The Evergreen Plainsmen’s drive through the 1995 AAA state playoffs nearly veered off course before it ever started.
En route to Poulsbo to play North Kitsap in a first-round game, one of Evergreen’s buses slid off the road and into a guard rail, providing a harrowing start to a postseason drive that would end in the state semifinals.
Jon Eagle, who was in his eighth season as head coach of Evergreen that season, remembers his team stopping at Shelton High School on the way to Poulsbo for a pre-game meal and walk-through practice.
After leaving Shelton, the team buses were descending a steep grade that led up to a stop sign.
“So we came down this hill and there’s this line of cars stacked up at the stop sign,” Eagle said. “And we were going way, way too fast, and it’s downhill and the bus is heavy. So (the driver) puts the brakes on hard, and we slide off to the right into that soft gravel they put down next to the guard rail. We come to a stop and we are up against the guard rail, so the door will not swing open.”
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Hockinson assistant coach Clint LeCount was a senior receiver on that 1995 Evergreen team.
“I just remember we were laughing, having fun, going on our first playoff trip,” LeCount said. “Then we felt the bus shaking and then the bang. I wasn’t even sure what was going on. You’re just a high school kid not really paying attention.”
While Eagle checked to make sure everyone was OK, assistant coach Pat King, who would later serve as head coach at Heritage and Castle Rock, is trying to assist the driver.
“Pat is yelling ‘Put it in reverse! Here, get out of the way! I’ll do it,’ ” Eagle said. “Well, she’s in shock. She’s gripping the wheel and she’s looking straight ahead. She will not respond to anybody, like a zombie.”
Unable to move the bus, the coaches figured out how to open a back window. Players, coaches, cheerleaders and all team’s equipment exited the bus from the rear and squeezed onto the other team bus, which had luckily seen the mishap and stopped up ahead.
“And I’m a young coach, so we are going to travel with as many kids as we can,” Eagle said. “So we had two full buses.”
Two full buses became one really full bus.
“We were squeezing three, four people on every row with our gear on top of us,” LeCount said.
The team arrived safely at North Kitsap High School on a wet and windy evening about 30 minutes before kickoff. Eagle went up to talk to longtime North Kitsap football coach Jerry Parrish.
“I say ‘Jerry, we just got into an accident on the way up here. Can we delay the game until 8?’ ” Eagle recalled. “He says ‘No. Game starts at 7:30.’ Then turns on his heel and walks away.”
The Plainsmen scrambled to get ready.
“We barely had time to warm up or anything,” LeCount said. “It was put on your gear and go play in sideways rain.”
Then Eagle had to dodge another bullet that was not related to the game on the field.
“It’s so stormy out that night, so we’ve got like 11 people in the stands on our side,” Eagle said. “And the ref comes up to me and says ‘if your fans don’t calm down, we’re going to stop this game right now.’ And I look back at our 11 people, and I go ‘Who? Which ones?’ And he points down to two guys, both had umbrellas that were inverted.”
One of the men was Evergreen athletic director Jim Hudson.
“I say ‘Well, that’s my boss,’ ” Eagle said. “Hudson was notorious for talking to the refs during the games.”
The game was allowed to continue. The weather forced the normally balanced Plainsmen to stick to the ground. LeCount remembers catching only one pass.
But running back Dennis White scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns for a 28-14 Plainsmen victory.
The following week, Evergreen made another trip up north, beating Sehome of Bellingham 21-13, before falling to Curtis of University Place in the semifinals 17-6.
But those subsequent road trips weren’t nearly as eventful as the wild ride up to Poulsbo.
“That was a crazy night,” LeCount said. “It’s definitely one of those games that you’ll never forget.”