1969 Champs gather at Spiegelberg Stadium

Marlan Wallace, a 205-pound defensive tackle for Medford High's 1969 state championship football team, had only been back to Spiegelberg Stadium once since his Black Tornado playing days.

Until Friday, when he made it a second time.

This is the house that Fred Spiegelberg built, and it's special to me, said Wallace, who was one of 40 members of the 1969 Medford title team that returned to the stadium for a reunion.

All squad members were introduced during halftime of the South Medford-North Medford game.

My memories are so good in here (Spiegelberg Stadium), I didn't want to come back unless it was a a very special occasion, said Wallace of Medford. The only time I came here since my last home game was for coach Spiegelberg's memorial service four years ago.

Coach Spiegelberg loved his players and they loved him back, said Wallace. You wanted to play hard for the man.

The first time I saw him, he came walking through my grade school gym to talk to the younger kids about football. He had an aura about him.

The 1969 squad was Spiegelberg's third of four to win state. But it started the season slowly. The Black Tornado lost three of its first five games, including a season-opening loss to McKinley High of Hawaii and a 20-0 setback to Ashland in its conference opener.

But the team started to build momentum and gain confidence with a 14-0 win over SOC preseason favorite Roseburg.

From there, the Black Tornado went on to capture the SOC title with a 4-1 record. Medford followed with three state playoff wins, including a 27-0 win over Corvallis in the state championship game.

Wide receiver Bill Singler, now the head coach for South Medford High's football team, caught three touchdown passes, a state playoff record, in the championship game.

We knew we had some pretty good players, said fullback Dennis Fielder, who was used primarily as a blocker for tailback John Ronnander and quarterbacks Scott Spiegelberg -- son of the head coach -- and Ray Peterson.

It was a matter of when we would jell as a team, said Fielder. When we finally did, we were on a pretty good roll. We became a tough, aggressive team that wouldn't lose.

Senior Larry Ferris, a 195-pound offensive guard who is now assistant athletic director at the U.S. Air Force Academy, was one of six Medford players to receive college scholarships to play football. He played three seasons for Air Force.

Medford assistant coach Norm Musser convinced the Air Force staff to recruit Ferris.

My high school coach at North Salem (Spike Hillstrom) was on the Air Force staff, and he felt Larry was too small but he finally took him, and he was glad he did, said Musser.

Norm (Musser) taught me almost everything I knew about being a lineman, said Ferris. I was able to play because of quickness and technique.

Bob Tweedy, a defensive lineman who now lives in Atlanta, said Spiegelberg Stadium is steeped with history and tradition.

He said old memories flooded his mind when he returned to the home of Medford football.

The thing I remember most is the support we got here, he said. I remember the Grants Pass game, which was the last one of the (regular) season when we were playing for the conference championship. There were 12,000 people sitting and standing. They had to bring in extra bleachers behind the end zones.

It was an amazing scene and one of the highlights of Medford football. They split the schools after that, said Tweedy. The support hasn't been the same since then.

The split ended what was called University of Medford football with one big high school, Tweedy said.

We loved it, said Tweedy. It gave us an edge. Teams knew we were strong all over. They didn't know where the strength was coming from next.

Scott Spiegelberg, a fund-raiser for the Oregon State University Foundation in Corvallis, said the 1969 Black Tornado team was special to his father for several reasons.

I'm not saying it was more special than any of the others because Dad cared about all those kids on all his teams, said Spiegelberg. But with me and many of my friends on the team, he knew more of the players.

I don't think he felt it was his most talented team. It was a team that had amazing closeness between the junior and senior classes and it played well together, especially when the games got big at the end of the season.


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