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'F' as in Frank

Live pigskins and mixed loyalties

I don't often travel to out-of-town football games unless it's a playoff situation, as Grandview experienced last year with a run to the State quarterfinals.

But if there was a non-playoff road game I would go to it would be the Mabton football team's season finale tomorrow night at Cle Elum.

As you probably have heard or read by now, I got my start in the journalism business during a five-year stint with a weekly newspaper in Cle Elum. One of my many beats was the Warrior sports program.

In fact, the first sporting event I ever covered was Cle Elum's home football opener against LaConner in September 2000.

I liked football and sports in general, still do, but I had never had to actually write about or report sports before. What made it more stressful for me was that I wasn't on staff yet with the paper but was a "stringer", giving the kindly publisher a chance to see what this newbie could do with pen and paper.

So I was nervous.

I wanted to get it right, and yet not ramble with so many minute details that my readers would get lost in the story.

So I hoped the game would have something unique happen. Something so exciting that it would grab the Warrior fans' attention from the get-go as they read my story.

What I got instead, or so it seemed, was a rookie reporter's nightmare.

It rained buckets so my feeble photo attempts had to settle with blurry crowd shots.

By halftime I escaped to the drafty refuge of the Cle Elum pressbox.

But the weather was the least of my worries.

Given the muck and mud, the game had turned into a defensive affair. Both teams struggled with three plays and a glop of mud on each series.

But it was close and Cle Elum clung for dear life to a 7-6 lead.

In the final seconds LaConner set up for a potential game-winning field goal deep in Warrior territory. The LaConner kicker had already demonstrated that he had a leg capable of booting the ball.

With the final seconds ticking away, the crowd waited in tense silence as the kicker put his foot into the ball.

Somewhere, out of nowhere, a Warrior defender broke through the LaConner line and blocked the kick.

Cle Elum players, parents and fans streamed onto the field rejoicing over the win.

I had my exciting finish to report on.

But then it got downright weird.

After the kick was blocked, the ball somehow had enough momentum to bounce forward into the end zone.

It lay there forlorn, ignored in the driving rain and Cle Elum cheer.

That is until a LaConner player remembered it was still a live ball and fell on it for a touchdown to wrench victory from Cle Elum.

Wow, did that ever give me something to write about!

In all my years watching football I'd never seen anything like it before or since.

It was the Warriors' only loss during a regular season which saw them advance to the State quarterfinals.

Cle Elum's tough again this year, 9-0 to be exact, so Mabton has an upset opportunity in the making.

While I still keep an eye on Warrior sports, I'll be pulling for the Vikings to win tomorrow.

But a part of my heart and eternal thanks as a reporter will always rest with Warrior football for giving me something to write about in that first game.

Whatever happened that night must have stuck, because I've been writing ever since.

It stuck with the Cle Elum football program, too.

Ever since that game, even now all these years later, I can still hear the Warrior coaches shouting at the players on each field goal try that "it's a live ball!"

Good luck tomorrow night, Vikes.

And good luck at State, Warriors.

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