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The Greatest Season Ever
It would be John Boitanos last season as a coach. After 14 years, this one would be it. And as luck or fortune would have it, the season would end in a glowing crescendo of fire engine sirens and flashing police lights.
It was almost a season that happened without him.
A teacher of math and physical education for 32 years, Boitano was seriously considering retirement. His sons were living in Ellensburg and residential development opportunities were beckoning. But also beckoning were his assistant coaches. They were saying that the 2005 senior class would be the best hed ever have and that he should push retirement back a year.
And thats just what he did.
They talked to me about coming back and Im glad I did, Boitano said. I had some other good seasons but the last was the most memorable. It was a great way to go out. I couldnt write a script to go better.
Returning seniors included running back Jake Webb and quarterback Brett Smith who would amass an aerial and running attack that would propel the team to a tie for first place in the regular season with Oak Harbor.
The final season win came against Cascade High School, a team that had tailed the Eagles throughout the season. Smith again threw well with 207 yards and Darren Edwards made a key touchdown in the second half to lift the Eagles 28-7 in the third quarter. Smith had brought the Eagles down to the 11-yard line and Edwards would run the rest of the way through a massive hole courtesy of the Arlington offensive line.
You could have drove a Mack truck through that hole, Edwards had said afterward.
The only regular season loss for the Eagles came at the hands of Oak Harbor. Running back Taylor Brown was in for Webb who had been hospitalized. And while Brown ran well and scored a touchdown, Oak Harbor would rally to win 42-26.
We just made some uncharacteristic mistakes and you cant do that against a good team like Oak Harbor, Boitano had said after the game.
But now the team had advanced to the playoffs. Webb was back and ready to battle. The Eagles were ready to win the state championship.
It would be Eagles versus Wolves in the play-off opener. Against the strong South Kitsap team, Webb would run for 154 yards and Smith would throw for 165, enough for a win, 21-6. Our passing game was able to help open up our running game in the second half, Smith had said. Its usually the other way around, but if it works, well take it.
Next up, the Kentwood Conquerors in rainswept Kent. The Conquerors would draw first blood but receiver Tim Acker, who would catch six passes for 179 yards, caught a Smith pass and broke free for a 78-yard touchdown. The Eagles would continue to tear at the Conquerors and win it 28-14.
The Eagles were now on their way to the quarter finals. The team hadnt won a state-playoff game since 1982.
The Eagles would take on Puyallup in Puyallup, a tall order against a team that had just trounced the Everett Gulls 25-14. Boitano was ready.
I think our win over Kentwood has helped the team realize we can do it, he had said. Its helped set the stage for whats to come.
A caravan of busses full of players and cars full of family, friends and team supporters made their way down Interstate 5 for the big game.
Though they screamed and yelled, the home-team crowd, which filled the stands on the visitors side, could not undo the truth of the scoreboard: 28-14. The Vikings of Puyallup kept the Eagles scoreless in the second half.
Though the game was well fought, the season was over, Boitanos coaching career with the Eagles had come to an end.
After the game, Boitano and the coaches brought the players, not into the locker room, but up into the stands with their family members, friends and supporters.
I talked about the season, Boitano said. It wasnt the time for a long speech because we were so devastated. He talked more about how much fun it was coaching the team, and how much effort it had put forth to get this far. The team had trained all summer, worked, studied and let the game seep inside them. The first game of the year, we were behind the whole time against Snohomish, Boitano said. Then we tied it and in overtime, we went for two and won the game. From that moment on, everybody believed in everyone. We were in it for keeps.
The caravan of cars and buses got back on the freeway and headed in the wee hours back home. It was nearly 2 a.m. when the phalanx turned off onto state Route 530 where the road weary were greeted with sirens, lights and cheers.
There were sirens and paramedics and fire engines with sirens going through town and it was just like a movie, Boitano remembered. We went down 530 then Olympic Avenue then (State Route) 9 and then to the new high school. We had all these rooter buses, four of them, two football buses and a great big line of cars. The kids were in awe. It was something else.
That year, Arlington quarterback Brett Smith was voted Offensive Player of the Year by The Everett Herald, and would go on to play for Western Washington University. Jake Webb, was bound for the University of Arizona but a knee injury temporarily sidelined him.