Nearly 50 Members of '97 Team Return for Hall of Fame Day
Playoff semifinalists, three individuals and the recipient of the Service and Contribution Award will be honored Saturday in conjunction with the EWU versus North Dakota football game
Nearly 50 members of the 1997 Eastern Washington University Football team will return to Cheney, Wash., to be honored in the 12th class of inductees on Saturday (Oct. 6). After an induction breakfast in the morning, they will be introduced at halftime of Eastern's Big Sky Conference game versus North Dakota at 5:05 p.m. Pacific time at Roos Field.
The 1997 football team will be inducted on the 15th anniversary of its thrilling run in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs (then known as I-AA). The head coach from that team, Mike Kramer, is now head coach at Idaho State and can't attend, but will be represented by his wife, Sandi Kramer, and daughter, Gretchen Kramer.
Among the 49 players returning will be the team's four co-captains -- All-America center Kevin Peterson, All-America quarterback Harry Leons, All-America defensive tackle Chris Scott and All-America linebacker Derek Strey. Leons and Scott were honored as the Big Sky offensive and defensive players of the year, respectively. Three other All-Americans from that team will be back, including wide receiver Jeff Ogden, offensive tackle Jim Buzzard and safety Maurice "Mo" Perigo. First team Academic All-Americans that season included Ogden and defensive end Steve Mattson, who will also attend Saturday's festivities.
After winning the Big Sky Conference title, the ’97 squad advanced in the playoffs by defeating Northwestern State (40-10) and Western Kentucky (38-21), then fell to Youngstown State 25-14 in the semifinals. All three playoff games were played at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash., as the Eagles captivated Eastern fans and alums throughout the Northwest. The Eagles also won the outright Big Sky Conference title, and remain the only Big Sky Conference team other than national powerhouse Montana to win an outright title from 1995-2011.
Scott Garske, an All-America football player for Eastern in 1973, will be among the individuals inducted, thus creating a family event for him. His son, Griffin Garske, was a backup quarterback on the 1997 Eastern team.
Record-breaking sprinter Joyce Rainwater Blount will be inducted after a remarkable career that saw her win eight Big Sky Conference titles and appear at the NCAA Division I Championships twice. She still owns four school records and three conference marks after a career from 1990-95 that included time off to have a baby.
Inducted posthumously will be Don Kallem, who spent 17 seasons as Eastern’s golf coach and 13 as an assistant football coach. His golf teams won eight NAIA District titles and advanced to the NAIA Championships nine times. A three-time district coach of the year, he spent 31 years in the Eastern physical education department. He passed away on July 10, 1997.
The Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award will be presented to 1970 Eastern graduate Jon Heimbigner for his vast contributions to the sports community in the Inland Northwest. Already a member of four halls of fame, he has served for more than 30 years on four different organizations, as well as serving on the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame committee since its inception in 1996. Recently, he stepped down as a board member for the Spokane Regional Sports Commission after 34 years of service (1978-2012).
Established in 1996, this year’s inductees will bring the total number of individuals in the Hall of Fame to 61. Nine teams will have also been inducted, as well as 12 recipients of the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award.