Touchet's 1978 home playoff tilt a slip of the mind

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TOUCHET - If you stay in this newspaper business long enough, one truth is abundantly clear.

The readers always write.

Or, in the case of the folks who live in and around Touchet, they take you by the arm, look you squarely in the eye and explain your transgression in simple, easy-to-understand English.

I relearned that lesson here last Saturday as I walked the sidelines at the Touchet-Cusick prep football playoff game, keeping statistics and carefully performing my duties as a Union-Bulletin sports reporter.

Vernon "Sonny" Elsasser, the Touchet High band director, was the first to approach me. He informed me that a retraction was in order regarding a story by me earlier in the week in which I reported that Saturday's game would be the first playoff game ever contested on the Touchet gridiron.

"We played Inchelium in a playoff game right here in 1978," Sonny insisted. "I know because I played in it. And you covered it."

I didn't argue with Sonny, but I wasn't convinced he was right, either. Especially after someone else behind the restraining rope pointed out my alleged mistake and added that they had to scrape snow off the field before the game could be played.

Now, as someone who had recently escaped the snowfields of Minnesota, a game of that magnitude played in such hostile weather conditions didn't seem like a game I could easily forget. So I spent some time earlier this week foraging through yellowing clip files from 1978.

And sure enough, Touchet and Inchelium did meet here in 1978 in a Class B 8-man state quarterfinal game. It was reported as a "long, cold afternoon," and that reporter was me.

The Indians won the game, too, 49-12.

And it's easy to understand why Sonny Elsasser remembered the game so well. He caught touchdown passes of 18 and 25 yards from fellow senior Rocky Pisca, and Sonny's younger brother Chris scored on a 1-yard run to cap a 20-point fourth quarter that put the game out of the Hornets' reach.

But it's still all a fog to me.

The same for Touchet's 28-6 semifinal victory over Harrington the following week in Ritzville. My research proves that I covered that game as well, but I have no recollection of it.

The Indians went on to play for their first state championship that year and lost to Oakville, 32-26 in the Kingdome. I was there as well, those aging clip files affirm, and there is something vaguely familiar about that first Kingbowl experience.

That was Warren Craig's second and final year as the Indians' head coach. And it was the beginning of Touchet's long and storied history as an 8-man state football power.

Wayne Dickey took over the program the following year and guided Touchet to its first state championship. The Indians beat Joyce 56-42 in the 1979 Kingbowl.

I don't recall being there. But it has become apparent that I can't be sure. And I didn't bother to research the 1979 clips.

For the record, Touchet made a third straight appearance in the Kingdome in 1980 and lost to Clallam Bay 40-16.

The Indians didn't make it back to Seattle until 1994, when they defeated Pateros 38-24 in the final Kingbowl. And they played in the first Gridiron Classic in the Tacoma Dome the following year, losing to Pateros 76-20.

Touchet then won back-to-back state titles in 1998-99, defeating Clallam Bay 73-48 and Neah Bay 42-36, respectively, and each victory put an exclamation point on a perfect 12-0 season. The Indians made their last state championship appearance in 2002 when they lost to Southeast 1B-8 League rival Lacrosse-Washtucna 42-36.

Other than the 1980 game, I can say without equivocation that I covered each and every one of those championship games as well as the playoff games that led to them. Perhaps this suggests my memory is improving with age rather than the other way around.

Also for the record, Sonny Elsasser didn't request retraction for my midweek faux pas. Nor did any of the other Touchet faithful who pointed out my unintended misstep.

Touchetites simply want to set the record straight.

And if anyone wants to get picky, I can blame Indians coach Gary Dorman for the misinformation. He agreed with me that Touchet had never hosted a playoff game on its home turf.

Of course, Dorman didn't arrive in Touchet until the fall of 1981. He wasn't around in 1978.

I was.

Contact Jim Buchan at jimbuchan@wwub.com.

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