Voters choose White River gridiron greats

Keenan Fagan, a senior on this year’s White River squad who stamped his name all over the Hornets’ record book.  - Photo by Vince Miller
Keenan Fagan, a senior on this year’s White River squad who stamped his name all over the Hornets’ record book.
— image credit: Photo by Vince Miller

The top offensive football players in White River High history have been decided, thanks to nearly 400 votes registered during the fall season.

Honoring 11 players from a roster that numbers in the thousands – and covers 104 years of Mountaineer and Hornet gridiron glory – was no easy task. But it was an enjoyable venture, according to assistant coach John Dorsey, who was inspired to spearhead the project after perusing a list of the top players in University of Washington history.

Arriving at a list of candidates to be considered was dicey, as the sport has evolved mightily during the past century. But Dorsey and his team of volunteers put in plenty of research before taking the survey public. They went to the Foothills Historical Society and read every article about every game they could find in issues of the long-defunct Buckley News Banner. From back issues of the Enumclaw Courier-Herald they read about each game from 1974 to 2012; at the Enumclaw library, they were able to research games from 1909 through 1918; the Tacoma Public Library was used to research articles found in the pages of the News Tribune; and school yearbooks added even more information.

A wealth of information was provided by individuals like Terry Veltkamp, Deryl Ross, Mark Kaelin and Bob Walker who have invested years in the program.

They arrived at a candidate pool that included 12 linemen, six quarterbacks, 10 running backs and eight receivers. Voters were asked to choose five linemen, one quarterback, three running backs and three receivers.

After everything was tallied, White River’s all-time offense looks like this:

Center: Lester Scroup (1921-24) – In those days, an “all-county team” was selected and Scroup was honored following his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

Guards: Gene Baker (1950-53) and Nick Newton (1997-99). Baker was an o-line starter in all but one of his varsity games; moved to quarterback, he showed his versatility by running for a 68-yard touchdown and throwing for a 46-yard score. Newton was the Pierce County League’s Most Valuable Player and was a starter on the 1998 Hornet team that placed fifth in state.

Tackles: Thron Riggs (1935-38) and Jay Jacobs (1975-77) – Riggs is the only White River player to make it professionally, suiting up for the 1944 Boston Yanks. Jacobs was described by a longtime coach as “by far, the best lineman we’ve ever had.”

Quarterback: Mike Kruse (1992-94) – High praise from a coach: “He had more ability to find a way to win a game than anyone else ever did.”

Running backs: Bob Ross (1940-42) and Tad Cover (1989-91) – Statistics from just one game show how dangerous Ross could be; against Renton, he ran for a 50-yard touchdown, caught a pass for a 35-yard score, threw a TD pass and returned an interception 102 yards for a fourth touchdown. Talented on both sides of the ball, Covey was a Pierce County League first-team selection as both a running back defensive back.

Receivers: Sean McNulty (2002-04) and Andrew Banks (1999-2001) – McNulty owns the White River record for most receptions in a single season (69) and most receptions in a career (101). When it comes to touchdown receptions in a season, Banks is both first and second on the list; he had 14 TD catches as a senior, 13 as a junior.

But that adds up to just 10 players, one shy of a starting lineup. The original plan was to weigh the virtues of the No. 3 receiver and No. 3 running back before rounding out the squad.

A late addition

proves worthy

Complicating matters was a stellar 2013 season turned in by Keenan Fagan, a senior on this year’s squad who stamped his name all over the Hornets’ record book. Making the assumption that Fagan belongs on the all-time team, survey organizers took matters into the own hands and included him on the list.

His numbers tell the story. During the recently-concluded campaign, Fagan set school records with 1,589 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. He finished No. 2 on the all-time list with 2,185 career rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns. He was crowned as the league MVP, was an all-league first-team running back and has been selected to play in this year’s all-state game.

What’s next?

Dorsey said a plan is in the works to come up with a permanent tribute to the offensive standouts, something future Hornets can see on their way out to the field during home games.

Additionally, he’s already looking ahead to next season, when the same system will be used to arrive at an all-time White River defensive team.

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