In Washington state history, only 23 high school football coaches have reached the 200-win plateau in their careers. Of those, only eight are still coaching today.
Not surprisingly, three of those eight legends have teams still alive this weekend for the Gridiron Classic at the Tacoma Dome.
Only three hours after Terry Jensen's Montesano squad faces Royal for the Class 1A state title Saturday, Dec. 1, Lynden's Curt Kramme and Tumwater's Sid Otton will go head-to-head in the Class 2A state championship game, set for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Though Kramme and Otton would be the first to tell you that they won't be buckling up a chin strap, let alone running, throwing or catching the football or making any blocks or tackles in the game, you can bet they will play a big part in determining whether their team wins or loses.
"When you go up against a coach like Sid Otton, you know you better come ready," Kramme said in a phone interview. "You know he's going to have his team ready. He's going to break everything you do down so well that he'll probably know our team better than we do."
It's hard to argue with what's worked for Otton.
The state leader in career wins (346) has coached the Thunderbirds for the past 39 years, as he shares the record with Meridian's Bob Ames for the longest tenure at one school. Add in the two seasons he coached Coupeville and four more at Colfax, and that's 45 years of experience the mastermind brings into Saturday's showdown.
During those 45 seasons, he's compiled a .733 winning percentage.
Otton's Tumwater teams have won five state titles, claiming three Class 3A crowns between 1987 and 1990, a 4A title in 1993 and a 2A championship in 2010.
"You've got to be on your game when you face Sid Otton," said Capital coach J.D. Johnson, who has matched wits with Otton the past six years in 2A Evergreen Conference play. "You've got to know all the ins and outs of their team, and he's still got some old tricks in his bag. It's an honor to coach against him. It's an honor to have had some of the conversations I've been able to have with him about coaching. He's a great mentor and a great individual."
Compared to Otton, Lynden's Kramme is still a young pup, even though he's in his 22nd season at the helm.
Kramme is the newest addition to the state's 200-win club, as he reached the mark during the final week of the regular season. He enters Saturday with 204 victories and a .794 winning percentage.
Like Otton, Kramme has guided his team to five state titles - a 1A crown in his first year on the job in 1991 and four more 2A championships in the past six years.
"I like Curt a lot," Otton said in a phone interview. "I get along with most coaches, but I have a lot of respect for Curt. He's done a great job with that team, and he understands the game inside and out. When you play in a title game, you know that you're going to be facing a talented team that is well coached, and in the case of Lynden they've got great coaching."
Saturday's game will mark the third time Kramme's and Otton's teams have faced off in the 2A state playoffs, but the first time they've met for a state title.
Lynden won a 2006 state semifinal 20-10 at the Tacoma Dome in a game that saw the Lions hold Evergreen Conference MVP Zach Johnson to 37 yards rushing on 17 carries, while Dirk Dallas caught seven passes for 136 yards and a TD and Landon VandeHoef rushed for 88 yards and two TDs. The Lions went on to beat Centralia the next week to claim the state title.
Tumwater got some revenge in the first round of the 2010 state playoffs, beating Lynden 21-10 at Civic Stadium. Kyle Warner scored a pair of first-half touchdowns for the Thunderbirds, who went on to beat Archbishop Murphy for the state title.
This year Otton is getting the chance to coach his grandson - starting quarterback Jayden Croft.
If the Croft name sounds familiar, it should. His father, Derric Croft, actually graduated from Lynden in 1991 and still holds the school record for most points scored in a basketball season (652), as he helped the Lions to the Class 1A title that year.
Jayden was born in Bellingham and lived for four years in Lynden before his mother, Tana, who is Otton's daughter, got a teaching job in Tumwater.
"I've had two sons play for me, and to now have Jayden is pretty special," Otton said.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Lynden School Tumwater*
22 Seasons 45
204 Career wins 346
20th (tie) State rank First
53 Career losses 126
.794 Win percentage .733
15 State playoff appearances 22
33 State playoff victories 35
9 State playoff losses 17
.786 State playoff winning pct. .673
7 State championship games 5
5 State titles 5
*Otton coached Coupeville 1967-68 and Colfax 1970-73.
SOURCES: WIAA.COM AND GRIDIRONBEEZ.COM
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.