Legendary coaches, players and teams are returning to the halls of Neah-Kah-Nie in the form of the Hall of Fame.
By Jordan Wolfe
In the second year of a – hopefully – annual event, Neah-Kah-Nie inducted Coach Galen Carlile, athlete Chase Gillson and the 1985 NKN Pirates Football team into the Hall of Fame Saturday night for a well-attended banquet.
“We’re honoring some of the best athletes, student athletes, coaches and teams to walk through here,” Corey Douma said, adding Hall of Fame recognizes entire teams because of the camaraderie built during incredible seasons. “Whether it’s a great victory or heartbreaking defeat, those are the memories.”
Pirates brought home gold – in the form of the coveted blue trophy – three years in a row while Coach Galen Carlile was at the helm of the NKN Boys Cross Country.
But it was not all about trophies while Carlile was coach – even though during his tenure beginning in 1994, he helped create one of the top 2A programs in the state, earning six consecutive league titles, five state trophies – fourth in 1996, third in 1997 and first from 1998-2000.
“Coach Carlile would always tell us the definition of luck is when preparation meets opportunity,” Mark McLaughlin, NKN alumnus and current cross country coach, said, “The great thing about [him] is he always had us prepared.”
Since retired, Carlile is still making himself available to lend his knowledge to McLaughlin in his turn at the helm of a program important to him.
“Even now, he’s still coaching me,” McLaughlin said.
Unavailable to attend due to a recent job promotion, 1991 NKN grad Chase Gillson was promised by Tim Gienger that good things would still be said about him.
“I wish he could be here, I was looking forward to seeing him again,” Gienger said. “Chase was one of our better players.”
Gillson lettered all four years in football, wrestling and track, earning multiple all-league honors. He participated in the state track meet all four years and placed his junior and senior year. Gillson was a state runner-up in wrestling. After graduation, he went to Linfield College to play for the Wildcat Football program and was a starting linebacker all three years. Gillson earned All-League and All-American honors his senior season at Linfield.
“I thought he was the coolest cat in the world,” Douma, a Wheeler boy who got his hair done just like the elder Gillson. “It reminds me of this year’s football team. These guys are like rock stars. It’s pretty neat to see the impact our athletes have on the younger generation.”
1985 Pirates Football team
Steamrolling the entire Northwest League, the herculean 1985 Pirates football team went undefeated – with an average of 40 points scored and 3 points allowed – until the championship game against Dayton, ultimately taking home a second place trophy.
“It was probably the easiest job I ever had coaching,” Coach Jerry Vellutini said, “All I had to do was choreograph.”
After some heartbreaking playoff losses in previous seasons, the team – composed of many seniors – had a simple motto going into the games that season: win them all.
“We let the rest of the league fight for second place,” Vellutini said.
The Pirates posted outrageous numbers on their way to claim Neah-Kah-Nie’s very first undefeated season and very first football championship in the Northwest League and almost half of their games were complete shutouts with the Pirates’ incredible defense.
“One thing we lived on in this program was love,” Vellutini said. “Why we were successful is because we had great families and great support. We wanted them to be good representatives of their families, of themselves and of Neah-Kah-Nie High.”
The team had a special unity, according to the coach.
“If they didn’t truly love each other,” Vellutini said, “We wouldn’t have had that kind of chemistry.”
Of the 33 players on that fateful team, 27 attended the banquet and were honored with plaques by Vellutini.
“We have three no longer with us anymore who played vital parts on this team,” Vellutini said, “And it warms my heart so much to see their families here.”
Players on the 1985 Pirates football team were: Don Best, Ed Blackburn, Tony Bossio, Jeff Brown, Bill Dillard, Jim Downie, Pat Egan, Rick Elliott, Tim Fihn, Tom Grasseth, Troy Grelck, Carl Haderman, Bill Hall, Ben Hiatt, Scott Hoffert, Tom Hoffert, Loten Hooley, Scott Howell, Rob Jacobsen, Stacy Jacobsen, Harold Lease, Eric May, Dan McRae, Dan Modrell, Andy Munsell, Marcus O’Bermier, Keith Pingel, Tim Thorne, Tony Thorne, Travis Waldron, Tim Weber, Russ Wilkins and Ed Wolfe.
For more information, questions or to nominate future Hall of Fame inductees, call NKNHS at 503-355-2272.