Lane Dowell, 2005, 6 to use

Lane C Dowell


If one attended and participated in football as a Bremerton or West High Wildcat, mere mention of Room 8 stimulates a flood of memories. This was where the stage was set for what was appropriately called Chuck Football or Ground Chuck.

These identifying tags were attached to coach Chuck Semancik’s system long before a certain NFL coach brought his brand of rough and tumble ball to the Seahawks.

Pre-game, halftime and post-game performances could be quite entertaining in Room 8 as the wily mentor endeavored to keep the intensity level high and make corrections in the ‘Cats performance. Here, the spotlight shown on one man, veteran Washington state Coaches Association Hall of Fame coach Chuck Semancik.

To call Room 8 a classroom may be a push. It was more of a holding pen for Wildcat boys, costumed in their rag tag PE gear awaiting the signal from physical educator Chuck Semancik to “play ball.”

If you were allowed to register for 6th period PE, it meant you were a candidate for next year’s Blue and Gold varsity football team. The curriculum for this class was to run the plethora of offensive plays from the variety of formations that comprised Ground Chuck.

To pass the ball was akin to buying a winning lotto ticket. It just did not happen.

Defense consisted of lining up in a 52 Oakie with an occasional Eagle look.

Coach Semancik figured if we were tougher than our opponents we did not need a lot of frills. Just go out and knock ‘em down…play tough…be tough!

The foundation of Bremerton football was physical play. Win or lose if the ‘Cats did not play a very physical brand of ball…well, let’s just say that it was not pleasant to be around Chuck.

Never was coach Semancik’s obsession for mental and physical toughness more evident than when we took on the Rams of Tacoma’s Wilson High coached by Chuck’s old college rival Harry Byrd. These epic battles were a site to behold. They were truly a war, just like when Semancik, a lineman for Washington State, faced his nemesis, Byrd, who wore the colors of the University of Washington, in the Apple Cup.

None personified the wily old-school mentor’s desired toughness more than the 1970 Blue and Gold eleven, that on a crisp fall evening engaged a huge Rams’ squad comprised of future college prospects. Coach Semancik’s West Bremerton High School squad was physically dwarfed by the behemoths from Tacoma, who, in many cases, out-weighed them by 50 or more pounds.

That Wildcats’ team never, NEVER succumbed, and left its heart on the muddy field as the scoreboard registered a convincing victory for the Rams. The post-game atmosphere in the visitor’s locker room was unique. A cloak of silence prevailed as Semancik, the veteran ball coach, quietly put his arms around many and silently whispered words remembered only by his boys, who that night gave it their all.

They were really tough!

I have also seen a furious Semancik, in the wake of a 50-point ‘Cats triumph, lambaste his young warriors for a lack of toughness. If you wore the Blue and Gold you were expected to play tough, no matter what the numbers were on the board.

Yes, Chuck, we were really tough!

Chuck Semancik

Chuck Semancik



On a stormy late fall Friday under the lights our undefeated 1973 team executed a near flawless first half in a contest with an arch rival. Never wanting his players to become complacent, the veteran leader found a rather unusual manner to demonstrate he was still intense and expected a complete game from his “fellas.”

None were immune from an expression of the hall of farmer’s intensity and the desired toughness that would normally net another “W” for West High. Chuck silenced a rather flippant intermission by rather demonstratively showing our student manager how to clean the mud from cleats that had slogged through the quagmire as Ground Chuck rolled to a 42-0 lead.

Message delivered.

After receiving the usual “three and three” warning from a cautious official, Semancik delivered to a now stone-faced squad.

“All right fellas, remember its zero to zero,” He said.

Our opponent’s score at game’s end was a big goose egg.

Pre-game, halftime and post-game in Room 8 were quite a ritual that drew a large crowd outside. On many an occasion the wily old fox could be heard on the east side of the Washington Narrows.

It was the unspoken duty of a rookie assistant coach to pull the shades as the ‘Cats entered legendary Room 8, the halftime gathering place of decades of successful Bremerton elevens, to hear Semancik’s assessment of the contest.

Any sophomore lucky enough to suit for a varsity contest learned those who played, mostly the seniors, ALWAYS, sat in the very back of the room where Chuck could not get at them. The sophomores, who were toughened as cannon fodder, took their seats near the front and often found a large ham-like fist grabbing their face masks or…

I will always recall the halftime when I first saw the historic HOF mentor demonstrate how he wanted his offensive line to fire off the ball. Chuck assumed his lineman’s stance and with a still quick step, fired low and hard into the big oak teacher’s desk, causing it to leap across Room 8. He confidently rose, stood tall, hat cocked back on his balding forehead, barrel chest pushed out and firmly stated, “Let’s go.”

As the Blue and Gold eagerly filed from Room 8, the underclassmen appeared to have the look of survival in their wide eyes. The game-players, filled with let-me-at-‘em, charged from the iconic space with a rekindled spirit. A large heavily dented, dark green, trash barrel appeared to draw a sigh of relief as if it had escaped halftime without another wound.

Message well sent!

In the afterglow of another Wildcat win, I crept back into Room 8 to see how heavy Chuck’s desk was. It was almost immovable.

Yes, in so many ways Coach Semancik typified the stereotype of the old-school football coach. He was the Bear, Lombardi, and other leather-tough mentors of the past. But, he was also the same man that would stuff, without a word, five bucks into the pocket of a fledgling assistant coach a few days prior to the monthly pay period.

We still attend our favorite brand of football, high school ball every weekend. Right before kickoff I can’t help getting a bit nostalgic as memories of my mentor flood my mind.

I am back in Room 8 and can see the intensity etched on Chuck’s face. Room 8 is deafly silent with the exception of Chuck’s deep voice, punctuated by occasionally clearing his throat.

The electricity crackles as he always finishes his pre-game talk with the starting offensive lineup. “Uummm, O’Brien, you take that halfback spot…”

I never heard a parent complain about the methodology of one of the winningest coaches in our state’s history. They knew Chuck was there for their kid. He achieved victory after victory on the scoreboard, but most importantly he molded winners that were tough and could deal with the hurdles they might face after taking off the Wildcat jersey for the last time.

I will ALWYAS recall the last words Chuck uttered to me, four days prior to his passing.

“We were really tough, weren’t we!” Chuck said.

This was NOT a question.

God Bless YOU, Chuck.

You are a gem!

We were really tough!!!