever
Until that glorious season when the Tomahawks of 1989 came out of Nowhereville and pounded their way through opponents to reach the playoffs for the first time as a 3A team, the trophy case at Marysville-Pilchuck had been a lonely, lonely place.
But in 89 the planets aligned for the Tommies, most notably before a surprise pummeling of the Snohomish Panthers in Snohomish, a game that shattered the bliss of that schools homecoming. It had been decades since the Tommies had beaten the Panthers. The world had come off its axis.
Just the feeling of beating them was a huge confidence booster, remembered then-Tommie quarterback Jimmy Richardson, now married to his high-school sweetheart Karen Egelstad (yes, she was a cheerleader this is storybook stuff, folks), and living in Harrison, Ark. with their 16-month-old twins, Bryce and Drew, and where Jimmy is a pilot for FedEx Freight. Old people were giving us hugs out on the field, they were just so happy as a community.
Richardson and family paid a recent visit to his parents at their home on Sunnyside Road where he grew up and where he had geared up before games. Tall, slim and clean-cut, Richardson still possessed all the attributes and confidence youd expect from a glory-days quarterback. Even after nearly 20 years, in between moments of helping his wife feed their two sons a little string cheese before their daily nap, he remembered that season with great clarity.
From the beginning, we knew we had a real good chance of doing well, Richardson said. I remember losing to Cascade High School in our division and that was a let down, but we picked it back up and played Snohomish and that was better than winning in the playoffs.
More than midway through the season, the Tommies found themselves in a four-way tie for first place. They would endure one more conference loss to the lowly Everett Seagulls, but would rebound with a tidy 55-14 trouncing of the Oak Harbor Wildcats and a 21-0 spanking of the Shorewood Thunderbirds. Those wins were enough to put the Tommies in the playoffs for the first time in their 3A history. But were they good enough? Did they have the skill and the passion to get to the Gridiron Classic in the King Dome?
Then-Globe sportswriter Brent Anderson recounted in a column of being accosted by a friends pre-teen daughter. She lit into him saying the Tommies didnt deserve to go to the playoffs. And, while head coach Scott Stokes had boundless faith in his players, he knew area prognosticators figured the team would do nothing out of the ordinary.
But what the game-guessers didnt consider was the teams chemistry and work ethic. Stokes had already known several of his players when they were still learning the game as part of the schools sophomore squad. Since sixth grade, Richardson had been playing football with Jarrett Hausske, who would become the teams star receiver and defensive back. Hausske, by the way is getting married in San Francisco in November and Richardson will be attending the wedding.
That team chemistry was largely responsible for the Tommies not just winning games but issuing outright poundings. And as they entered the playoffs, they carried that confidence with them.
Coach Stokes was really into fitness. We worked hard and that made a lot of the guys quit, Richardson remembered of the days before the season began. He added that as games wound down and other teams ran out of energy, the Tommies were still supercharged.
They met Franklin High School in the first round of the playoffs. Franklin had edged them earlier in the season 12-7. But the Tommies would outplay them this time 15-14 thanks largely to Eric Conrad who kicked three field goals.
To let the offensive line know it was appreciated, the offensive backs took them out to a big country meal at GA Maxwells. The generosity must have worked because the Tommies won again the following week, this time against the Knights of Newport High School, 9-0 in game two in the playoffs. Newport had been ranked No. 1 in the state.
Next up was Curtis High School of Tacoma. If the Tommies could get by Curtis, they would reach the King Dome and play for the states 3A title. But sometimes when youre running in the forest, youre going to smack a tree.
We played the most talented team Id ever seen, Stokes recalled of Curtis. The entire secondary [went on to play] in the Pac 10 and a couple in the NFL they were unbelievable.
The day after Thanksgiving, under the lights of the Tacoma Dome, Curtis would simply overpower the surprise team of the year, 36-22. Curtis would go on to win it all the next week. But for the Tommies, the season of the century was done.
I was bummed, Stokes remembered. I thought, shoot, I dont get to coach these guys any more.
Richardson was bummed as well. He remembers everyone on the team working hard in the weight room, on the field, getting on well and listening with great focus to Stokes words.
He was such a motivating individual, just a great example in life, Richardson said. He was our sophomore coach and our junior year was his first year as head coach. We had a decent year that year but a phenomenal year our senior year. We all wanted to do so well for him.
After their senior years, several of the players went to college and some played professionally. Hausske went on to play at Boise State University, Jay Turner went to the University of Montana.
Offensive tackle Jim Mills went on to play at the University of Idaho and was drafted by the San Diego Chargers.
Others stayed closer to home. Jeff Tucker is now a firefighter in Marysville, Danny Galloway is a firefighter in Bonney Lake. Stokes, who was reared in Whatcom County, remains to this day in Marysville and is a counselor at Marysville-Pilchuck.
And now, 18 years after that magnificent season, another year of M-PHS football begins. It will be Brandon Carsons debut as head coach. Stokes has great confidence in him to lead the Tommies to another great season, one that could reach the heights of 1989.
Brandon is great and hell do a real nice job, Stokes said. Hes a Whatcom County boy.