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  • Ednold

North Salem 9/6/19

Updated: Sep 7, 2019

My goal is to eventually get to the home fields of each of the high school football teams in the state of Oregon and record those experiences here for anyone who would like to come along for the ride. To begin this endeavor I felt I needed something special to kick things off. To that end, Mrs. Ednold and I invited my parents, brother, and our oldest son along for an evening of high school football at the place my father began his secondary education: North Salem High. Their opponent this opening Friday night would be my son’s alma mater, Crescent Valley. My dad, I should point out, was a high school football state champion. And my son was a state champion himself at CV. It seemed like a perfect opportunity for a trash-talk-filled family night out. But no amount of planning was able to stop my son’s car suffering a flat tire on the way to the game, causing him to miss the entire showdown and seriously lowering the competitive atmosphere of our little group.

Though nowadays the high school could more accurately be called Central Salem, the school took its current name when South Salem High opened in 1954 and old Salem High began serving roughly the northern half of the city. The football field is located within easy walking distance of the State Capitol building, but the result of this central location is a serious lack of parking on the school grounds. So we chose to park in the lot of one of the state office buildings on the corner of 12th and Marion streets, where student lot attendants welcomed us. A short stroll across 12th Street and the railroad tracks leads to a path with a pedestrian bridge across Mill Creek, which borders the school grounds. The train tracks run directly behind the main football grandstand and, though I don’t recall hearing any trains pass by during the game, we did encounter trains walking both to and from the game, so I’m glad we weren’t in a hurry going either way.

Home (west) grandstand

The Vikings have not been much of a factor at the state level athletically for quite a while, with their last state championship coming in 1967 (baseball). Last year they recorded a 2-7 record and this year they field a young team with little winning tradition. BUT… Former governor and senator Mark Hatfield was a Viking. North is the former school of Dune author Frank Herbert. Now, I have never read Dune myself but – and this may surprise some people – I do know some geeks. And the geeks love that book and have told me how amazing it is. So the Vikings have that going for them. And the fact that the school features a beautiful colonial style main entrance complete with a cupola that can be seen from the grandstands. I love the way the word “North” was half-heartedly etched above the original “Salem High School” on the façade. But as I watch the two teams go through pre-game warm-ups I can’t see how any of these things will be much help to the home side, who seem to be both smaller and slower than their opponents.

Visitors' (east) seating

Entry to the field is in the southeast corner. There is no ticket booth but the ticket-selling staff at their little table were welcoming and nice. Littlejohn field itself, named for a former North Salem coach and athletic director, is artificial turf surrounded by a track. The covered aluminum home grandstand sits on the west side of the field with the uncovered, but large, aluminum visitors bleachers on the east side. There is no permanent concession stand but there is a temporary concession area on the home side of the field where volunteers sell reasonably-priced snacks to raise money for the North Salem Youth Football program. I can attest to the satisfactory quality of both the polish dogs and the nachos and to the excellent service and courtesy of the volunteers manning the booth.

North Salem competes in the 5A-Special District 3 football league, which closely resembles the old Valley League of AAA days, being comprised of 10 schools all from the mid-Willamette Valley. On this night the home team audaciously opened the season with a successful onside kick attempt. But it was mostly downhill after that for the Vikings, who held up valiantly for three and a half quarters before ultimately being overwhelmed by the visitors. At the end of the third quarter North was only down 13-7 and looked like, with a few lucky breaks, they still had a chance to win. But they totally succumbed in the fourth and the final score of 33-7 was a fairly accurate indication of the visitors’ superiority.

Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve attended a high school football game, but I was struck by the small quantity of players on each sideline. I would guess each team had about 35 players suited up, which, for schools of this size is not many. At the same time, I counted 16 cheerleaders on the North Salem side of the field. And, according to the program, the team has 17 coaches. That’s almost a coach and a cheerleader for every two players! Apparently the fewer the players, the more support and instruction they need. The game was certainly well-attended, with the home stands being mostly full. But, excepting the student section, there was a strange air of disinterest throughout the home crowd. A crucial defensive stop or a rare offensive first down was usually met with not much more than a murmur from the onlookers. Given the final score, and maybe their memories of last year’s 2-7 season, they may have been too pessimistic to celebrate the little victories much, but it was a strangely undemonstrative crowd to be a part of.

With the addition of four other public high schools to the capital city in the years since Salem High became North Salem High, it’s hard for me to believe that my own father began high school at a time when all of the city’s public high school students attended a single school. But it was nice to sit in the stands on a warm late-summer evening and watch a season opener played by students who could have been him seventy years ago on the same patch of ground. (The football field wasn’t there then. They played their home games at old Waters Field on 25th Street, but the track was in the same place, and he did that too.) The only thing we missed was the sound of my son rubbing in another Viking loss.

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Oct 07, 2019

You make high school football so much more interesting with the details about the environment, history facts, pictures, & commentary. Thank you!


Marcella L. Gentry
Marcella L. Gentry
Sep 16, 2019

If you go to Silverton, I would like to go with you, and tell about my glory days of playing for the Silver Foxes! I still remember you (Mark) lining up in Burns to play in the Playoff game. Was quite a game and led Eagles/Cougars to play for State Champions that year!


Marcella L. Gentry
Marcella L. Gentry
Sep 16, 2019

Great commentaries, Mark. Will look forward to reading your next ones!

Sep 10, 2019

The game and atmosphere descriptions were spot-on. I enjoyed the historical details, I may have to put 'DUNE' in my Netflix Queue.


Sep 09, 2019


I just read your blog and was very impressed. I didn't know what to expect from your blog on high school football games, I thought what's there to say? But you gave us a lot of background about why you chose those particular schools to watch and lots of info about North Salem High School as well.

I've always felt that North Salem has been treated as a step-child compared to the other schools with their newer and more expensive surroundings, but now I see their is new construction going on at North. Hopefully, that will help erase that step-child persona.

It's quite a task you've set for yourself! It should be very interesting.

Can't wait to read about…

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