Capital High School’s first state football championship was born in defeat. More than one defeat.
After those Cougars lost to Ferndale in the Class 2A quarterfinals in 1995, a slogan was born: “Unfinished Business.”
The current Capital team took care of business Friday night at Ingersoll Stadium, defeating Central Kitsap, 16-0, after a ceremony to honor the 20th anniversary of the program’s first state title win.
Nathan Tyler scored two touchdowns, both on two-yard runs, while Eric Jackson rushed for 105 yards on 26 carries for Capital (4-3, 3-2 3A South Sound Conference). Central Kitsap (2-4, 1-3) dropped its third straight loss.
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Call that a tip of the hat to Capital’s 1996 state championship team.
“We had a great team in ’95,” said Wayne Sortun, who coached the Cougars for 20 years. “After the loss to Ferndale there was a renewed sense of purpose.”
Erik Peterson, who played outside linebacker, remembered.
“We had a sense of destiny and purpose the whole year,” said Peterson, who now works as a video game developer for Valve. “Most of the guys had played with each other our whole lives, we knew what we needed to get done.”
But before the Cougars even got to the postseason, another bleak moment lit a spark. After an 8-0 start, Capital dropped a road game at Aberdeen — the only defeat in a 13-1 season.
“I can still remember how quiet that locker room was,” said Anthony Griffin, Capital’s top running back in 1996 and now a self-described “fitness guru” who just moved to Bothell from Hawaii. “We didn’t want that feeling anymore.”
The following week, on a muddy night at Ingersoll, the Cougars rallied to defeat cross-town rival Olympia in the final regular season game.
Once the playoffs began, Capital couldn’t be stopped, outscoring opponents 174-45. The run opened with a 37-7 thumping of two-time defending champion O’Dea at Memorial Stadium in Seattle.
Enthusiasm built as the Cougars made their way to the championship game, a 17-7 victory over West Valley of Yakima at the Tacoma Dome.
“The amount of support we got was amazing,” Griffin said. “It was wonderful to know so many people were behind us. When you’re young you love being part of that atmosphere.”
Sortun, who also coached Capital to a 3A championship in 1998, hadn’t watched his copy of the 1996 state championship game until this week.
“I had forgotten all the ebbs and flows,” he said. “We really didn’t have a chance to breathe until Christian Burrell kicked a field goal.”
Sortun said a common thread ran through both championship squads.
“Over the years, the teams we had that went the farthest and had the most success were the ones that bonded, that were on the same page and bought into what we were doing,” he said.
Friday night, that spirit was on display as more than 30 coaches, players and cheerleaders from the 1996 season gathered before the game for a brief ceremony. The group included current Capital football coaching staff members Ryan Riedl, Kyle Camus and Darren Tinnerstet.
“You always keep those memories,” said Griffin. “You miss the games, but it’s the camaraderie with the other guys, the things most people don’t see. I think about it often.”
C – Nathan Tyler 2 run (Chris Penner kick)
C – Tyler 2 run (kick blocked)
C – Penner 39 field goal