A long time ago, 40 years to be exact, Wallowa had a pretty good football team.

Unscored upon until the sixth game of the season, the team went on to win the Class B, 11-man football title with a perfect 12-0 record.

I was privileged to be a member on that team, and one of my teammates was Michael Moores.

Big, strong, and fast, Michael could have played many positions on that team, but coaches assessed the talent around him, slapped a No. 73 on his back, and placed him at right tackle, certainly not one of the glamour positions of the sport of football.

Although it might not have been common knowledge, I can't imagine anyone who played with him that year who could look you straight in the eye and say that anyone other than Michael Moores was the best football player on that team. Period.

We ran a pretty diverse offense for a Class B football team, even had six or seven different varieties of screen passes in our playbook, but the heart and soul of our offense, the bread and butter, the play we always went back to because no one could stop it, was I-24.

I-24 was a simple play where I, the quarterback, would take the snap from center, take one or two steps to my right, and hand the ball to our right halfback, either Jim Curtis or Ed Holloran, and they'd have fun running through gaping holes Michael almost always had waiting for them, no matter the size or abilities of the defensive player, or oftentimes players, in front of him.

Off the field, Michael was more the strong, silent type, but on the field he was an extremely fierce, focused competitor.

Winning that championship wouldn't have been possible without Michael Moores.

My wife, whom I love dearly, was raised in another country and another culture, and never will grasp the significance of that accomplishment for those of us who lived it, including many citizens of the lumber town of Wallowa who rightfully took great pride in what happened here in the fall of 1967.

For some of us on the team, such as myself, Michael, Bob Keyser, and Bruce Daggett, who'd been playing sports together since the first grade, it was a dream come true, a pleasant memory to pull out and cherish that never can be taken away.

There are a few moments in everyone's lifetime, I suppose, when we remember every detail, thought, and visual perception during significant events in our past.

For me, those times include when I first heard of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, when I first heard that President Ronald Reagan had been shot, and a scene involving Michael Moores in the huddle late in the third quarter of the state quarterfinal football game against Wasco County in the fall of 1967.

Unlike any other game that season, we were behind 12-0. Playing in Wallowa, we'd driven down the field and were about one and half yards from the end zone nearest Bear Creek Road, and it was fourth down.

On the previous play, I'd done something I don't remember doing before or since, when I'd ignored a play called in from the sidelines by our coaches, and instead called a play I knew would work. And I was right.

The play I called was the perfect play for the situation, but it didn't work because of human failure. I, the quarterback, threw a terrible pass and, though the person I threw that pass to, Greg Oveson, claims to this day that he made a legal catch and rolled over in the end zone, the officials didn't see it that way, and now it was fourth down.

The team was huddled, and I was standing about a yard and a half to the side totally perplexed about what play to call. It certainly was the most important play of the season, probably one of the most important decisions of my life involving other people, and, after what I'd just done, there was no help coming from the sidelines.

As I stood there, Michael Moores, who rarely spoke on the field, standing in the huddle with his back to the line of scrimmage, said over and over in a firm, loud, authoritative voice for everyone, even the Wasco County defensive players to hear, "I-24, 1-24, 1-24 ..."

Wasco County was an excellent team that had scouted us well, and probably had 18 players, their bus driver, and all of their cheerleaders stacked in front of Michael Moores to stop that very play. That had been my reasoning when I'd overruled the coach's call of 1-24 the play before.

Even then, calling that play wasn't an easy decision for me to make. I was every bit as intense a competitor as Michael, and I honestly had my doubts if that play would work. Yet, time was ticking away, I couldn't think of a better play to call, and I stepped into the huddle and called 1-24.

I watch the television show Extreme Makeover 40 years later, and their chant "move that bus" is exactly what Michael Moores did on that play.

God, I wouldn't have wanted to be the defensive players in front of him at that moment. Thanks to Michael, Curtis made it about a yard into the end zone, and we went on to win the game 20-12.

After that, we won the state semifinal and championship games by wide margins, and the rest is history.

Last night, I learned that Michael Frank Moores died in a motorcycle accident.

Our paths took different directions after high school and, though always on friendly terms when we did meet, those occasions were infrequent.

Yet, I'm proud to say that Michael Moores was, and still is, a teammate of mine in this journey through life. No one can ever take that away.

And, knowing the man of integrity and sometimes intensity that he was, I have no doubt that the positive impact he had on my life and the lives of his other teammates on that 1967 Wallowa High School football team pales in comparison to the good he's done in the lives of countless others over the ensuing 40 years.

Only God knows the sum total of Michael Moores' achievements on this earth, and Michael couldn't be in better hands now.

Rocky Wilson is a resident of Spokane, Wash., and a former reporter for the Wallowa County Chieftain.

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