'Elation' was the first word that came to mind for Rick Bathum when he found out that the 1969 Enumclaw High School football squad was going to be the first Enumclaw High School team inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame.
On Friday night, just over three quarters of the special 29-player squad returned to Chuck Smith Gymnasium at Enumclaw High School for its induction ceremony at halftime of the boys basketball game against Decatur. It brought together a group of players that set the tone for what has become a long standing tradition of athletic excellence at Enumclaw High School.
The 1969 squad went 9-1, won the Seamount League title, and finished third in the state rankings. Offensively the Hornets ran for 328 yards per contest, anchored by an offensive line as described by offensive line coach Shelly Thiel in the ceremony as "an outstanding group of young men, that were truly dedicated, and would run through a wall for you."
Enumclaw defensively in 1969 gave up an absolutely unheard of in this day and age of football 4.4 points per game
Bathum, a first team all-conference guard lauded his teammates' ability to come together and become a championship squad.
"The foundation for the 1969 season was laid out by Coach (Leroy) Babbitt, eleven months before," Bathum said. "This team was incredibly talented."
Another intriguing key to this team's success was how they made of the most out of having just 29 players on the squad.
Tom Poe, the team's leading rusher, who went on play at Washington State, and spent team in the CFL, commented on how having such a small team helped Enumclaw during that magical season.
"It gave us an advantage having just 29 players," Poe said. "It allowed us to have 11 quality players on the field at all times."
When asked how Enumclaw would have fared if there was a playoff system during that season like there is today Bathum said, "I feel we would have won the state championship. But, I have no regrets."
One of the special moments of the evening was the appearance of the wife of the late Coach Leroy Babbitt, Penny Babbitt who accepted the hall of fame medals that were given to everyone at the ceremony. Poe reflected on the influence of Coach Babbitt on him and his teammates.
"Babbitt treated every player with respect, he taught presence, and there was no animosity as everyone was treated the same." he said. "I would say that everyone on this team has a little bit of Leroy Babbitt in them."
To cap off the night, Enumclaw High School Athletic Director Kevin Smith announced the 2013 Hall of Induction class which will be the 1998 Girls Basketball team that finished in second place at state that season.