Hal Williams is 76 years old and has lived in Tenino since 1959, raised his three children there with his wife and high school sweetheart, Shirley. He also had a 34-year career as an educator in the Tenino School District.
And yet in all of his years of following the high school football team – he has been “The Voice of the Beavers” for 50 years – Tenino has never played host to playoff game.
That will end Friday.
The Beavers (5-4) will welcome Columbia of White Salmon (5-4) to Beaver Stadium for a 1A District IV playoff game. The winner will advanced to next week’s first round of the 1A state playoffs.
For the Beavers and Williams, home playoff games have been rare. Williams said he can’t recall when Tenino last had a playoff game on its home turf.
In spite of winning the 1986 league championship, the Beavers had “home” playoff games at Centralia’s Tiger Stadium and W.F. West’s Bearcat Stadium because of what were considered inadequate conditions at their former football field, now the fastpitch field.
The Beavers’ current stadium, on the east side of the high school, was built in 1988, spearheaded in large part because of the Beavers’ 1A state semifinal run in ’86.
Since 1964, Williams has watched 15 head coaches come and go and a program that has had more downs than ups. But he hasn’t see many moments like the one last Friday night, when Tenino clinched its first league title since 1986 with a 37-27 win over Rochester.
It ranks as his second-most memorable game.
First, he said, was Tenino’s league title-clinching game in ’86, when the Beavers defeated Rochester to finish the regular-season 8-1. That team featured such players as current Centralia football coach Matt Whitmire at quarterback and W.F. West athletic director Scott Chamberlain at receiver.
“That was a good one,” said Williams, who coached youth, middle school and high school sports for parts of seven decades.
And through the years as a teacher, elementary and middle school principal and coach (he founded Tenino High’s track and field team in 1960 and was the top assistant to late Hall of Fame boys basketball coach Dick Brock), Williams said being the stadium’s public-address announcer is a gig he hasn’t been able to give up.
“Times flies when you’re having fun,” Williams said.
Whitmire, one of the more decorated athletes to come out of Tenino, started his college football career at Washington before transferring to Iowa State. He called Williams the Keith Jackson of Tenino.
“You literally grew up wanting to score a touchdown in Tenino just to hear Hal’s voice,” Whitmire said. “It still gives me chills when I think about all those touchdown runs.”
But Whitmire spoke not only of what Williams did as an announcer, a voice he called “something that was literally mystical,” but also about his honor and integrity.
When Whitmire was a seventh-grader, he learned his mother had terminal cancer. Williams became like a second father to him and his two siblings.
“There wasn’t a time where we weren’t taken care of growing up because of Hal Williams,” Whitmire said.
One compliment Williams continues to receive is his fairness and objectivity. For him, the spotlight is about the players on both teams, and announcing good plays no matter who has the ball.
“It’s not about Tenino,” said Brock Williams, Hal’s youngest son and principal at Tenino’s Parkside Elementary. “He gives kudos to good plays and good sportsmanship from both sides of the ball. It’s not an ego thing with Dad.”
Just as he’s done before every home game, Williams goes on the field to get starting lineups from both coaches; the visiting team first, then the home team.
Over 50 years, he has only missed three games.
Friday nights at Beaver Stadium are family affairs. Williams’ eyes aren’t what they used to be, so his daughter, Nikki, a teacher in Castle Rock, drives up for all home games to help her father as a spotter. Brock, also part of the ’86 team, helps with the chains.
More than 2,000 fans packed Beaver Stadium last Friday for the league title game, but the night started with honoring Williams during a pregame ceremony. Tenino renamed the press box after Williams and gave him a 50-year plaque to go with the 25-year plaque currently hanging in the press box.
The pregame ceremony was a surprise kept under wraps the entire season, spearheaded by Tenino coach Jeff Zenisek.
“That fits him,” Zenisek said of naming the press box after Williams. “That’s his press box.”
Two years ago, Williams retired as boys basketball coach at Tenino Middle School. Members of that final group are now sophomores, including quarterback Calvin Guzman, wide receiver/running back Thomas Pier and lineman Nihls Peterson.
He doesn’t know if this season will be his final one – “I’ll decide in the spring,” Williams said – but he does know why he has kept going all these years: the kids.
“I really enjoy the young men,” he said, “seeing young adults who change from young boys into manhood.”Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com theolympian.com/ south-sound-sports-blog @megwochnick