Pictures are supposed to be worth a thousand words. But the faded photograph of the 1973 Cascade High School football team on display in the trophy case in the Reg Scodeller Gymnasium proves that’s not always the case.
There is so much more to tell.
The ‘73 Bruins, who will be honored Friday night prior to Cascade’s game against Lake Stevens at Everett Memorial Stadium, went undefeated during the regular season and advanced to the first state football playoffs ever held in the state of Washington, only to see their perfect season end in controversy.
“We were so close,” running back Ross Noe said 41 years later. “So close.”
When Neal Bartlett retired as the Bruins’ football coach after the 1971 season, Jim Ennis came out of retirement to coach the team for one year. He then returned to his duties as the athletic director of the Everett School District and hired Gary Price as head coach.
A 1959 graduate of Edmonds High School, Price played quarterback for Rich Rowe’s* Tigers. Following high school, Price continued his football career as a running back for Jim Owens at the University of Washington. He was part of the Husky team that lost to Illinois 17-7 in the 1964 Rose Bowl.
“It was a pretty good defeat. The game wasn’t as close as it sounds,” said Price, who still has his Rose Bowl watch.
He majored in history and education at UW. After graduating in 1964, he landed a job teaching history at Edmonds High School. He also served as an assistant football coach on Rowe’s staff. After three years at Edmonds, Price was ready to move on.
“I really wanted to be a college coach,” he said.
So he returned to the University of Washington, where he earned a master’s degree in physical education and coached the freshman football team. It’s ironic that Price earned an advanced degree in P.E. Truth be told, he’d never taken a P.E. class throughout high school or college.
“In high school, I played in the band,” he said. “There wasn’t room for physical education in my schedule. When I wasn’t playing trombone, I was playing sports. In college, I was an athlete, so physical education wasn’t required.”
By 1973, Price was looking for a new job. Thanks to Boeing, Everett was growing. Cascade was a big school — and it was looking for a head football coach. Ennis and Everett School District Superintendant Owen Forbes hired Price.
The new coach was excited about the Bruins’ prospects, especially at quarterback. “I knew I had two good quarterbacks in Bill Tri and Jeff Kynaston,” Price said.
After watching the pair throw at Everett Memorial Stadium over the summer, Price visited Oregon State offensive coordinator Jerry Cheek. Prior to his move to OSU, Cheek had coached standout quarterback Sonny Sixkiller at UW.
Price wanted to learn Cheek’s passing game.
Price soon learned quarterback wasn’t the only deep position on the Cascade roster. The Bruins were loaded with talent.
“We could control the line of scrimmage, offensively and defensively,” Price recalled. “We had a quick backfield in Mike Doph, Frank Archie and Ross Noe.”
Price also had talented receivers in Bob Pope and Randy Bonson. The challenge for the new coach was finding a way to best utilize the abilities of two of his best players, Tri and Kynaston. Both were talented quarterbacks. Tri had been the starter the year before.
Price had a radical idea.
He decided to run a pro-set passing offense. The system, borrowed from Cheek, was relatively new. The Bruins would need a good athlete to play tight end — someone like Tri.
“I’ve got to praise Tri,” Price said. “He unselfishly made the move.”
Doph possessed outstanding speed in the backfield, but would have to learn to be a receiver. Once he did, the Bruins’ skill players were an excellent match for Kynaston’s passing skills.
The Bruins’ offense was set.
On defense, the team’s defensive coordinator, Paul Lawrence, favored a 6-1 scheme he’d picked up from Phil Bengston, the former defensive coordinator and head coach of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. The system fit the talents of the Bruins’ fast, strong and aggressive middle linebacker, Dean Pedigo.
The Bruins opened their season with a 14-8 victory over Renton.
Cascade’s next game was a 23-17 win over Snohomish — the first of many clashes between Price and the Panthers’ legendary coach, Dick Armstrong. The games always drew large crowds, with long lines of fans waiting to purchase tickets.
One of the Bruins’ biggest strengths was their offensive line, which included Ron McDonnel, John Giles, Jeff Strom, Doug Butler, Dale Overturf, Tri, Bonson and Pope. Because of the team’s depth, Butler was the only one who played both offense and defense. With a solid line in front him, Kynaston had plenty of time to throw.
“Not many people were throwing the ball in that era,” Price said. “We threw about 60 percent of the time versus other teams who threw around 15 percent.”
The Bruins went on to defeat Everett (22-14), Juanita (10-7), Blanchet (17-13) and Mariner (7-0). In the process, they rose to No. 2 in the state rankings. Many of their wins were come-from-behind victories.
“We were dubbed the ‘Heartbreak Kids,’” said Noe, a veteran high school football referee. “Price told us the fourth quarter had to be our quarter. Consequently, we did a lot of conditioning in full pads.”
Butler, who went on to teach and coach in the Everett School District, said “we owned the fourth quarter. We’d often hold up four fingers to one another going into the fourth quarter. If it was a close game, we knew we’d win.”
If there was one game Price did not want to play, it was against his former coach and mentor, Rich Rowe. The two squared off during the penultimate game of the regular season.
“I really wished we didn’t have to play,” said Price, whose team crushed the Tigers 40-0.
Cascade then wrapped up the regular season with a 35-8 victory over Woodway.
The Bruins were 8-0.
Cascade next played Snohomish for the Wesco championship. The game was on Armstrong’s turf. Cascade won, 21-12. To this day, the players say it was Price’s halftime speech that made the difference. Such speeches were not uncommon.
“We could be down a few points going into halftime and Price would give some fiery, motivational speech that got us pumped up and we’d turn the game around,” Bonson said.
After beating Snohomish, the Bruins advanced to the state quarterfinals, where they faced Sehome at Everett Memorial Stadium. Cascade won 21-6 to set up a semifinal matchup with Kentridge (9-2) at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium.
At the time, there were just three fields in the state with AstroTurf — Highline Stadium, the University of Washington and Seattle’s Memorial Stadium. It was the first time the Bruins had played on an artificial surface, which called for different footwear. Price arranged for his team to borrow shoes from the University of Washington.
At halftime, the Bruins led 6-3.
Midway through the third quarter, Kynaston went down with a shoulder injury. It turned out to be a broken collarbone.
“It took a bit of wind out of our sails,” Noe recalled. “Kynaston had led us all season.”
What happened next proved equally disappointing. Filling in for the injured Kynaston, backup quarterback Mike Oullette threw a pass to Pope. It appeared to many observers to be an incomplete pass.
As the ball bounced across the turf, a Kentridge player picked it up and looked to the referee. When the ref didn’t blow his whistle, the Kentridge player started trotting toward the end zone. Before anyone realized what had happened, the Chargers were awarded a touchdown.
Kentridge kicked the extra point — which proved to be the final tally of the Chargers’ 10-6 victory. They would go on to win the state title.
Meanwhile, the Heartbreak Kids were, for the first time in the ‘73 season, the ones left with broken hearts.
Price coached at Cascade until 1987. He’s retired and now lives in Gig Harbor. Many of players still live and work in the Everett area.
Two members of the team went on to play in the Pacific 8 Conference: Kynaston at Oregon State and Pedigo at Washington State.
The passage of time has only increased Price’s appreciation of his ‘73 squad, and he wonders what might have been had he been a more experienced coach.
“It took me years to fully realize how good those kids were,” he said. “I have no doubts that man-for-man, they were the best. I would have liked to coach those boys with 20 years experience under my belt.
“I feel we could have better taken advantage of their talents.”
*Correction, Oct. 8, 2014: Rich Rowe’s last name was misspelled in the original story.