TORRINGTON – A get-together last summer with Karen and Howard Eisenhower and Gregg and Bev Burroughs eventually led to something much larger.
Over the course of the meal, the topic of a reunion came up, celebrating the Torrington High School’s 1988 state football championship.
“We were talking about how much fun it would be to get together,” Gregg Burroughs said.
One thing led to another and a handful of coaches met up at a recent gathering held at the Lincoln Community Complex to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1988 state championship winning Torrington Trailblazers football team who finished the season undefeated.
Also taking part in the reunion were the Torrington Middle School coaches.
“They had a huge part in that (season),” Burroughs said.
When he looks back on that team, one word came to his mind – tough.
“The thing about those kids, they were tough, tough kids,” Burroughs said. “They weren’t big. We didn’t have a lot of team speed. They were just hard-working, tough kids. They had a vision and a dream, and they made it come true.”
That year, the Blazers went 10-0, defeating Star Valley 12-3 in the semifinals and Worland 6-0 in the state title game under the guidance of head coach Doug Bartlett.
The Star Valley team had a young man by the name of Rulon Gardner who would later go on to win an Olympic gold medal in the sport of wrestling.
“We beat an unbelievable Afton-Star Valley team that year,” Burroughs said. “They were huge.”
In that game, he remembered Tad Oaks – the Blazers starting left tackle – breaking his leg and how two seniors – Jacinto Garcia and Jim Foster – filled that gap the following week in the state championship game.
“They had never started a game,” Burroughs said. “Jacinto played defense and Jimmy played offense. It was an unbelievable story. You talk about perseverance. Those were the kind of kids we had. It was a special group.”
It was the team’s first state football championship.
“It was a dog fight,” Burroughs said of the game.
Jason Nickal punched in the only score of the game’s in the closing seconds before halftime on a dive play up the middle.
The 1988 season was the start of a special run for the Blazers.
“We made the playoffs next seven, eight, nine years,” Burroughs said. “We played for three or four more state championships.”
Torrington went on to win it all again in 1990 but came up short in 1992 and 1996.