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  • Ednold

Aloha 10/27/23

We were back in Washington County on a Friday evening for the opportunity to witness what would be one of the biggest victory celebrations ever. We turned onto Highway 10 from 217 and began driving west. Three or four miles later we had left the city of Beaverton and pulled into the parking lot of Aloha High School on 185th Avenue.

A 6A school, Aloha plays in the Metro League, along with five neighboring schools: Jesuit, Beaverton, Sunset, Mountainside, and Westview. To say the Warriors have struggled in recent years would be an understatement. They were state champions in 2010 in their only appearance in the championship game, but began a long, slow slide not long after. By 2021 they reached what they must have considered rock bottom, going 0-9 while scoring only 39 points the entire season. Almost unbelievably, the slide continued last year as they again failed to win a game and scored only 38 points. And still they keep sliding. Going into this game they were 0-8, having scored a grand total of 7 points this season. So, in three years, the Warriors have won fewer games and scored only a few more points than they did in a single night 11 years ago, when running back Thomas Tyner ran for a state record 643 yards and scored 10 touchdowns in a single game to beat Lakeridge. But they were due, and imagine the scene if they were able to beat Mountainside at home in the season finale! We were not going to miss it.

It’s an interesting place, Aloha, defined as much by what it is not as what it is. It’s not a city. They tried to incorporate back in the 1980’s but ran into legal obstacles that kept it from happening. But it’s not countryside, either. Since the earliest days of the Oregon Territory the Tualatin Plains have been heavily populated, attracted first by farmland, and later by Intel and its industrial brethren. According to my guidebook, Aloha is “a featureless sprawl of houses and industry atop the deep, rich soil of the Tualatin Plains”. That seems kind of blunt, and is putting it a little less kindly than I would, but I can’t say it’s factually incorrect. It’s not Beaverton, and it’s not Hillsboro, though it relies on both of those cities for services, including education. Aloha High School was added to that "featureless sprawl" when it opened in 1970, after the Beaverton School District had decided it needed a third high school in addition to Beaverton and Sunset. The high school mascot is a Hawaiian warrior, the school crest features a conch shell, and signs around campus announce that “We Are Ohana”, the Hawaiian word for family, yet there's no certainty about where the name comes from other than that it has nothing to do with the Hawaiian word of the same spelling and is pronounced differently (a-LO-a).

A wreck on the interstate had kept us from arriving with much time to spare, so with The Bucket in its spot in the front row we paid our $6 each and followed the path west toward the field. Maybe it was the three straight seasons without a win, but the crowd was small and we had our pick of seats in the new-looking but uncovered aluminum grandstand. We chose a spot on the opposite end from the student section on the far west side, and just about had the place to ourselves. Even before the game started it was getting chilly, and I headed to the snack bar in the southeast corner of the grounds for some hot nachos and a coffee. It was good, but the heat was what I was after, and the sno-cone truck, which had done a brisk business the first weekend of October, may as well have stayed home for this last weekend of the month. It was a beautiful, clear night with a full hunters' moon, and there was no breeze to speak of, but it was already in the low 40's and wasn't likely to get any warmer throughout the game.

The field at Aloha is artificial turf with the Warrior logo in the middle, and the blue rubber running track around it is fenced off, keeping football spectators in their place in the stands. On the far side is another large set of aluminum bleachers for the visitors, and the folks from Mountainside had just about filled it up. Altogether, facilities at Aloha are top notch, but strangely, for a school of its size, there was no band taking up space in the grandstand, or anywhere else. They partially made up for this with the size of their cheerleading squad, which itself has won 3 state championships. I counted 26 of them, and they were working a tough crowd that was reluctant to get too excited about anything.

Senior football players

As I munched on nachos, things got started with the introduction of the senior Warrior players, accompanied by family and friends, and shortly after that the Mountainside Mavericks were on the scoreboard. By the end of the first quarter they led 28-0, and though the crowd had continued to grow and fill in the empty spaces in the grandstand, hopes of them being involved in that end-of-drought celebration were fading fast.

Senior cheerleaders

The Warriors actually had the better quarterback, but he seldom had time to throw, and when he did there was nobody open to throw it to. Their player of the game was definitely their punter, who easily had over 500 punting yards for the game. He had a booming leg, and I hate to think how much worse things could have been without him. The Mavericks, on the other hand, had a running game that Aloha couldn't find a way to stop. It was 41-0 by halftime, when the senior cheerleaders were introduced, and the clock didn't stop in the second half as the Mavericks rolled to a 51-0 final score.

This didn't turn out to be the night that the Warriors' three-year losing streak came to an end, so there was no big celebration marking that momentous occasion. The quiet resignation of the Warrior fans that was noticeable at the beginning of the game continued right up to the final whistle, as though they had seen this movie before, many times over. But no streak lasts forever, and someday the Warriors will eke one out when nobody's expecting it, and the place will go wild. And it will feel that much better for all the losing that came before it, and the people there that night will get more than their $6 worth. I hope they let me know when they plan on doing that so I can be there.

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