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Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

1972 Meadowdale team won them all, but came up short

40 years later, football team members lament the fact that they couldn't play for a state title

The 1972 Meadowdale High School football team.

The 1972 Meadowdale High School football team.

In sports, one isn't the loneliest number.

Look up and you'll see what we mean. Some might say it's lonely at the top, but anyone who gets there surely finds a crowd waiting to greet them. Ask LeBron James. Nick Saban. Ben Roethlisberger. Even the most difficult people to like find plenty of company when they get to No. 1.

In sports, one is where everyone wants to be.

It's that next spot, right below the best of the best, where a person can find himself or herself standing alone, the swell of a crowd rushing past, until there is nothing left but the silence.

Perfect season ... almost

Go back in time. November 1972. Find any poll having to do with Class 3A high school football in the state of Washington and see what stands out.

It's there on the far right side of the column. One after another, almost the entire way down, all the ones.

When the 1972 high school football season concluded, nine of the top 10 teams in the state had a "1" in the loss column. Even mighty Wenatchee, the defending champion and winner of nine games, had a single blemish, having fallen to a .500 Lincoln of Tacoma team in non-conference play.

And then there was Meadowdale. Make that 10-0 Meadowdale, with its perfect, yet maddeningly imperfect, season. The only unbeaten team in 3A, the state's largest classification at the time.

The only team with "0" on the far right.

And the only team with a "2" on the far left.

Perfect, maddeningly imperfect, Meadowdale. The last 3A team in the state to finish a high school football season without a loss ... and without a state championship.

Richard McKenzie is a man of few words. Nicknamed "The Chief" because of his Sioux bloodlines, he was one of the biggest and surprisingly fastest members of that 1972 Meadowdale football team.

When the subject of the 1972 Class 3A state polls arises, McKenzie needs just three words to sum up 40 years worth of feelings.

"We got screwed," he said last month during one of the informal monthly reunions of the Meadowdale Class of 1973 at the 112th Street Diner in Everett.

The comment is met with laughter, which is what happens when 40 years of frustration dissipates into a what-can-you-do shrug. Mark Hobbs laughed the loudest, even though the 1972 first-team All-Western Conference quarterback would never play a down of football after that season, thanks to a torn biceps injury he suffered not long after his high school graduation.

One could say destiny was unkind to this group, the last of its kind in this state, and yet the 1972 Chiefs have moved on. Really, what's a team to do?

Said former lineman Bart Carstensen: "You can't win more than all of them."

Meadowdale High 1973 Yearbook

Don Beriault (left) and Dave Vick share a handshake in the locker room during the 1972 season. Unlike most of their fellow seniors, Beriault and Vick went on to play college football.

'Seniors win football games'

A lot has changed since the 1972 Chiefs posted their perfect, yet tainted, season -- and not just because a playoff system that was put into action in the fall of 1973 now allows a team to decide its destiny.

In 1972, high school football didn't have streaming video highlights or Internet message boards or recruiting services. It was easy to get lost back then, even when all you did was win.

At the start of the season, the Meadowdale coaching staff knew this team could be special.

"It was a senior team -- there were only two juniors starting: one on offense, and one on defense -- so we knew we were probably going to do all right," the team's head coach, Ron Bates, said in a phone interview in August. "Seniors win football games in high school."

It was the kind of team that led both coaches and players to dream: Just how good could this group be?

And as long as they were dreaming, maybe -- just maybe -- it was time to entertain the thought that a Meadowdale squad could finally compete with mighty Seattle Prep.

Just maybe.

Rivals unite

The core of the 1972 Meadowdale High School football team was made up of players who went undefeated as ninth-graders at nearby Meadowdale Junior High School. A solid group of linemen, muscle-bound running back Mark Raethke and lightning-fast slotback Don Beriault gave Meadowdale hope for the future. The addition of some former rivals from Lynnwood Junior High School only added to the talent base.

A cocky, shaggy-haired sophomore named Mark Hobbs arrived from Lynnwood and immediately took grasp of the quarterback job, while linemen Rich McKenzie and Glenn Rice provided needed size up front.

"Our missing links that we didn't have were now completed by guys now living in our boundaries," Carstensen said of the blending of the rival schools.

The junior highs came together to form a sophomore team that went unbeaten -- thanks in large part to a dramatic catch by Beriault on fourth-and-15 in the Edmonds game.

Many of those same players ended up starting on a 1971 varsity that was thin on senior talent, and the inexperienced Chiefs scrapped their way to a .500 season. Fifteen starters would be back the next fall, so hopes were high that 1972 might be a special season at Meadowdale.

With his free-flowing hair and gift for gab, Hobbs walked the halls of Meadowdale High with a quarterback's confidence despite his modest 6-foot, 170-pound frame. Raethke, with his chiseled body built from the weight set his father installed in the basement of the family home, also had the look of an athlete, as did lineman/linebacker Dave Vick, the team's most highly regarded college prospect.

But the most athletic of them all may well have been Beriault, who stood about 5-6 and weighed 155 pounds dripping wet but had the potential to score on just about any play. He served as the Chiefs' slotback, defensive back, return man, punter and kicker, and Bates once said of him: "Pound for pound, he's our best athlete."

Teammates appreciated Beriault's headhunter mentality, which gave the Meadowdale defense an intimidating edge. The son of a single mother he always considered his most influential coach, Beriault would go on to have a productive college career -- first as an All-America defensive back at Olympic Junior College and then at the University of Montana.

With Beriault's athleticism, Raethke's ability to pound the ball up the middle and Hobbs' shiftiness running behind an experienced line, the Meadowdale coaching staff didn't have much need to build a thick playbook. Only about 20 plays were in the Chiefs' game plan, six of them passes. Beriault and flanker Rick Geston alternated bringing in plays from the sideline, and Hobbs often took pride in blowing off whatever the coaches called by dialing up his own play in the huddle.

The option was Meadowdale's staple, with everything stemming from Raethke's ability to take the ball up the gut and loosen the edges for Hobbs to run an option around the end. The Chiefs often flipped their line coming out of the huddle, depending on which side they planned to run a play.

But perhaps the element that really made this team special was confidence. That only swelled after two season-opening wins by a combined score of 66-6, and in the pregame locker room leading up to a Week 3 matchup with Cascade the Meadowdale players were goofing around and swimming in relaxed cockiness. One of the assistant coaches walked in, turned down the music and looked around at the teen-aged faces.

Shaking his head, the gruff assistant muttered, "Just don't lose." Then he turned the music back up.

Meadowdale High 1973 Yearbook

Meadowdale quarterback Mark Hobbs (10) confers with head coach Ron Bates during the 1972 season.

A near upset

The Chiefs won that game, and the next, and the one after that. Dominating wins over Edmonds, Lynnwood and Everett, by a combined score of 72-13, left Meadowdale at 6-0 and ranked seventh in the state. The team had allowed just 26 points. Things certainly looked promising, especially with a speedy defense that held Edmonds to 23 total yards in a 20-0 win that was played with Raethke nursing an injury on the sideline.

But the Chiefs still were considered the little brothers of the Western Conference's East Division. Until Meadowdale beat Seattle Prep, which was considered one of the top teams in the state and had never lost to the Chiefs, the program would still be considered an also-ran.

With their 6-0 record, the Chiefs had to wait a week until their Nov. 2 date with mighty Seattle Prep. But Meadowdale couldn't help thinking about Prep and its Stanford-bound quarterback, 6-foot-3, 215-pound Mike Cordova.

But first came a Mountlake Terrace team that seemed to be only a speed bump to the rising Chiefs, who had outscored every opponent through the first six games by at least two touchdowns. Mountlake Terrace hadn't had much football success, and yet the 1-5 Hawks turned out to be the biggest challenge Meadowdale faced in its run to perfection.

With a steady downpour that left the Edmonds Stadium surface covered in mud, Meadowdale struggled to slow down Mountlake Terrace, which took a 20-14 lead early in the fourth quarter when Hawks quarterback Bob Dahlquist connected with Steve McKittrick for a touchdown.

As Meadowdale lineman Mark Fenimore would say 40 years later: "They were kicking our (tails)."

Hobbs scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns, on 36- and 1-yard runs, to give Meadowdale a 27-20 lead, then he knocked down a Mountlake Terrace pass at the 3-yard line to preserve the win and a 7-0 record.

Of the close call, Hobbs would say recently: "We were looking past (Mountlake Terrace). We were thinking about Prep."

Forty years later, Seattle Prep still seems to be the thing the Chiefs most remember about that magical 1972 season.

Meadowdale 1973 yearbook

Rick Geston (left), Steve Foster (center) and Mark Hobbs (10) celebrate Meadowdale's win over Seattle Prep on Nov. 2, 1972.

Besting an All-American

To say Hobbs had an inferiority complex when it came to Seattle Prep and its star quarterback would be a bit of an overstatement. Everyone was talking about Cordova, his rocket arm and his NFL-ready frame. Almost no one outside of Meadowdale noticed Hobbs.

That seemed to be a theme surrounding the Chiefs as they prepared for their toughest opponent of the 1972 season. Despite their impressive start, few noticed. Perennial powers such as Wenatchee, Seattle Prep and Bishop Blanchet were still looked at as the teams to beat, even though Meadowdale had quietly risen to No. 7 in the 3A polls.

The perfect 10
Results and highlights of the 1972 Meadowdale High School football team's undefeated season:

Sept. 15: Meadowdale 24, Woodway 0
The Chiefs blanked the Warriors in their season opener, the first of three shutouts the Meadowdale defense recorded. The Chiefs scored on their first three possessions, and running back Mark Raethke finished the game with three touchdowns. "This was the best opening game Meadowdale has ever had," Chiefs head coach Ron Bates said afterward.

Sept. 22: Meadowdale 42, Bellingham 6
The Chiefs crushed the Red Raiders in their highest-scoring game of the year. Quarterback Mark Hobbs ran for a 32-yard touchdown and threw 11-yard scoring passes to wingback Don Beriault and flanker Rick Geston. Beriault also returned a punt 70 yards for a score.

Sept. 30: Meadowdale 21, Cascade 7
Raethke ran for 148 yards on 26 carries and scored a touchdown. Hobbs had TD runs of 10 and 12 yards. For the game, Meadowdale outgained the Bruins 304 yards to 167.

Oct. 6: Meadowdale 20, Edmonds 0
With Raethke out with a knee injury, Hobbs took over, throwing for 113 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 49 yards. "Hobbs played a heck of a game," Edmonds coach Rich Rowe said at the time. So did the Meadowdale defense, which held the Tigers to 23 yards of total offense and just two first downs.

Oct. 13: Meadowdale 24, Lynnwood 6
After falling behind for the first time all season, the Chiefs rallied behind Raethke, who scored on runs of 1 and 3 yards, and Geston, who returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown.

Oct. 19: Meadowdale 28, Everett 7
Hobbs threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third. Beriault caught both scoring passes, covering 11 and 36 yards. He also kicked all four extra points.

Oct. 27: Meadowdale 27, Mountlake Terrace 20
The Hawks nearly upset seventh-ranked Meadowdale in a game played in heavy rain. The Chiefs, who trailed 20-14 in the fourth quarter, kept their offense close to the ground. Hobbs and Raethke accounted for 283 of Meadowdale's 286 total yards. Hobbs rushed for 138 yards on 23 carries, Raethke gained 122 yards on 24 carries, and the two combined on Meadowdale's only pass of the game -- a 23-yard scoring strike just before halftime.

Nov. 2: Meadowdale 21, Seattle Prep 6
The Chiefs clinched the Western Conference Eastern Division title by beating the Panthers for the first time in school history. Prep's Parade All-America QB, Mike Cordova, was 9-for-26 and was intercepted twice. Raethke scored two TDs -- on runs of 31 and 6 yards -- but was not the player who inflicted the most damage. "The guy who hurt us was Hobbs," Prep coach John Miller said. "He was the difference in the ball game." Hobbs finished with 21 carries for 87 yards, and was 5-for-7 passing for 63 yards and a touchdown.

Nov. 10: Meadowdale 27, Snohomish 14
The Chiefs closed out the regular season with a win over Dick Armstrong's Snohomish Panthers. Meadowdale used two big plays in the second quarter to help build a 19-0 first half lead -- a 55-yard TD run by Hobbs and a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown by Beriault.

Nov. 17: Meadowdale 14, Blanchet 0
With Hobbs suffering flu-like symptoms, the Meadowdale offense was not its usual self in the Wesco championship game. But the speedy Beriault picked up the slack, scoring on runs of 13 and 80 yards. He also kicked both extra points to account for all the scoring in the game. The victory gave Meadowdale the first Wesco football title in school history.
The Chiefs' defense played inspired football from the kickoff, forcing a punt on the opening drive and generating a pair of turnovers before the second quarter was 3 1/2 minutes old. Vick, the team's middle linebacker, dropped into coverage and intercepted a Cordova pass to set up Meadowdale's first touchdown, which came after Hobbs followed two long option runs with a 4-yard touchdown pass. A few minutes later, Glenn Rice fell on a fumbled exchange, and Raethke bowled over three would-be tacklers for a 31-yard score up the middle.

With 8:32 remaining in the first half, the Chiefs had jumped out to a 14-0 lead.

Seattle Prep made a push late in the first half, after a Hobbs fumble inside the Meadowdale 10-yard line, but the Chiefs were able to dodge that bullet when the 170-pound Hobbs shook off the defensive call, went on a blitz, and jumped on the 215-pound Cordova's back before teammates arrived for a fourth-down sack at the 5-yard line to preserve the 14-0 halftime lead.

Forty years later Hobbs would say of the drive-killing sack: "To me, that was the biggest play of my life."

Seattle Prep got back into the game when a long run early in the second quarter helped set up a Cordova touchdown pass. A blocked extra-point left Meadowdale clinging to a 14-6 lead with 5 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter -- an eternity by high school football standards.

From there, Meadowdale took advantage of its three main weapons to keep the clock moving. The 188-pound Raethke pounded the ball up the middle, while Hobbs scrambled around to complete one pass, then hit Beriault on a deep throw. That milked most of the third quarter, leaving the Chiefs 12 minutes from the biggest win of their lives.

On the opening drive of the fourth quarter, Meadowdale rode Raethke's powerful legs, Hobbs' arm and Beriault's hands down the field. Seattle Prep's defense was beginning to look tired, due in large part to the pounding it took all night from Raethke. As Hobbs would say of the bruising runner: "To hit him around the chest was like hitting a wall."

Raethke capped off the drive with a 6-yard score, bouncing off a pair of tacklers at the 2 before getting into the end zone for a 21-6 lead with 9:49 left on the clock.

That only seemed to inspire a Meadowdale defense that continued to attack Cordova as he unsuccessfully attempted to mount a comeback with a variety of downfield passes. Seattle Prep even resorted to a fake punt at one point, but Meadowdale defended it well to take possession in Prep territory before fumbling the ball back to the Panthers. Cordova then moved the ball into Meadowdale territory, but an incomplete pass with four minutes remaining ended the threat.

Seattle Prep never seriously challenged again, and Meadowdale celebrated its first-ever win over the program with a 21-6 victory. That also clinched an East Division title for the Chiefs, who were headed to the Western Conference championship game two weeks later.

While the Stanford-bound Cordova completed just 9 of 26 passes for 104 yards and two interceptions, Meadowdale's Hobbs completed 5-of-7 for 63 yards and added 87 rushing yards.



Years later, Hobbs would gloat in knowing that Cordova went on to be named a second-team All-American that year, while it was Hobbs who was named Wesco's first-team quarterback.

But it was Raethke's 153 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries that really led the way on that evening.

"Raethke," Hobbs told The Herald after the win, "was a horse."

And the Chiefs were galloping toward a historic season.

"This is the biggest win in football we've ever had," Bates said as Meadowdale celebrated before its largest crowd of the season.

The Chiefs moved up to No. 4 in the state poll and were beginning to look like a legitimate candidate for a Class 3A state title. Only top-ranked Queen Anne, No. 2 Wenatchee and Bellevue separated unbeaten Meadowdale from the top of the heap.

Joe Dyer / The Herald

Members of the 1972 Wesco champion Meadowdale High School football team Glenn Rice (Purple hat), Mark Hobbs (blue jacket), Mark Fenimore (back right) and Richard McKenzie (far right) chat with former Meadowdale students during a reunion breakfast at the 112th Street Diner in Everett.

The Fog Bowl

Meadowdale wasn't finished yet. Always-tough Snohomish was still on the schedule to finish off the regular season, and then there was the Nov. 17 Wesco championship game that featured the champions from the East Division playing those from the West.

Despite a significant size advantage, Meadowdale made certain the Panthers didn't spoil their perfect season, jumping out to a 19-0 halftime lead. Hobbs broke free for a 55-yard touchdown run, Beriault added a 74-yard punt return for a score, and the rout was on. Meadowdale eventually led 27-0 midway through the third quarter before holding on for a 27-14 win. The Chiefs finished with 262 rushing yards.

Having clinched a perfect regular season, the Chiefs still had one hurdle left in annual power Bishop Blanchet, a Seattle private school, in the Wesco title game. The contest would be played at Everett Memorial Stadium, and an unexpected fog wasn't the only thing that put a cloud over the day.

Meadowdale's quarterback, Hobbs, came down with a virus the day before the game and was rendered almost useless in his final prep game. Fortunately for the Chiefs, their jitterbug of a scatback came to the rescue. Beriault scored twice -- on runs of 80 and 13 yards -- and kicked both extra points to lead Meadowdale to a 14-0 win in what became known as the "Fog Bowl."

That officially ended the 1972 season without a blemish, and losses by Bellevue and Queen Anne gave the Chiefs legitimate hope of winning a state title.

'We're still not over it'

Five days later, on Nov. 22, 1972, newspapers landed on doorsteps throughout Snohomish County. One of the top stories dealt with University of Puget Sound star basketball player Ned Delmore, the Loggers' leading scorer, being kicked off the team for having long hair.

On the same page, a short article accompanied the final United Press International (UPI) football poll, which ranked 9-1 Wenatchee first in the state, with 103 points and five first-place votes. Right behind them stood the unbeaten Chiefs, with 100 points and three first-place votes. Four other teams with one loss each received a first-place vote.

The day after that, in an edition of The Herald that included a photo of an Arlington man holding up a 17-pound-14-ounce fish, and a lead Sports story about Frank Robinson getting traded to the California Angels, a second state poll came out. Under a small, indiscreet headline that read "Panthers repeat in polls," the Associated Press poll showed that once again Meadowdale had to settle for second-best. Wenatchee earned seven of the 13 first-place votes, and 112 points, while Meadowdale got three first-place votes and 102 points.

Curiously, the article dealt only with Wenatchee's third consecutive title and did not include reaction from the hometown Chiefs. Almost 40 years would pass before the 1972 Meadowdale players would be asked to comment publicly on the slight.

"It was a letdown," Rice recalled before diving into a plate of food with several teammates surrounding him at a breakfast table a few weeks ago. "What do you have to do?"

Beriault, a contractor who still lives in Edmonds, can't forget the feeling of being No. 2.

"That was a big deal," he said last month, "and we're still not over it."

Hobbs doesn't remember how he found out about the polls, but he recalls just how the Chiefs felt upon hearing that the Wenatchee Panthers had been crowned state champs.

"I just know the word got out, and we were kind of upset," he said. "We wanted to play them. I'm pretty sure we could whoop them, of course."

We'll never know. The Chiefs played that entire 1972 season knowing they wouldn't get a chance to play for an outright title, and what was even harder was knowing that Washington already had adopted a playoff system for the following year.

Records indicate that Wenatchee was the 1972 state champion, and that's never going to change. Meadowdale never got a chance to prove just how good a team it was.

All the Chiefs knew was that they couldn't possibly do any more than win every game put in front of them.

"Would we have won it all?" said Bates, the head coach. "I don't know. But we would have done real well (in the playoffs)."

Bates coached at Meadowdale for 16 years and fondly remembers the 1972 team as his finest. But he didn't linger too long on the final poll and the way his undefeated Chiefs were unable to secure a state title.

"You just move on," he said, recalling his feelings after seeing the polls a few days after the 1972 season finale. "You move on to next year, to the next team. There was no unhappiness -- from me or the coaches. We just moved on."

For those who played on that 1972 team, it wasn't quite that easy.

Quarterback Mark Hobbs.

Wenatchee: 3-deep in talent

It's forty years later and 130-some miles to the east -- in Wenatchee, where football used to be king. Where they once, in the words of a former player, "ate, slept and bled football." Where the Wenatchee Panthers rarely lost. The 1970 and 1971 teams didn't lose a single game, and the '72 team rolled along with five consecutive wins before Lincoln of Tacoma derailed the Panthers with a last-second field goal to win 16-14.

Go to Wenatchee now and you might even hear about that 1972 team, the one that brought home a third consecutive state title. A team that suited 90-plus players; a team that Dave Crollard, a senior defensive end on the 1972 squad, likes to say was three deep at every position. He recalls the loss at Lincoln of Tacoma and how Wenatchee dropped out of the top 10, only to knock off new No. 1 Richland the next week to vault back ahead of Meadowdale.

Crollard said Wenatchee had the deepest team in the state in 1972, and quite possibly the best, but he's not going to call those Panthers the undisputed state champs. Now in his late 50s, Crollard can admit that the only way to settle the argument would have been to let Wenatchee and Meadowdale suit up and play. The Panthers, he said last month, would have welcomed that opportunity.

"If it came down to it, we weren't afraid of anybody," the 1973 Wenatchee grad said via telephone. "We never had 'lose' in our heads; it was how much we were going to win by? We weren't scared of anybody. I've always thought: let the best two teams play and get it finalized."

Mark Madland, who was a junior linebacker on that Wenatchee team and went on to sign with BYU before finishing his college career as an NCAA College Division All-American at the University of Puget Sound, also would have loved to have played Meadowdale in 1972.

Imperfect ending
The undefeated 1972 Meadowdale football team finished second in the final AP and UPI polls. Here are the rankings, with first-place votes and total points in parentheses:

UPI
1. Wenatchee (5, 103) 9-1
2. Meadowdale (3, 100) 10-0
3. Nathan Hale (1, 82) 9-1
4. Ferris (1, 73) 9-1
5. Queen Anne (1, 70) 9-1
6. Richland (0, 51) 9-1
7. Port Angeles (1, 42) 9-1
8. Bellarmine (0, 38) 9-1
9. Bellevue (0, 37) 9-1
10. Issaquah (0, 21) 9-1

AP
1. Wenatchee (7, 112) 9-1
2. Meadowdale (3, 102) 10-0
3. Nathan Hale (1, 86) 9-1
4. Ferris (1, 76) 9-1
5. Richland (0, 65) 9-1
6. Port Angeles (1, 53) 9-1
7. Bellarmine (0, 52) 9-1
8. Queen Anne (0, 48) 9-1
9. Bellevue (0, 44) 9-1
10. Issaquah (0, 29) 9-1
That would end the argument, right?

Maybe it's not that simple.

In an odd twist of fate, Madland and the juniors who went on to play for the 1973 Wenatchee team know all too well that a playoff might not settle everything.

It was that year, in '73, when Meadowdale was deep into a rebuilding project after losing the best senior class in school history, that high school football teams in this state finally got a chance to play for a title.

Wenatchee was primed for the opportunity, having not only won every game in Big 9 Conference play but also having done it without allowing a single point. That Panthers team, a two-time defending state champion, rolled into the first-ever Washington state football tournament and promptly shut down two future NFL quarterbacks -- Fort Vancouver's Steve Dils and Evergreen High School's Jack Thompson -- to advance to the state championship game.

That's where the run ended for what might have been the greatest Wenatchee team of its era. One year after edging out Meadowdale in the polls, the Panthers had to settle for second place after a 26-24 loss to Kentridge in the state finals.

And yet Madland still swears that Wenatchee, not Kentridge, was the best 3A team in the state in the fall of 1973.

"I can totally identify with the Meadowdale people. Who wouldn't want a playoff?" Madland said via telephone last month. "What a bittersweet wish for us our senior year. But we wouldn't have had it any other way. We wanted a playoff. Then here's our chance, and we blow it and get second.

"We wished that like no end. We'll take all comers, we always have. We wished the playoffs would've come sooner, but it was so bittersweet when they did. We got second (place), and it ripped our hearts out for the rest of our lives."

Don Beriault (42) and Rick Geston (44) took turns shuttling in the plays for the Meadowdale offense.

Lasting friendships

Go back to this side of the state, to the diner on 112th Street in Everett, where a group of fifty-somethings are gathered for one of their Saturday morning get-togethers on a beautiful day in September.

That's where you'll find them, kibitzing about the good old days. They're laughing and ribbing and telling stories. Hobbs, whose flowing brown hair is now gray and shaped into a businessman's cut, seems to remember every moment as if the '72 Chiefs just walked off the field. Glenn Rice, his old lineman, sits on one side with a mesh baseball cap on his head and a significantly slimmed-down body, while "Chief" McKenzie, the former tackle, sits across the table and fills up a chair, quietly listening to the others.

The more they talk, the more an outsider comes to realize that, from an athletic standpoint, that season would be as good as it gets for these fifty-somethings.

Most of them never played another game after that season-ending win over Blanchet. Of the seniors, only lineman Dave Vick, the most highly recruited member of the team (he accepted a scholarship from the University of Hawaii) and Beriault played high-level college football. Hobbs and McKenzie got offers from Montana State but decided not to pursue them, mainly because of academic concerns.

Hobbs fully intended to play football again at some point. He joined the Army with plans of trying out for the military football team and one day walking on at the University of Washington, but a serious injury he suffered during military training ended those thoughts.

Hobbs was in the 82nd Airborne Division, stationed in North Carolina, when a parachuting endeavor resulted in a torn biceps. The static line of the parachute wrapped around his upper arm as Hobbs jumped out of a plane, and the damage was so bad that it required surgery. It happened the day before tryouts for the military football team.

The roster
The 1972 Meadowdale High School football team:
Ken Allen, Tim Anderson, Steve Bankston, Tom Baumgartner, Tim Bean, Don Beriault, Dave Bullock, Bart Carstensen, Leonard Cobb, J.C. Comet, Glen Crosbie, Dan Dawson, Bill Ewing, Mark Fenimore, Steve Foster, Jeff Fox, Rick Geston, Kim Graham, Dean Hendrickson, Mark Hobbs, Pat Hoffer, Gary Hoggins, Randy Jackson, Jim Johanson, Rick Kruckenburg, Monty Lind, Scott MacFarlane, Don Masseau, Tim McCormick, Richard McKenzie, Ron Perry, Scott Pinger, Jeff Pinneo, Mark Raethke, Steve Reed, Glenn Rice, Lane Roehl, Joe Silva, Gary Smithm, Lynn Sorenson, Doug Steinmetzer, Dave Vick
Source: Meadowdale High School 1973 yearbook
Hobbs never made it back to the gridiron, or to UW. He works at Everett Community College while living in Marysville. Beriault works in construction, and Raethke has worked in Seattle as a sanitation worker for most of his adult life.

That might be the happy ending to this story: that the key figures on the 1972 Chiefs are now living happy, productive lives and still enjoying each other's company. They still laugh and remember and genuinely enjoy one another's company.

Maybe being second-best isn't so lonely after all.

They still have their monthly get-togethers and talk about the time Geston chased down one of the top sprinters in the state, Seattle Prep's Arlyn Jordan, and tackled him short of the end zone on what appeared to be a breakaway, or they can joke about the time late in that 1972 season when Hobbs called one of the most basic plays in the Meadowdale playbook, T-23 Dive, only to have Raethke look into the quarterback's eyes and admit that he'd forgotten what the heck he was supposed to do.

And, mostly, they like to talk about the one stone left unturned, how they wished they'd gotten a shot at the Wenatchee team that is officially recognized as the 1972 state champ.

"We only wish we could have played them," Hobbs said. "If I could go back in time, that's the first thing I would do."

Then again, maybe being able to talk about that special season, to gather around a table and look each other in the eyes, to be huddled up again all these years later, is as much a reward as anything.

"Here it is 40 years later and lot of us are still alive and getting together," Beriault said. "It's a neat deal."

Joe Dyer / The Herald

Mark Hobbs, the starting quarterback on the 1972 Meadowdale High School football team, chats with classmates and former teammates during a reunion breakfast last month in south Everett.

The team time forgot

A few miles south of the 112th Street Diner, down Highway 99 and into Lynnwood, the field where the 1972 Chiefs practiced sits empty. They still play football at Meadowdale, and play it well, but they're no longer the Chiefs. Now, in an act of political correctness, they're known as Mavericks.

Go inside the halls of the since-rebuilt high school and there is no record that the 1972 Chiefs ever existed. Go to the athletic building, where two display cases show off some of the greatest moments in Meadowdale High history, and you'll find nothing.

There's a case that holds 35 trophies, all from state tournaments.

Five steps to the right, there's a display case for when the Meadowdale Mavericks were known as the Chiefs, with some memorabilia and faded newspapers. There are a couple worn-out jerseys and a basketball that looks as if it was once dribbled by James Naismith himself.

But there's nothing, nothing at all, about the 1972 Chiefs.

Maybe it does get lonely when you're that close to the top. But they'll never need company, and there will never be misery, as long as this bunch has each other.

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