CAMAS VALLEY — The Wolfes and Dancers are two families that have enriched Camas Valley High School’s football history.
Eli Wolfe, in his 19th season as the Hornets’ head football coach, and Pete Dancer, an assistant for Wolfe since 2006, were both starters on the 1990 Camas Valley team that won the Class 1A eight-man state championship.
Their sons also played on C.V. state title teams in 2011 and 2012.
Eli Wolfe Jr. was a tailback/linebacker on both those squads; Kai Wolfe, a running back/linebacker, was a member of both; Ryan Dancer was a quarterback/linebacker on the 2011 club; and Brad Dancer, an end/linebacker, played on both.
Ryan Dancer and Eli Wolfe Jr. were both 1A Player of the Year honorees.
Eli Wolfe and Pete Dancer are the oldest of three brothers from each family who have played football for the Hornets. Forrest and Garay Wolfe followed Eli, while Scott and Eric Dancer followed Pete.
As much as winning a state crown as players meant to Eli Wolfe and Pete Dancer, seeing their sons be a part of title teams later on was even better.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said Eli Wolfe, a 44-year-old who has a 120-57 career record at Camas Valley after Saturday’s Special District 2 West home game against Riddle, a 56-0 victory (see story, D2). “When you put so much time and effort into something ... to watch the kids be successful and watch it come to fruition, it was extremely special to watch those guys.
“They’re the ones who dedicated and committed themselves. Being on the sideline with Pete and watching our boys win a state championship is pretty special — something I’ll remember forever.”
Pete Dancer, 45, shared similar thoughts.
“Words are hard to describe the joy that I got from watching my boys be state champions,” he said. “They were solid kids, hard workers. They probably put more effort into it than I did. They had a lot of natural talent, but also had a great work ethic. To watch them follow in my footsteps, I couldn’t have been more proud.”
Pete Dancer, a 1991 graduate of Camas Valley, and Eli Wolfe, class of 1993, look back at their playing days fondly.
The Hornets defeated Prairie City, 26-6, in the 1990 state final on Dec. 1 at Oregon State University’s Parker Stadium (now Reser Stadium) in Corvallis.
Camas Valley finished 9-2 overall under Bob Phelps. The Hornets lost their Skyline Seven League opener at Butte Falls and finished second behind the Loggers in the league standings. But they got sweet payback in the state semifinals, beating Butte Falls 18-8 at home.
Pete Dancer, a senior, was a 6-foot-1, 164-pound end/linebacker and started both ways. Eli Wolfe, a sophomore, was a 5-8, 155-pound running back/safety and started on defense.
Dancer was one of nine seniors on the team that year. Among the talents were running back Brandon Wiegman, quarterback Vic Baker and lineman Larry Lucido.
“It was a great experience,” said Dancer, who was a first-team all-league selection on both sides. “I love the fact I ended up as a state champion. You never have any regrets when you finish on top.
“We were a senior-dominated team. We had size, speed and toughness. We had to overcome some adversity with having some guys make some bad decisions during the middle of the season, but in the end we prevailed.
“(Bob Phelps) was my neighbor for years, so I knew him since I was a little kid. I really enjoyed him. He was hard on me at times, but it was what I needed. He gave me a lot of responsibility and helped me into a leadership role. He’s somebody I still look up to as shaping part of my life.”
Wolfe says the 1990 team had leadership and talent.
“Coach Phelps did a great job of bringing us together,” he said. “He had us so prepared. The leaders on that team is what I remember the most. Guys like Pete and Vic (Baker), they demanded the best out of you every day. It was an honor and pleasure to play on that team.”
Wolfe hasn’t forgotten one moment — not exactly a highlight for him — from the title contest.
“I was the one who got scored on (against Prairie City), and was the first Camas Valley football player to give up a touchdown in the state championship game (at the time),” he said with a smile. “I’ll never forget the look — I played right behind Pete, he was a linebacker right in front of me. After they scored, Pete looked at me and said, ‘don’t let that happen again’. I was a sophomore shaking in my boots, but it didn’t happen again.”
Wolfe called Dancer a “scrappy” player.
“I didn’t get a lot of tackles because he got them all,” Wolfe said. “If they ran our way he was like a vacuum cleaner. He was hard to block and believe it or not he was quick. A lot of fun to play with. I’ve always respected the way he’s gone about the game.”
Wolfe was the starting quarterback for the Hornets his last two high school seasons, playing for Dave Geddes his senior year. C.V. lost to eventual state champion St. Paul in the semifinals both years.
Wolfe was a first-team all-league quarterback, linebacker and kicker as a senior.
“I learned a lot from coach Phelps and coach Geddes,” Wolfe said. “Demanding excellence, what’s expected of us. Probably the biggest thing is what is your role on this team? You’re not always going to love your role, but you’re always going to accept this role. I’ve carried that over with these guys.”
Wolfe and Dancer have known each other since grade school.
“I wouldn’t call Eli a friend in high school, he was a bit of a punk,” Dancer said, chuckling. “I get along better with him now. He’s a great guy. He’s still a 16-year-old at heart, but has matured a lot.
“What he allows me to do (as a coach) — as far as showing up (to practice) at 5 or 5:30, sliding in sideways — and still gives me credit for what I do. He gives me responsibilities other coaches may not, for as little time as I’ve spent with it.
“He puts a lot of time into it. These kids don’t know how lucky they’ve got it, having him as a head coach.”
Wolfe calls the offense and Dancer runs the defense.
“It’s a good cop, bad cop,” the head coach said. “The kids will probably tell you it’s bad cop, bad cop. I respect Pete a lot. He’s probably the least technical coach you’ll ever find. He just says go find that ball and let’s get after it. Our defense is always prepared. These kids are always in the right position — whether they make the tackle or not is on them.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to coach with Pete. At times we agree to disagree, but at the end of the day we love each other and I look up to him a lot. He’s like an older brother to me and I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else.”
This year’s Camas Valley team includes Eli Wolfe’s youngest son, Bryson, a senior who’s the starting quarterback and safety. Forrest Wolfe’s son, River, is a freshman running back/linebacker.
The Hornets came into the game ranked No. 6 in the OSAAtoday 1A coaches’ poll.
“I started doing this before Bryson was born,” Eli Wolfe said. “This is all he’s ever been around and known, is Camas Valley football. All my kids were ballboys; my daughter (Brooklyn) takes stats, my wife (Kirsten) takes stats, so it’s been a family affair. It’s hard to see it come to an end, but all good things come to an end. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Eli Wolfe, who’s a field sales representative for Oregon Lottery, and Pete Dancer, a part-owner of Dancer Logging, aren’t sure how long they’re going to stick around and coach the Hornets. But you can tell they’ve had a blast.
“It’s the kids,” Dancer said. “At first, I really got into coaching for my boys, to make sure they had a good experience. Since my boys have graduated I’ve enjoyed coaching even more. I don’t have to be a dad, just be a coach. I’ve enjoyed being a part of their lives.”
Wolfe offered his take.
“We don’t do this for wins and losses,” he said. “We do this to try and make these young guys into men and hope they make good choices as they move on. The most rewarding part is if they invite you to their wedding, call you if they’ve had a kid. I’ve had an opportunity to officiate a couple of their weddings.
“To have them tell you that they go about life the same way they go about football. Playing in a small town like this, there’s a brotherhood and it’s just fun to watch that as they continue to grow older.”