By Grant Clark
“I’m almost 50 years old,” Markoff said. “I should be over it by now.”
Markoff was a 1985 Olympia High School graduate and was an all-state defensive lineman for a Bears squad that won the 3A state championship during his senior year.
Olympia opened the playoffs that year on the road by shutting out Kelso, the defending state champions, 20-0. The Bears parlayed that success to the quarterfinals where they were once again the visitors, traveling to Stanwood. The result would be almost identical against Burlington-Edison as they blanked the Tigers, 14-0, to advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 1981.
O’Dea would be the first playoff team to find the end zone against Markoff and Olympia’s stingy defense, but it didn’t matter as the Bears bested the Irish, 21-7, in the Tacoma Dome nearly 31 years ago.
The crowning achievement came the following week with a 28-14 victory over West Valley of Spokane in the state championship.
The Bears marched off the Kingdome turf with their newly earned trophy in tow. It was a fitting end to a spectacular 12-1 season.
It’s the 1 loss in the 12-1 season that still remains present in Markoff. And if you were to ask any other player on that year’s Olympia team you would probably get that same reaction.
“Part of me,” Markoff said as a slight smile overtook his face, “would give up (the state title) to have beaten Capital that year.”
Olympia’s lone blemish that season was to the Cougars, 21-20, in a game that ultimately determined the Black Hills League champion.
Great rivalries have that lasting effect on those involved.
The Capital/Olympia football rivalry may not be the oldest around, but there’s been plenty of history packed into its 38-year existence.
The latest chapter will be written on Friday, Sept. 11 when the two teams meet in the annual Spaghetti Bowl.
“It’s just a fun rivalry,” said Kevin Gunther, a 1991 Olympia grad who along with Markoff, is an assistant coach on the Bears staff. “You never see the stadium as packed as it is for that game. It’s almost like a small college atmosphere. You have people standing on the track and behind the end zone. It’s something when you come out on the field and see the people lined up all the way to the parking lot.”
While the Markoff and 1984 state championship team dropped its match to the Cougars, Gunther went a perfect 3-0 against the cross-town foes. Both, however, have invested interest in this year’s battle.
In addition to coaching, both Markoff and Gunther will watch sons play in their last Spaghetti Bowl.
Markoff’s son Clay will start for the Bears at middle linebacker and fullback, while Gunther’s son James is a starting offensive lineman for Olympia.
Gunther’s other son, Scott, will also see plenty of action. The junior is Olympia’s starting running back and is coming off a two touchdown performance in the Bears’ 42-0 drubbing of Ferris in week one.
“It’s extremely special to be able to coach them at Olympia,” Gunther said about his sons. “I’ve been fortunate enough to coach them since they started in elementary school.”
One aspect the sons will experience that their fathers did not is the traditional spaghetti feed between to the two schools, which started in 1993 by the Rotary Club of Olympia and West Olympia Rotary Club.
“It’s maybe taken the edge off the rivalry a little bit,” Markoff said about the spaghetti feed, “but (the game) is still huge. The addition (of the feed) really heightens it. It adds a lot to the whole hoopla around the game. It’s great event.”
The winner of the game gets to house the Spaghetti Bowl trophy for a year – something Gunther didn’t even know about during his high school playing days.
“I didn’t find out until after I graduated that the game had a trophy. We never lost to them so we never had to hand it back, I guess,” Gunther said. “It just stayed in the trophy case all four years.”
Capital, which lost 22-21 to West Valley (Spokane) in the 1984 state semifinals, halting what could have been an all-city state championship game, knocked off the Bears last year, 17-7, and hold a 21-17 all-time series lead.
The two teams have alternated victories the last six years with neither squad posting consecutive wins in the series since the Bears won five straight between 2005 and 2009, and even though the game has been a non-league affair since 2006, expect Ingersoll Stadium to once again be standing room only.
“It’s all about bragging rights,” Gunther said. “It’s the one game everyone in the community gets up for.”