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  • Ednold

Colton 9/15/23

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

We were driving through rural Clackamas county this Friday night, and a few miles north of Molalla we took a right turn onto highway 211 and into the hills for another few miles before reaching the town of Colton, home of the Vikings. Colton sits on the crest of a hill about halfway between the towns of Molalla and Estacada, skirted by Milk Creek. Early settlers included a large contingent of Scandanavians, hence the Viking mascot, and in the 1890s a man named Cole wanted to name the new local post office after his good friend Joshua Gorbett. The Post Office Department turned him down because they thought Gorbett sounded too much like the existing town of Corbett, so to avoid any confusion they gave the community the name of Colton. Located, as it is, in prime timber country in the foothills of the Cascade mountains, Colton was long a significant logging community, but these days there seem to be more Christmas tree farms and nurseries around the unincorporated town than anything else.

Historic Colton Cafe

The dominant building in town is the Colton Market, which has been around for over a hundred years. We didn’t go in, but it’s one of those small-town establishments where you can pick up some food for your livestock and pellets for your woodstove when you stop in for some fresh deli food for yourself. I imagine there’s not much you couldn’t find there. But we were looking for a comfortable place to sit down for our pre-game snack, so we continued on to the historic Colton Café. I don’t know how historic it is, but it was comfortable, and the milk shakes I saw being delivered to other tables had me thinking I really needed one too. Of course, that’s the last thing I need, so I was proud of myself for ordering vegetables instead. Onion rings are still vegetables, right? And my Pepsi was diet, so…

As gametime approached we headed back to the hilltop that is downtown Colton and turned south onto Wall Street to find the high school. A half block later and there it was. The school itself is fairly nondescript, so it was a little surprising to see just how nice the football facilities are. Mrs. Ednold found a parking spot in the gravel parking lot just outside the stadium while I snapped a few pictures, then I gave the lady in the booth $10 to get us both in the gate on the northeast side of the field. Below to the west was the grass field surrounded by a rubber running track, with the grandstand situated on the east side.

The grandstand is of a unique design, with a small lower section of uncovered wooden bleachers in front, and a larger covered section behind, and the two sections are separated by a spacious concrete walkway. The students and some parents occupied the lower section, while Mrs. Ednold and I took seats above, not too far from the band. It’s comfy and cozy, and even with a large turnout there was room to stretch out. The small aluminum bleachers on the west side were more than big enough for the small group who had driven several hours to support the visitors.

We took our seats to find the sun staring straight into our eyes. I’m sure whoever designed the stadium wanted to use the natural slope of the hill in their favor and put the stands on the uphill side to the east, but it was absolutely brutal until the sun went down. By the mid-way point of the first quarter, though, our retinas had recovered, and our rods and cones were fully functioning again, so no permanent damage was done.

The game got off to an inauspicious start, as a member of the local VFW was raising the flag during the national anthem. He was able to get the flag to the top of the pole, but the rigging broke during the process and by the time the song was over the flag was back down again. They eventually decided to hang the flag from some netting on the side of the field, but I should have seen that it was an omen of things to come for the Vikings. As we had seen them do at a home game a few years ago, Heppner jumped on their opponents early, scoring five unanswered touchdowns in the first quarter. After the first few minutes the game was never seriously in doubt, though the Mustangs did ease off the gas after that.

It was the type of game that showcased the skills of the person calling the game over the public address system. I don't know who he was, but he struck just the right chord of informality, respect and humor that this particular game needed, and watching our Vikings take a beating would have been a little more painful, somehow, without his voice coming through the speakers above us. I've heard enough bad ones to appreciate those who do it really well, and the anonymous Voice of the Vikings certainly does.

Colton competes at the 2A classification in the Tri-River Conference, and last season they made the playoffs for the first time in several years as conference champions. They then went all the way to the semi-finals before losing to Weston-McEwen/Griswold by a single point. The Vikings are 1-1 so far this season, having lost to Bandon/Pacific before beating Gaston last week. This would be their final non-conference game of the season, against perennial power Heppner. Colton’s only state championship in football came in 1983, and they haven’t made it back to a championship game since. At that time Heppner had never even played in a championship game. Since then, though, the Mustangs have played in 6 of them, winning 3, and have been consistently good for a very long time.

This is the second season that the 2A classification has played 9-man football, and since we didn’t attend any 2A games last season this was our first time watching a 9-man game. Unlike the 8-man and 6-man football played at the 1A level, the game didn’t look a lot different than an 11-man game, and the strategies and formations weren’t visibly different than those used by the bigger schools.

The Colton Dance Team

The Viking pep band was of decent size and, though they weren’t flashy, they churned out a steady stream of loud standards that kept the crowd from concentrating too much on the ever-widening gap in scoring on the field. And though there were no cheerleaders, we found that Colton does have a dance team. Not an official one, maybe, but each time the pep band played a song the two little girls sitting in front of us would make their way to the concrete dance floor/walkway and hop around like crazed dervishes. They would return breathless a few minutes later when the music stopped, but the next time the band started in on Funky Town they were ready to go again.

1983 State Champions

At halftime we were treated to an introduction of that Colton state champion team from 1983, who had reunited for the night to celebrate their success forty years ago. I did some quick math and according to my calculations, every one of those guys, who all look so old now, are younger than I am. My math must have been wrong, because I know that can’t be possible. My research into famous residents of Colton turned up only one person by the name of Stella Nickell. Stella had moved to Washington state by the time she murdered her husband in 1986 and is serving a life sentence in a prison in California. I don’t think she’s representative of the community at large, though, and I got the feeling that very few of the people sitting around us were actual murderers. With Stella as their only real competition, I bet the guys from that championship team are a pretty big deal around town.

Though Colton apparently doesn’t have cheerleaders, this night happened to be “white out” night in Colton, and a large group of students were dressed in their whitest outfits to cheer on their team. They all sat together in the student section down below and what they lacked in numbers they made up for in volume, even as their team struggled on the field. When halftime was over and it was time for the players to return to the field, the students in white were joined by other assorted members of the community to form a tunnel for the players' re-entry. It didn't spark any dramatic improvement in their skills, but I'm sure it made them feel pretty good for a few moments.

Due to the lopsided score, the clock ran continuously throughout the second half, but I still had time to make my way to the Snack Shack for a hot dog and coffee. Sadly, they weren’t serving coffee, but the hot dog, while nothing special itself, came with a full condiment bar including sauerkraut, which was a pleasant surprise. If you’re keeping track, that makes two vegetables I ate that day. Who says it’s hard to eat healthy?

When the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard read 50-12, with the visiting mustangs having dominated play from early on. But we'd seen the town of Colton which, according to Mrs. Ednold, has a "good vibe". High praise, indeed, and it is a beautiful place. And if I ever come back I'm going to take a night off from eating vegetables and get one of those milkshakes from the Colton Cafe.

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