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EHS HALL OF FAME: Hornet team rushed into history book, will be inducted Friday
The 1969 Enumclaw High football team can point to a healthy handful of noteworthy accomplishments. Under the direction of coach Leroy Babbitt, the squad posted a 9-1 overall record, captured the school’s first Seamount League championship and finished with a No. 3 ranking in the statewide, postseason polls.
Now, the high-achieving group can add one more milestone. Friday night, the team will be honored with induction into the EHS Athletic Hall of Fame. The ceremony will come during halftime of the Hornet boys basketball game in Chuck Smith Gymnasium.
In the fall of 1969, the team appeared ready for a breakout season.
“Everyone had the feeling that Enumclaw was going to have the best season in the history of Enumclaw High School,” was printed in the school yearbook. “The team didn’t let us down, by any means.”
Starting with a home-field, 26-6 victory over Mt. Si, the Hornets were off and running. The only hiccup was a Week 5, 14-6 loss to the rival White River Hornets. Following that, it was nothing but victories against foes like Foster, North Thurston, Tumwater and Tahoma – teams that made up the Seamount of that era.
In all, the ’69 Hornets scored 284 points in 10 games and allowed just 44. Along the way, the EHS defense registered four shutouts; White River was the only nemesis to put double-figures on the scoreboard.
A standout on that squad was Tom Poe Jr., one of nine Hornets to eventually haul in postseason honors. While he was the only member of the team to play beyond high school, Poe figures there were three of four others who could have successfully made the leap to the collegiate level.
But while the talent level was high, Poe said it was the team’s cohesiveness that made a world of difference.
“We all became different things – loggers, some in the military, some businessmen – but it’s amazing how common our goal was. We had a common desire to win,” he said.
And Poe doesn’t hesitate to give Babbitt all the credit for the team-first mentality. The veteran coach had a way of bringing his players together as a unit, he said – even if it meant sometimes donning a helmet and shoulder pads and mixing it up with the team.
“We thought that was a great thing,” Poe said, recalling the good-sized coach popping pads with his team.
The squad’s collective success didn’t go without notice when it came time for individual honors to be passed out.
Both Poe and Dave Van Hoof were first-team, all-Seamount selections on both sides of the ball. Poe was chosen as both a running back and linebacker while Van Hoof was named as both an offensive and defensive end. Also picking up first-team accolades were offensive guard Rick Bathum, safety Dan Wakefield and defensive tackle Carl Younkers. Receiving second-team notice were Bruce Klassen, Tony Connors, Terry Adrian and Dennis Crowell.
Wakefield’s honor capped a season in which he shattered the Seamount League record by intercepting nine passes. Poe, who went on to play for Washington State University and saw time in the Canadian Football League, broke several Seamount records by scoring 19 touchdowns, rushing for 1,561 yards and piling up 1,637 yards of total offense. He scored 132 points, ranking third in the state.
Bathum said the coaching staff was top-notch and meshed with the players’ skill set.
As an offensive lineman on the ’69 team, he has the highest regard for his O-line coach, Shelly Thiel.
“He was the best coach I ever saw,” Bathum said.
Kind words also flow for offensive coordinator Wes Hansen.
“He was a genius,” Bathum said, recalling that Hansen had taken two teams to a state championship while coaching in North Dakota. “He knew just what to call in the right situation.”
Bathum also echoes Poe’s sentiments about team unity and – to make the point crystal clear – relates a tale more than four decades in the making.
Of the five core members of the offensive line, left guard Ron Moeller had slipped out of sight. A two-year hunt revealed he was working as a logger in a small, remote North Idaho town. Last summer, Bathum and three other members of the 1969 O-line met in Oregon and, on motorcycles, trekked to the far reaches of the Idaho panhandle for a reunion.
The five carried on as though they had seen each other just the day before, he said.
That’s not a surprise, Bathum said, since the successful team was built on chemistry and camaraderie.
“We treated each other like brothers,” he said. “I was blessed to be a part of that team. It was a lot of fun.”