Imbler reaches pinnacle

By Observer editorial December 06, 2013 07:07 am

Thirty years from now, people not just in Imbler but in the entire Grande Ronde Valley and all of Oregon will be talking about “The Game.”

In fact, many will say they were at “The Game” who might actually have been home sitting by the wood stove listening on the radio. Or out in the woods looking for the perfect Christmas tree. That’s how mythical “The Game” was.

Sure, eight-man football is known to be explosive. It’s like a lightning storm on turf. To score 50 points in a game is no big deal.

This was a big deal. Imbler and Lowell in this year’s Class 1A state championship put on a pyrotechnic show that may never be matched. 

The first quarter score sounded like a final in many cases: Imbler 38, Lowell 32. But the teams were just getting up to speed. The scoring onslaught slowed only slightly in the second quarter and by halftime Imbler led 64-62.

Already, the teams had beaten the previous mark for combined scoring (100) in a title game, from 1957 when Sisters beat Alsea. 

People began to wonder whether one or both teams would reach the century mark. Near the end, in this football game turned track meet, the Imbler defense stiffened. The Panthers finished with 88 points but were still looking in their rearview mirror at the hard-charging Devils, who finished with 76.

To win the state championship is one thing. To beat the highest-scoring team in national history to do so is quite another. Lowell wound up scoring 946 points on the year to set the national mark.

Imbler junior running back Joe Griffin led the charge with nine touchdowns in the title clash, one shy of a national record for a game.

But Imbler is by no means a one-man team. They exemplified the team mentality all year, and Griffin would be the first to credit the blocking backs and linemen who worked hard to open holes for him to run through, and for all the other players whose attention to detail served the team well.

Our hats are off to head coach Lee Lowe, his assistants and all the Panther players who reached the pinnacle of Class 1A football in Oregon. A lot of hard work and smart work went into the making of a champion. In fact, one of the key ingredients was that Imbler players worked hard at every practice and never took a day off.

What makes the win all the more special, however, is that it coincides with Imbler also winning the Class 1A volleyball title. Even more amazing, it comes just five years after Imbler football and volleyball teams pulled off dual state titles.

It’s nice to see an entire community rallying together to support their teams. Northeast Oregon communities are good at this, win or lose, but it’s especially poignant when the game is nearly 300 miles away and for the state title.

Congratulations to everyone involved in “The Game” and making Imbler title town 2013.