Sunday, July 1, 2007

What's In A Name - High School Sports

It would be a perfect world if we had the pleasure to witness a Friday night gridiron battle between the Gophers and the Honkers. Or perhaps an exciting volleyball match between the Aardvarks and the Locomotives. The unusual nicknames among Oregon high schools, 6A-1A, bring a chuckle with the possibilities of humorous match-ups. The nicknames fit the historical figure the school was named for, the characteristics of the town, or are just flat-out off the wall. Many schools decide on more traditional names like Eagles (15 teams), Tigers (13 teams) or Warriors (12 teams), but it’s the imaginative ones that make high school sports fun.

In Your Honor
For some schools, simply naming their building after a famous figure just wasn’t enough. Be it politician, botanist, or soldiers, several schools paid double-homage to their inspiration. The majority of the schools named after people in history books are the larger schools (6A-5A).

Madison Senators (5A): This PIL school has a bizarro-world nickname compared to its political peers. It’s a great nickname, except for one thing: James Madison was never a senator. The unfitting name is somewhat laughed upon by the faculty, who are always left scratching their heads trying to figure out why “Senators” is painted all around the school.

David Douglas Scots (6A): David Douglas was a famous botanist (studier of plants), who made his way to the Pacific Northwest from his hometown in Scone, Scotland. This famous Scotsman, whom the Douglas Fir is named after, made enough impact on the Northwest to get honored by the Mt. Hood Conference school.

Roosevelt Roughriders (5A): As one of the four faces on Mount Rushmore, Teddy Roosevelt’s chubby mug and thick mustache is well-known by South Dakotans. However, the PIL school decided to give credit to Roosevelt’s Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, who fought in his Spanish-American War. That group, nicknamed “Rough Riders”, consisted of over a thousand soldiers.

Others: Franklin Quakers (6A-PIL), Grant Generals (6A-PIL), Jefferson Democrats (5A-PIL), Marshall Minutemen (5A-PIL), McLoughlin Pioneers (4A-Greater Oregon)

Location, Location, Location

While the big city school’s nicknames have little to do with the community, the smaller town teams get a little more personal when it comes to their label. Whether it’s the coastal towns or the schools in Eastern Oregon, some teams decide on localized nicknames.

Lakeview Honkers (2A): One thought instantly comes to mind seeing “Honkers” on the Southern Cascade team’s jerseys. What in the world is a Honker? The town of Lakeview, located in South/Central Oregon, chose of a nickname brings curiosity. A honker is slang for a Canada goose (above - picture from, which the rural town has an abundance of. The sports teams play a school from Tulelake, CA, also nicknamed Honkers. Is there anything better than a Honkers vs. Honkers match-up?

Huntington Locomotives (1A): The town of 515 (2000 census) located right on the Snake River carries a school (High Desert League) with a one-of-a-kind nickname when it comes to Oregon. Despite its diminutive size, the town of Huntington use to be a center of train transportation in the Northwest. Huntington has been important railroad town since 1884 when the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company made it their normal workstation.

South Wasco County Redsides (1A): This small school located in the town of Maupin got its nickname from the occupants of near-by Deschutes River. A redside is not a member of the British Army, but a kind of rainbow trout that lives exclusively in the Deschutes River. The waterway is so near-by, that it is visible from the school’s football field.

Others: Oregon City Pioneers (6A-TRL), Klamath Union Fighting Pelicans (5A-Southern Sky), Pendleton Buckaroos (5A-Intermountain), Springfield Millers (5A-Midwestern), Astoria Fisherman (4A-Cowapa), Seaside Seagulls (4A-Cowapa), Tillamook Cheesemakers (4A-Cowapa), Pleasant Hill Billies (4A-Sky-Em), Toledo Boomers (3A-PacWest), Rainier Columbians (3A-Lewis and Clark), Vernonia Loggers (3A-Lewis and Clark), Knappa Loggers (2A-Northwest), Scio Loggers (2A-Tri-River), Mapleton Sailors (1A-Mountain West), St. Paul Buckaroos (1A-CasCo)

Off the Wall
Obviously Oregon is rich with tradition when it comes to school’s unusual nicknames, but there are some that are just plain head-scratchers. Whether it’s named after the town guard, ripped names from the newspaper, a dedication, or whatever the background, there are some that are simply fun.

Grants Pass Cavemen (6A): For the athletes of Grants Pass, the primitive
label is remembered every time they enter the town. There was a group of people, known as the Oregon Cavemen, who wanted to promote tourism to the city. About two years later, the mascot stuck with the high school for good. In a 1922 fundraiser, businessmen walked down the street with the caveman attire (furs, animal skins, and a club) which donned the city with its Neanderthal theme. In fact, there is a giant statue of a caveman (right - picture from that guards the entrance to the city.

North Medford Black Tornado (6A): If this was a Texas school, the Tornado tag would make sense. Oregon, on the other hand, is not famous for their whirlwinds. Who would have thought, though, that one football game would change the school’s history? North Medford, who has more football wins than any school in Oregon history, played a game up north and came away with a victory. The headline the next day: “Medford goes through [opponent] like a black tornado.” The rest is history.

Sprague Olympians (6A): This one is unusual because, well, I’m still waiting for the Olympics to come to Oregon. However, the school was built in the same year of the 1972 Olympics held in Munich, Germany. Tragedy ruled supreme in the gathering of nations, as terrorists killed eleven Israeli athletes and a German police officer. While the incident lives in infamy, Sprague High School and its athletics pay tribute by wearing “Olympians” on their chest.

Others: Sunset Apollos (6A-Metro), South Eugene Axemen (6A-Southwest), South Salem Saxons (6A-Central Valley), Gresham Gophers (6A- Mt. Hood), Bend LavaBears (5A-Intermountain), The Dallas-Wahtonka EagleIndians (5A-Intermountain), Grant Union Prospectors (3A- Eastern Oregon), Oregon Episcopal Aardvarks (3A-Lewis and Clark), Cascade Christian Challengers (2A-Southern Cascade), Gaston Greyhounds (2A-Northwest), Oakland Oakers (2A-Mountain View), Weston-McEwen TigerScots (2A-Blue Mountain)

Story by Jesse Severson

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