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Worst-case averted for PPS athletes

Potential teacher strike threatened school sports, but athletes will play on

While a major storm brews between Portland Public Schools, its teachers and some 48,000 students caught in the middle of an impassioned labor dispute, the threat of a teacher strike in the city had Hood River Valley High School administration and coaches preparing for potential impacts it would have on HRV athletes and the winter sports season.

Tom Welter, Oregon School Activities Association Executive Director, said Wednesday morning that his organization was still waiting to hear from PPS as to their intentions with the potential strike, which is set to occur Feb. 20 unless mediation between the two sides can come to an agreement. The outcome, he said, would go one of three ways. If a strike is averted, sports seasons will continue status quo. If a strike occurs, school districts must decide if they are going to participate in athletics and, if so, must have OSAA certified coaches accompanying teams. If schools choose not to participate or certified coaches cannot be found, athletes will have to kiss the rest of their seasons goodbye.

Athletes got good news Wednesday evening when PPS administration announced the plan to keep varsity sports going in the event of a strike, although non-varsity sports would be canceled. The plan does not specify who will coach the teams, but that enough certified coaches would be found to see-out the rest of the season. At issue with coaching is the fact that many, if not most, coaches are also teachers, and those involved in the strike would not be asked to cross the picket line to coach.

Although minimal, if the widely-considered “worst case scenario” had come to fruition, it would have impacted Hood River Valley High School athletics, specifically the HRV wrestling and swimming programs.

PPS oversees numerous high schools, including Alliance, Benson, Cleveland, Franklin, Grant, Jefferson, Lincoln, Madison, Marshall, Roosevelt and Wilson. HRV wrestling is part of 5A Special District 2, which includes seven of those schools. Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, Columbia River Conference coaches and athletic directors were working out a contingency plan in the event of a strike that would have reduced the district tournament, scheduled for next weekend at Marshall from 11 schools down to four, and changed the location to either Hermiston or Pendleton. That plan, it looks like, won’t been needed. For HRV swimming, which has its district meet this weekend in Hood River, the impact would have been seen in terms of empty lanes at the state championships in the place of any PPS athlete who may have qualified at their district meet.

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Those in Hood River County since the late 1970s may remember a Hood River County School District strike that came to a head Nov. 30, 1978 and lasted into early the following year. At that time, acting HRVHS athletic director Ed Vannet announced that teams (just starting the winter sports season) would be assigned coaches from the ranks of the substitute teachers being brought in as replacements for the striking personnel.

What follows is an article from the Hood River News archives giving a glimpse, albeit embellished at times, into the atmosphere athletes faced at that time.

Dec. 7, 1978, Pate A10 (author not listed) – “If they could have chosen a way to start the 1978 basketball season it’s unlikely the young men on Hood River’s varsity team would have picked what they eventually got.

“It would have seemed too bizarre, something proposed by a short, squat cigar-chewing stranger who strides into the locker room while the team is three, pushes his baseball cap around backwards and says, “All right, guys, listen up.”

He props one foot up on a bench, leans forward and squints out at the players.

“This is the deal, guys,” the nasal, slightly Brooklyn voice intones. “Your head coach will resign the Friday before your first official practice and you won’t know who your new head coach will be until the next Wednesday.

“Then, after getting a late start to begin with, your coach is going to go out on strike with the rest of the teachers three days before your opening game. They’ll put a substitute coach down there with you, but you’ll still have to run things pretty much by yourselves.

The guy chuckles, starts to shuffle out the door, then turns around.

“Almost forgot, guys. You open with an away game against Milwaukie. You haven’t got a prayer. Then you spin around and play Tigard the next night in front of a bunch of empty bleachers at your own school. Tigard should take you, fellas. They look a lot better on paper than your outfit does. Looks bad, guys. Looks real bad.”

Well, it may have looked bad, but it turned out differently when the Eagles opened the season last weekend.

Milwaukie won Friday night, 71-54, which surprised absolutely no one. The Mustangs got 26 points out of All-Stater Jamie Stangel and 20 more from Jay Jenkins.

The surprise, for fans who were prepared to cringe when word of the Milwaukie score to back to Hood River, was that the game wasn’t a blowout.

The reason Milwaukie had to earn a win over Hood river became evident the next night when Tigard came to town expecting a routine win over little ol’ HRV.

What happened? “Murph the Surf,” otherwise known as Rod Murphy, and Joe VanRas led the Eagles to a 54-52 victory as “coach “ Tim Smith, known in more peaceful times as the team’s manger, donned his version of the Trail Blazer Ramsay’s slacks and jacket and coordinated things from the bench.

A few rows up the bleachers from the HRV bench, the striking coaches, Lyle Harpe and Bod Level, watched, kept notes and occasionally shouted advice down to Smith and the players. It must have looked very strange to the Tigers.

Hood River got off to the faster start, running up a 21-11 advantage by the end of the first quarter. Some steals by Rich Carter and blocked shots by Murphy fired up the defense, and Murphy’s eight points paced the offense in the first frame.

The only thing that didn’t go right for the Eagles in the early going was that guard Richard Tait picked up his third foul.

When Dave Meyer hit a free throw with two minutes gone in the second period to put HRV up by a 28-17 margin, Tigard regrouped and started to edge closer on the scoreboard.

Murphy picked up his third foul, the Eagle shit a cold streak in which nothing would drop, and Tigard pulled ahead at the half, 31-30.

After some confusion about weather Tigard’s Larry Roberts had played all four quarters in the JV game or just three, the second half began. Roberts, who ended up the high man for the varsity with 15 points after scoring 12 in the JV game, was allotted one more quarter of play.

During the second half, the farthest the teams were ever apart was bout three point.

The Eagles’ floor play lost some of its zing after Murphy picked up his fourth foul early in the quarter and went to the bench at the direction of “coach” Smith.

The Eagles had a three-point lead at one point in the quarter, but needed a nice three-point play by Carter to tie it at 42-all near the close of the period. He was sent sprawling to the floor while going up for a jumper in close, but recovered to make the penalty shot.

Tigard started the fourth quarter with a two point lead, 44-42, and several HRV players in, or quickly headed for, foul trouble. Tait, VanRas and Murphy all finished the game while playing with four fouls.

Down 48-44 with 6:11 remaining, VanRas rebounded one in and made both free throws after the foul to make it 48-46.

Murphy drew a foul seconds later and tied the game at 48-48. He ended up at 8-11 from the foul line.

Tigard set up a zone that stymied Hood River throughout much of the final period. One of the things that has suffered because of the late start and interrupted coaching is the team’s ability to run an offense against a set defense. They need more time, they’ll tell you, and they’re right.

HRV took a 49-48 lead when Steve Moore, a team captain along with Tait, grabbed a deflected Tigard pass and was fouled as he streaked the length of the court for the shot.

Tigard retaliated with a pair of free throws. The game was tied for the last time with 4:22 on the clock when Carter sank a free throw after a technical had been assessed on one of the Tigers.

Moore then added another steal to his credit, drew a foul and put the Eagles up 52-50.

Moore’s defensive pressure then forced a Tigard turnover with 2:21 remaining, but the clock ran down to :27 before another point was scored.

It was “Murph the Surf” in the clutch this time, forcing a turnover to get the ball for the Eagles, then drawing a foul seconds later.

As Coach Harpe leaned forward onto his knee in the beachers, fists clenched in the supplication, and as “coach” Smith shouted encouragement from the bench, the 6’8” senior canned both penalty shots.

Later, as he toweled down after a shower, Murphy thought about the free throws and said, “I told myself – just like in practice, just like in practice.”

Tigard’s John Girod, who finished up with 10 points, closed the margin to 54-52 , and that’s what was on the board when the buzzer sounded and the cheering section went bananas.

VanRas ended up as the high-scorer of the game with 17 points, even though he missed all five shots he took in the second quarter.

“I went on a streak, didn’t I,” he joked later.

Smith was quick to assign credit for the home stretch performance. “It was Harpe,” he said. “All I did was yell.”

Scorers for the Eagles were: VanRas, 17; Murphy, 14; S. Moore, 9; Tait, 6; Carter, 4 and Meyer, 4.

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