Centennial football honors state champs half a century later
Half a century ago, nobody outside of East Multnomah County saw the Eagles coming.
Most had written off Centennial football, and even as the lopsided wins piled up and the score differential ballooned in favor of the East County squad, they kept getting overlooked in lieu of flashier programs with future Division I football stars.
But inside the Eagles locker room, a different tune was playing.
"Each game we knew we just had to win," said Scott McCord, the senior starting quarterback. "And we started rolling."
In the end Centennial was crowned the top program at the highest level of high school football, winning the AAA Division state championship 25-21 over Wilson.
Fifty years later about 25 of the surviving members from the school's only football state championship team came together for a reunion. They gathered at McCord's home in Happy Valley for a reception, then made their way to Centennial's homecoming game Friday, Sept. 30.
They lined up at the tunnel to cheer on the 2022 Eagles squad, passed along well wishes to the current Eagles, and stood pregame for a re-presentation of the state championship trophy — a replacement after the original was stolen during a wrestling tournament hosted at Centennial. Popular rumor is the Hillsboro wrestlers stole the trophy, vengeance for a loss in the semifinals that is still contentious for the Spartan faithful.
"We are all still one big family," said Dan O'Donnell, all-state nose tackle for the champs.
Regular season run
Back in 1972 Centennial was part of the Wilco Conference — two divisions of eight teams that ended with a championship bout to determine who would go on to play in the state tournament.
Before the championship run, Eagles football didn't enjoy much success. As an eighth grader, McCord watched Centennial struggle through its 10th-straight losing season, including three losses to David Douglas, Gresham and South Salem by a combined 150-0.
But there were reinforcements on the way. Centennial had seven feeder elementary schools, which meant a bevy of talented players all trying out freshman year. McCord remembers more than 70 players his first year wanting to play football, resulting in a Freshman A and B team.
"It made for some really great competition," he said.
As a sophomore McCord was on varsity, starting six games at quarterback, in what would be the school's first-ever winning season at 6-3. His junior year they finished 7-2, falling just short of a playoff berth.
Then came 1972 and what would be an undefeated run.
"Starting out, our goal was to win the league," McCord said.
The Eagles ran a full house backfield — two halfbacks and a fullback — with tightend right and a split receiver left. And the defense was stout, holding teams to under 10 points a game.
After a 6-6 tie against Oregon City, Centennial got better and better. Winning out the season, capped by a 49-0 rematch drubbing of Oregon City for the league title and ticket to playoffs. "We were improving every game," McCord said.
Led by head coach Don McCarty, the Eagles would finish with the best record in school history — 8-0-1 headed into the postseason.
"We were just a bunch of blue-collar kids who didn't know we weren't supposed to win it all," McCord said with a laugh.
There was Raye Williams, a 6-2 junior second-team all-state halfback with blistering speed and athleticism; senior O'Donnell, a defensive force who earned the most individual recognition for his play; senior Rick Boothman, who continued to play and find the end zone despite the tragic murder of his brother during playoffs; and McCord, the veteran leader who was a calming presence under center.
"We had no weaknesses as a team," McCord said. "A few years ago I was challenged to describe that team using one word; I couldn't. I need two — 'team unity' — everyone made a mark on the field and helped win that championship."
Adversity hit Centennial in the playoffs, threatening what was shaping up to be a strong finish.
After besting Bend 35-6 in the first round, McCord injured his throwing arm. He had a tradition of going out on weekends with his best friend and top receiver, Gregg Rognle, to toss the ball around. But that Sunday, Rognle was busy, so McCord joined a group of guys at the park. Tossing the ball turned into touch football, which turned into full-on tackling. And McCord separated his shoulder.
"When my dad called that Monday morning to share the news, (Coach McCarty) apparently went into the bathroom and threw up," McCord said.
The night before the semifinals match against powerhouse Hillsboro, the QB couldn't hold the ball in his right hand or do anything mechanical with his arm. But the team doctor gave him a shot of Novocain straight to the joint. McCord suited up and threw the ball 14-16 for 100 yards and three touchdowns, though he admitted he couldn't toss it farther than 20 yards.
Tragedy also hit running back Boothman. His older brother, back home visiting from college, was shot and killed during a random drive-by shooting. Boothman was away from practice that entire week leading up to Hillsboro, and most expected him to miss the game.
"As we were in the locker room getting ready, he walked in, got dressed and had a really great game," McCord remembered. "It was a real morale thing for us, rallying around our teammate who was grieving."
Despite the injury and tragedy, and all the sports talking heads proclaiming Hillsboro the odds-on favorites after No. 1 Grants Pass lost on the other side of the bracket, Centennial was confident.
Earlier that season, after a Thursday night victory, a carload of Centennial players cruised to see Hillsboro take on Jesuit, watching famed Oregon coach Darrel "Mouse" Davis, the godfather of the run and shoot offense, lead the Spartans. Sitting in the stands and watching their eventual opponents, the Eagles were bolstered.
"We turned to each other and said, 'We can beat these guys,'" McCord said.
The semifinals, played at Hillsboro, was one of the biggest high school games McCord had ever seen. The Centennial fans traveled well, and the Spartan crowd was raucous.
"Our games were always packed, at home or on the road," McCord said. "The Centennial community was hungry for something to celebrate."
The Eagles bested Hillsboro 31-28 — at the time considered one of the greatest high school football games played — punching a ticket to the championship. The Spartans, left licking their wounds and bruised egos, would come back the following season to claim a state championship of their own.
The Eagles had to delay Thanksgiving that year — first came football.
McCord's injury was improving, he could now throw it 35 yards. But much of the focus was on the Eagles defense and how they would contain Wilson's backs. The Trojans had two all-state runners, Rich Dodge and Steve Wantland, who both had stellar seasons and shined in the championship game.
But Centennial was stout, led by the wall of ends junior Lonnie Hovgaard and Williams — McCord still remembers a play from earlier in the season when Williams leaped over the line to block a pass; tackles Jerry Hansen and John LaMain; and the bruising O'Donnell at nose.
In the championship game they held Dodge and Wantland to just 135 yards rushing. For the Eagles, Joe Kern snagged an interception, and Brian Barlow dove on a fumble.
"Our defense had only given up an average of 10 points a game, they were a key for us," McCord said.
And offensively, the Eagles were balanced. Averaging about 30 points a game, they had six players on the roster with at least five touchdowns on the year.
"Reflecting back it was such a close game," McCord said. "If we had played them 10 times, we both would have won half."
"If we had played Hillsboro 10 times we would have won nine," he added with a laugh.
In front of more than 16,000 fans at Civic Stadium in downtown Portland, Wilson got off to a hot start. Dodge nearly ran the opening kick back for a touchdown, followed by a Wantland 27-yard score a few plays later.
But as they did throughout the contest, Centennial answered back quickly. McCord slung the ball to junior Mike Smith for 14 and 16 yards, setting up a one-yard punch-in from Williams. It was 7-6 after McCord missed the PAT.
"With my injury and missing practice, my kicking was rusty," he said. "If I had time to work on that the score wouldn't have been as close."
On the next drive Williams scampered for 47 yards on his first carry, then another 20 on the following three. Fullback Russ Watts scored, and then McCord again cocked his healing arm to hit receivers on two third-down conversions before finding Boothman for a 23-yard score to lead 19-7 at the break.
Wilson fought back in the second. First Dodge capped a 40-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown, and then an Eagles fumble led to a Wilson go-ahead score.
With their backs against the wall, the Eagles again made a play. On fourth and long, Kern split the defense on a fake punt. McCord lofted a pass to Kern running wide open for a 30-yard gain. Then with a minute on the clock Boothman galloped in for an 11-yard score.
In the championship game the Eagles ran for 244 yards, had 81 in the air, and notched 15 first downs en route to the trophy.
"I don't really remember the celebration after the win, it was just unreal that we did it," McCord said. "We felt like we earned it, nothing was given to us."
The lead-up to the anniversary celebration has been special for the players who stood on that field. It isn't often they get together — once for the two-decade mark, and for Coach McCarty's induction into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. They have spent the last months reconnecting, sharing stories and updating on life events. On Friday night, Sept. 30, nine of the state champs wore jerseys with names to honor members who died — six players, two coaches, including McCarty whose wife, Sue, was there in his stead, and one manager.
After cheering on the new soar of Eagles, the players made their way to a local pub to have a final celebration before parting.
"You can't live in the past," McCord said. "But just for tonight, we all are."
Centennial's state championship run
Eagles 6, Oregon City 6
Eagles 27, Clackamas 8
Eagles 28, Barlow 0
Eagles 20, Reynolds 18
Eagles 27, The Dalles 6
Eagles 30, Lake Oswego 6
Eagles 54, Hood River Valley 6
Eagles 33, Gresham 14
Eagles 49, Oregon City 0
Eagles 35, Bend 6
Eagles 31, Hillsboro 28
Eagles 25, Wilson 21
Meet the team
Bill Perletti, QB, Jr.
Scott McCord, QB, Sr.
Larry Newman, QB, Sr.
Brian Barlow, QB, Jr.
Dan Heim, HB, Sr.
Joe Kern, E, Sr.
Bill Thomas, HB, Jr.
Bob Hope, HB, Sr.
Dan Fehrenbacher, HB, Jr.
Kevin Konkle, HB, Jr.
John Gildow, FB, Jr.
Mark Jones, HB, Sr.
Mike Smith, HB, Jr.
Raye Williams, HB, Jr.
Rick Boothman, HB, Sr.
Gary Fournier, FB, Sr.
Greg Hopkins, FB, Sr.
Russ Watts, FB, Sr.
Terry Keller, HB, Jr.
Lonnie Hovgaard, C, Jr.
Dave Hachiya, G, Jr.
Chris Carlson, G, Jr.
Dan Horn, G, Sr.
Doug Havely, G, Jr.
Dan O'Donnell, G, Sr.
Cliff Harrison, G, Sr.
Dave Schiele, T, Sr.
Jerry Hansen, T, Jr.
Rocky Gilmore, T, Jr.
Dale Werner, T, Sr.
Jim Montgomery, T, Jr.
John Slemp, T, Jr.
Gregg Rognle, E, Sr.
John LaMain, C, Soph.
Dan Golden, T, Sr.
Dan Mestrovich, G, Jr.
Dean Heacock, E, Jr.
Dale Danielson, E, Jr.
Barry Keeney, E, Jr.
Mark Porterfield, E, Jr.
Head coach: Don McCarty
Assistant coaches: Bob Holt, Dean Pade
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