Sunday, September 26, 2021
Sept. 26, 2021

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Thanksgiving Flashback: One for the ages when Camas beat Vancouver in 1937

Punt return for touchdown decided holiday game as clock hit 0:00

The Columbian

Before there was a sanctioned state tournament for football in Washington, high school teams would often play their regular seasons well in November, including an annual game on Thanksgiving Day.

But few Thanksgiving Day games had a finish as wild as the 1937 meeting between Vancouver High School and Camas High School.

Here is The Columbian’s report of that game in the Nov. 26, 1937 edition, written by sports editor Carl Brazier Jr.

You’ve read about such things in story books and seen them in motion pictures — and you didn’t believe it. You’ve heard all season about the exploits of a bit of a football player named Don Gigler — and you probably didn’t believe half you read.

But if you were up at Camas yesterday you came home with a couple of new ideas, for it was the self-same Gigler — all 141 pounds of him — who, in the most brilliant, most spectacular, most unexpected play of the southwest Washington high school football season, won the Camas-Vancouver game for Camas after the game officially had ended.

The story is so simply told that if it were a Frank Merriwell tale and you were more than 14 years old, you’d laugh it off and say “Hooey!” But to a fighting, mud-covered Vancouver team, which was leading 14 to 12, it was no hooey when Gigler took a punt on his own 20-yard line, wiggled his way up the sidelines, through one would-be tackler after another, crossed the Vancouver 40-yard line as the gun went off and then kept on going to cross the Trapper goal line standing up and give Camas the game, 18 to 14.

Crowd Mobs Gigler

“Wild” and “frenzied” and other words commonly used to denote undue excitement don’t even begin to express the state of mind of that Camas crowd. Before Gigler crossed the goal line, the rooting section was on the field. Before the referee could raise his arms to signal the score the crowd had swarmed the field and Gigler and the rest of the Papermaker team that ‘oozed mud.’

Camas didn’t even try for its extra point which, of course, it didn’t need. But had it wanted to it would have taken the combined efforts of the New York City police and the national guard to get the crowd off the field.

His Last Game for Camas

There’s another angle on that 80-yard dash of Gigler’s up the sidelines to the Trapper goal line. Wonder if the fact that when Gigler took that punt on his own 20 he realized it would be the last time he’d pack a football for Camas high school? Wonder if that would have had anything to do with making the young halfback immune to efforts of Vancouver’s would-be tacklers?

Perhaps it was that which, with excellent blocking all the way into the Vancouver secondary, gave Gigler what he needed to make that seemingly impossible run.

Thrill-packed Game

But there are other young men to whom tribute must be paid for that game yesterday. Playing under the most adverse conditions under which football can be played, those traditional rivals gave a holiday crowd four quarters of the most thrill-packed football a Vancouver-Camas game has ever produced.

Every touchdown — and there were five of them — was packed with drama. Once Vancouver was backed up against its own goal line, it was first down for Camas on the Vancouver two-yard line, but the Trappers held and on third down, with a foot to go for a touchdown Eddie Williams, Vancouver halfback, broke through to spill Gigler for a seven-yard loss. On fourth down, a pass from Jim Newquist to Gigler was knocked down and Vancouver took the ball.

Fumbles Were Many

It was a see-saw game all the way, both teams fumbling frequently but Camas holding the edge in recovering the slimy, soggy pigskin. Vancouver had more first downs, more yards from scrimmage and was thrown for less loss, but that didn’t make any difference to Camas. The Papermakers played their best when it counted most.

There wasn’t a sustained power drive in the ball game. Through the first quarter the two elevens battled back and forth with neither in scoring territory. The second quarter started out the same way and it began to look as though it might be a scoreless first half when Newquist staged the first unexpected display.

Change Catches Trappers

On their own 41-yard line, the Papermakers, after having fed the ball to Gigler time after time, sent Newquist off right tackle. The change in tactics caught the Trappers cold and Newquist went right on through and 55 yards to the first touchdown. The attempted buck for the extra point was smothered.

With less than three minutes to play in the first half Gigler fumbled and recovered for a five-yard loss on his own 21. On the next play Newquist fumbled and Bob Alexander, Vancouver center, was in like a flash to recover for Vancouver on the Camas 15

It was the Trappers’ first scoring chance and they went right after it. Claude Calavan, big fullback, picked up four yards and then LeRoy Mayes dropped back to pass to Richard Miller over the goal line. It was a beautiful pass, but for seconds it seemed Omar Rhodes, Camas fullback, would knock it down before it settled into Miller’s arms. Mayes went over on a plunge for the extra point and three plays later the half ended.

Vancouver scored again in the fourth period after a scoreless third quarter, Henry Wastradowski, reserve fullback, plunging through on his first play of the game to score from the Camas 38. Hoff bucked over for the conversion and it began to look like Vancouver’s ball game, 14 to 6.

But the Vancouver fans who had that game wrapped up and tucked away, figured without Gigler. The elusive little dynamo broke away with less than three minutes to go, circled his own right end and ran 36 yards to a touchdown. Again the extra point was smeared.

Hoff, Williams Shine

The seconds ticked off, Camas kicked to Vancouver and Calavan returned the ball 14 yards. Ernest Hoff, who played a brilliant game as a substitute halfback, picked up two yards. Williams, who turned in his best game of the year, picked up another two. Calavan made it a couple more.

But it was fourth down and still four yards to go, so Hoff dropped back to kick. Fifteen seconds later, it was all over and what, a half a minute before, had been Vancouver’s ball game, belonged to a triumphant Camas team.