fb pixel

Log In


Reset Password

Medford, Grants Pass rivalry hit peak in '72

Prep Notebook

In the course of research for stories on Medford High's 1962 state championship football team last week, it became apparent that the rivalry between Medford and Grants Pass was about as intense as one can get.

In those days, only one team from each league advanced to the state playoffs, and the Southern Oregon Conference championship was almost always decided by who won the Medford-Grants Pass duel.

Imagine if one of the best players on one team stormed out of practice one day and, a week later, showed up in the other town wearing the colors of the other team.

It happened in August of 1972 when Jack Peters bolted Medford's summer drills and headed over to Grants Pass.

One news account indicated that Peters was unhappy because the Tornado coaches had moved him from his favorite position ' middle linebacker ' to defensive end. Another stated that he couldn't tolerate the profanity used by one or two of the Medford coaches, given his religious upbringing.

And so Peters packed up and moved into a Grants Pass motel with his father, William, while his mother and sister stayed behind in Medford.

That seemingly was a violation of Oregon School Activities Association residency rules. If Peters was going to move, his entire family had to move. This had the look of a student transferring strictly for athletic purposes.

Medford principal Bob Williams took the case to the OSAA's Board of Control, and on Nov. 2, 1972, Grants Pass was ordered to forfeit all of its victories, including a 10-0 win over Medford a couple of weeks earlier.

At the time, the Cavemen had a 9-0 record and were ranked No. — in the state.

The ruling meant that SOC runner-up Medford ' rather than Grants Pass ' would be heading to Astoria the following Friday for a first-round playoff game.

However, Grants Pass wasn't about to go down without a fight. The school hired an attorney and sought a court injunction to overturn the OSAA ruling.

Medford made the 350-mile bus trip to Astoria the day before the game, but that evening, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Patrick Dooley ruled in favor of Peters and the Cavemen. Dooley said there was no hard evidence that William Peters wasn't intending to make a permanent move to Grants Pass.

The Grants Pass team flew to Portland the next morning ' the day of the game ' and took a bus the final 70 miles to Astoria.

As the Cavemen rolled into the Thunderbird Motel parking lot in Astoria, the Medford team was just pulling out.

I think I'm going to be sick, Tornado coach Fred Spiegelberg told a reporter.

Undoubtedly fatigued and frazzled from the last-minute developments, the Cavemen lost to the Fishermen that night, 31-23.

As the game neared its end, Astoria fans began to chant, We're No. 1! We want Medford!

That was a terrible thing for us ' going all the way up there and not playing, recalls Wendel Smith, a wide receiver and punter for the Tornado who still lives in Medford. On the way back, we stopped at a bunch of rest areas and played football, just to release some of our frustration.

Smith returned for his senior year in 1973 when the Tornado won the SOC and finished as the state runner-up to Hillsboro.

But neither he nor his Medford teammates ever forgot their fateful trip to the Oregon Coast.

WHILE THE 1962 MEDFORD HIGH team received a lot of attention for its stalwart defense ' the Tornado registered eight shutouts and only allowed 20 points that season ' nearby Phoenix High posted even better numbers the following season.

The 1963 Pirates squad outscored their opponents 396-6 en route to the A-2 (Class 3A) state championship.

The quarterback of that team, Ron Williams, later coached the Pirates to a pair of state titles.

FORMER SOUTH MEDFORD HIGH girls soccer standout Colleen Salisbury burst into the spotlight Saturday during the NCAA soccer playoffs.

Salisbury, a freshman midfielder at the University of Portland, scored the deciding kick as the Pilots stunned No. 1-ranked Stanford in a shootout.

Salisbury was the fourth of five Portland players to take a shot in the shootout, and her left-footed kick found the upper left corner of the net, giving the Pilots an insurmountable 4-2 lead.

The match was played before a record crowd of 3,049 at Stanford's Maloney Field.

The victory advanced the Pilots (18-4-2) to a semifinal matchup Friday at 2 p.m. PST against Penn State in Austin, Texas.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail