NOTE: This is the first in a series of biographies on the Kitsap Athletic Roundtable Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2017 inductees. The HOF Banquet is Saturday, Jan. 27, at Kiana Lodge in Suquamish. Social hour begins at noon with the ceremony starting at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are available by reservation at kitsapathleticroundtable.org.
North Mason finished a three-year run of good football teams in 1982 by surprising prognosticators and winning the school’s first state team championship with a rugged 28-14 victory over Woodland to claim the Class A title.
That team wasn’t supposed to win. The Belfair school had sported two very talented teams in 1980 and ’81. Both of them blasted their way into state semifinal games only to suffer agonizing defeats to eventual champion Lynden 22-19 in 1980 and unbeaten Montesano 14-0 the following season.
Now, it was thought, the run of excellence was over. It’s back to reality. But somebody forgot to tell the 1982 Bulldogs. They regrouped and were determined to prove everybody wrong. And, boy did they.
That squad may have been one of the most under-rated state high school football teams to win a state championship. Fortunately, it still had its Hall of Fame coach, Phil Pugh, and a rebuilt squad advanced into the season with a big chip on its shoulder. That year, The Bremerton Sun picked the Bulldogs to finish fifth in the Nisqually League. That newspaper slight spurred the players on and the team was more together and had better chemistry than any previous Pugh-coached team.
The Bulldogs had some tough games where they had to bear down, but they got the job done and lost just once, 35-15 to White River in the regular season. The best, though, was to come. They finished the regular season by blowing out Steilacoom 42-22 and then beat Tolt 36-23 and Lynden 38-14 in their first two playoff games to reach the semifinals where they traveled to Yakima to play Carroll.
To get there, the Bulldogs had run fullback Pat Eigner behind a talented offensive line. Eigner amassed 1,555 yards prior to the playoff game against Carroll. In the Carroll game, Eigner carried the ball an astonishing 39 times for 200 yards and helped lead the team to victory.
Against Woodland, it was Eigner again. He carried the ball a state championship game record 31 times for 126 yards. Eigner was, in fact, the Beast Mode before the Beast Mode.
“Obviously, over the years we had a lot of great kids and great teams,” says Pugh. “We had some big wins that were memorable, but that (the state championship) was sort of the Super Bowl for us.”
“We didn’t have any superstars, we were just a bunch of people that played for each other,” said receiver Bob Blair. “It was just people willing to do their job and be satisfied with it. I don’t think anybody on the team sought the limelight. We didn’t care about anything other than each other. We were just little brothers who lived in the shadow of our older brothers.”
For one remarkable and glorious season the ‘little brothers’ stepped out of the shadows and with pride, hustle and desire strode resolutely into the limelight and into history.