‘79 Eagles proud of state football title

Rich Senff stands next to a poster of the 1979 Arlington Eagles football team that won the state championship 40 years ago. (Steve Powell/Staff Photos)

Rich Senff stands next to a poster of the 1979 Arlington Eagles football team that won the state championship 40 years ago. (Steve Powell/Staff Photos)

ARLINGTON – Forty years ago Arlington won the state football title.

That’s a rarity as only a handful of schools in Snohomish County have done that in the last 50 years.

The class of 1979 is proud of that, and so had a reunion in town last week. They had a dinner at Gleneagle the night before being introduced at halftime of the Arlington-Squalicum game.

Rich Senff, who owns Action Sports downtown, was a junior center on that Jim Kavaney-coached team, even though he weighed only 145 pounds.

“We had zero size but huge hearts,” he said Wednesday.

He said the line was a team strength because of techniques taught by coach Steve Barker, who was a math teacher and very analytical.

Senff said coaches were much tougher back then.

“We were mean. We looked to hit people,” he said, adding today coaches would probably be thrown in jail for what went on then. “But we loved them.”

One thing coaches had the players do was run up the hill behind Haller School. “It was a very well-used hill,” he said, adding he calls it “championship hill.” They also had to bear-crawl, push the blocking sled and roll up the hill. “Have you ever tried to roll up a hill?” he asked.

They did that to get in shape because there was no weight room, just a “junky universal gym.”

On offense, they ran the Power I, just like coach Don James at the University of Washington. The small but quick line was known for getting downfield to block.

“We weren’t happy just blocking at the line,” he said. But that meant the running backs had to hit the hole instead of “dancing around way too long.”

Senff said they were a ball control, grind-it-out team led by all-state fullback Chuck Alskog. They would pass the ball 10 times or less a game, usually quick slants, again due to their small linemen.

“We would cut their legs out to drop their height,” so quarterback Dave Peterson could throw over them, Senff said.

The team had no real stars, he said. Only the fullback, QB and kicker Mike Wold went on to play small-college ball.

Senff said not much was expected of the team because they had a good squad the previous year and had lost almost all of their starters to graduation.

Plus they started off the year with a loss to Monroe, and later fell to Sehome. “I doubt anybody gave us a shot,” Senff said.

But they started to believe in themselves and went on a winning streak. Things didn’t look good in the state semifinal when they trailed Peninsula 23-0 at halftime. But they came back to win by a point.

In KingBowl 3, they manhandled Mark Morris 49-14. That team still holds a state record for most first downs in a game with 28. Wold also holds a state record for seven points-after-touchdowns in the contest.

Senff said it seemed like the entire town shut down to go to the game in Seattle. Arlington fans have always supported their teams, he said, even before such things as Booster Clubs.

He said Arlington had a dynasty at that time, finishing third and second in following years before Kavaney again led the Eagles to a state title in 1982 with a 16-3 win over Franklin Pierce.

“We should have won four in a row,” he said.

Senff said only about 15 of the 60 players on the team made the reunion, along with three coaches. Nine players have died, but one came all the way from North Carolina.

The best part of the event was seeing the guys again and reminiscing about just how rare it is to win a state title.

Senff said some people say he is a “has been” but his response is, “At least I was a ‘was.’”

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