By Tim Marsh, Lakes High School Class of 1966
Lakes High School’s first ever varsity football game was a win over Yelm High School in 1962.
That was one game. This is a cursory review of Lakes entire eight game varsity football games during its first ever season, 1962. All wins.
Lakes High opened in fall 1962 with Gerry Austin as its head football coach. He was also the school’s athletic director and taught math.
A former UW Rose Bowl quarterback, Austin moved to Lakes from Clover Park where he successfully guided Warriors football as head coach for 13 seasons, starting in 1949. His tenure as Lakes coach was seven seasons, 1961-1967 and 1971.
His 1962 season Lakes assistant coaches were Kelly Micera, Chuck Forsland and Ron Storaasli.
In the 1962-1963 school year, Lakes’ home practice football field did not yet exist. Football practices were held on grounds at Madigan Army Hospital. Home games were on Clover Park’s Thompson Field, the original iteration of today’s Harry Lang Stadium.
(And, in the 1962-1963 school year, the 1963 Lakes baseball team practiced and played its home game at Western State Hospital. Lakes baseball field had not been created.)
Lakes 1962-1963 did not have a senior class. The school had only sophomores and juniors. So, no Lakes teams had no seniors on its rosters during its initial school year.
In 1962-1963, Lakes competed in the Puget Sound League/PSL in all sports except football. The 1962 football schedule for the first Lakes varsity football team was against smaller high schools and larger high school “B”/reserve teams plus was one other opponent. That “other opponent” was Auburn High School’s varsity team. Despite the fact Lakes didn’t play in the PSL in football in 1962, it did play Auburn of the PSL. The game counted in Auburn’s league win-loss record.
Lakes had about 50 players as its initial football practice on Saturday, Sept. 8, 1962, according to the Suburban Time/SubTimes.
In the Lakes varsity football team’s opening game, Friday night, Sept. 14, 1962, at Thompson Field, Lakes’ starting lineup had six juniors and five sophomores, said the Tacoma News Tribune/TNT.
A TNT reporter covering that Friday night game, a 29-0 win over the Tornados of Yelm High School, wrote about Lakes’ “powerful and fast backfield, a surprise aerial attack featuring excellent tossing and catching, and an inexperienced line which outplayed the smaller Yelm eleven.”
The first points ever scored in a Lakes football game were a two point safety for Lakes when a Yelm player, unable to punt on fourth down, downed the ball in the end zone.
In the same game, the first touchdown Lakes ever scored was by end Tom Vorpahl on a 15-yard pass from left-handed quarterback Rick Austin, son of the coach.
Other scoring in the game by Lakes were TDs by Bill Saxton on a pass from Austin and runs by Don McPherson and Arnold Julich. (In conversion runs, McPherson scored two and Julich one.) The game story praised the pass catching of Wayne Parker. Austin and backup QB Steve Walker completed 13 of 20 passes for 142 yards. Lakes rushed for 208 yards in 45 carries. Lakes had 20 first downs to Yelm’s three.
Prophetically, the TNT reporter wrote, “Lakes showed that it would be no pushover this season. Although the team lacked experience, (Coach) Austin’s crew showed poised and determination.”
Results of Lakes’ 1962 eight wins, no losses, no ties (8-0-0) season. All games Friday unless noted:
SEPT. 14 – LAKES 27, YELM TORNADOS 0
In Lakewood, Lakes led 15-0 at halftime.
- Yelm’s coach told the TNT, “Lakes passing attack hurt us. I’ve never seen such receptions … We didn’t know what they had and we didn’t know what to expect.”
- “As one (Lakes) player aptly described it kneeling on the sidelines during the game, ‘It was a great way to start.’ It was the first contest in the school’s two week old history.” SubTimes
- In absence of a nickname, the TNT and the Nisqually Valley News of Yelm called the team the “Lakers.” And, the TNT identified Lakes as being located in Steilacoom.
SEPT. 21 – LAKES 12, VASHON PIRATES 7
On Vashon Island. Lakes led 12-0 at halftime.
- “… the nameless wonders defeated Vashon…” SubTimes
- “Following the kickoff, Vashon was unable to drive and punted to Lakes. The Lakers launched another scoring driving with Austin’s 45-yard strike to Tom Vorpahl …” TNT
SEPT. 29 – LAKES 26, NORTH MASON BULLDOGS 7
In Belfair, game played on a Saturday. Lakes led 12-6 at halftime.
- “… All 30 boys making the North Mason trip saw action.” SubTimes
- “Lakes then marched 70 yards in the second quarter with Rick Cessna getting the touchdown from the 12.” TNT
- “The credit goes to the players, and to coach Austin who in two short weeks prior to the season molded a squad that has withstood several more experienced attempts at challenging goal lines.” SubTimes
OCT. 6 – LAKES 27, R. A. LONG (LONGVIEW) LUMBERJACKS “B” 0
At Lakewood, game played on a Saturday. Lakes led 20-0 at half.
- “It was Austin again in the second period, this time pitching to (Rick) Cessna for a 45-yard touchdown play. The pass covered 15 yards, Cessna the remaining 20.” SubTimes
OCT. 12 – BYE
OCT. 19 – LAKES LANCERS 34, CASTLE ROCK ROCKETS 13.
In Lakewood, Lakes led 21-0 at halftime.
- On Oct. 19, Lakes students voted “Lancers” as its teams’ nickname. This was the first game by a Lakes team called Lancers. SubTimes
- “… Austin hurled a 61-yard (touchdown) pass to Bill Saxton.” TNT
- “Fog covered the field much of the contest, with occasional periods when play was obscured from one sideline, or another.” SubTimes
- The Saxton twins, Bill and Bob, were “exceptionally fast and shifty,” said Cowlitz County Advocate of Castle Rock.
OCT. 26 – LAKES LANCERS 21, AUBURN TROJANS 13
In Auburn, Auburn led 13-7 at half.
- “Lakes survived a rocky first half and then turned on the power in the last two quarters at Auburn in a game which counted in the standings for Auburn …” TNT
NOV. 2 – LAKES LANCERS 25, MT. SI WILDCATS 12.
In Snohomish, Lakes led 14-6 at half.
- “The Lancers upped their lead to 33-6 as Austin connected with Don McPherson for a 13-yard touchdown and McPherson sprinted 68 and 36 yards for two more (TDs) in the wild (third) period.” TNT
NOV. 9 – LAKES LANCERS 13, CLOVER PARK WARRIORS “B” 0
In Lakewood, Lakes led 13-0 at half.
- On rain soaked Thompson Field, dampness “did not appear to hold down a crowd of several hundred who gathered to watch…” SubTimes
- “The Lancers marched 60 yards with the opening kickoff for their first score, which came on Bob Saxton’s 20-yard run.” TNT
- A Lakes player in this game contended the CP team was “B” (reserve) in name only. He said it included some Warrior non-senior first string varsity players.
Newspaper game stories about the Lakes team during its 1962 season include mentions of passes from Rick Austin and Steve Walker to Wayne Parker, Tom Vorpahl, Bill and Bob Saxton and runs by the Saxtons, Don McPherson, Rick Cessna, Terry Schmacher, Arnold Julich, Greg Vine and Austin.
Also mentioned during 1962 season newspaper coverage were Lakes players Bob Jett, Tom Johnson, Pete Richards, John Holmes, Dave West, Gary McConaghy, John Redl, Joe Orech, Dan Brock, Jim Hilyard and Barry Marks.
The 1963 Lakes Legend yearbook shows Cessna and Jett as winners of post-season Lakes team awards.
On the Lakes football team bus drive back to its school after beating Clover Park, Coach Gerry Austin (link to: thesubtimes.com/2016/02/05/gerry-austin-great-athlete-great-coach-great-person/) addressed his Lancer players. “He told us of how many years he had been coaching. He never had an undefeated team until now,” recalled one of his players. “We really appreciated his comments because he was a legend in his own time and we all knew that.”
Postscript — During Lakes first football season it received votes in the 1962 Associated Press high school Class A football poll. Source: Oct. 10, 1962, Seattle Times.