Spokane gets the defense and Kennewick gets the offense.
When the top two teams from the Greater Spokane League meet their counterparts from the Big Nine in the State 4A football playoffs today, the pairings just happen to match the teams who rely most on their defense at Albi Stadium and two offensive powers at Kennewick.
GSL champion Gonzaga Prep (9-1) faces Big Nine runner-up Kamiakin (8-2) at Albi at 2 p.m. Central Valley (9-1), which shared the GSL title with Prep but lost to the Bullpups, meets Big Nine champion Pasco (10-0) at 1 p.m. at Lampson Staidum.
“I think Kamiakin is going to have a tough time moving the ball on the ground against Gonzaga Prep and I think Prep can move the ball,” Lewis and Clark coach John Hook said. “I think it will be a good contest but I’d give the edge to Gonzaga Prep.”
Hook’s Tigers lost 23-7 at No. 10 Kamiakin Tuesday night while No. 6 Prep was eliminating Richland 30-6.
“I would give the edge to Central Valley, however there is no question Pasco is on a roll and they believe they can win,” Mead coach Bob McCray said.
McCray’s Panthers lost at No. 3 Pasco 42-29 while No. 7 Central Valley was trying not to give away the game against visiting Wenatchee, winning 21-14.
Today’s winners meet next Saturday in the quarterfinals, which will be in the Tri-Cities if either Big Nine team wins.
Kamiakin vs. Gonzaga Prep
The strength of both teams is defense.
“The reason they’re in the playoffs is they play great defense, particularly run defense,” Hook said of the Braves. “The strength of their run defense is their ability to run to the ball. They are very athletic up front; their front seven, four down linemen and three linebackers, run to the ball well. They’re not particularly big on defense. Their quickness would be similar to Gonzaga Prep’s on defense.”
The Braves only allowed 483 yards on the ground and 195 of those were by Pasco’s Jason Allen, who led the Big Nine with 1,124 yards.
Hook said the biggest defender is defensive end Brian Hollenberg, who weighs 239 pounds. All-leaguer Bill Bair, 6-2 and 270 pounds, anchors the offensive line.
The key is quarterback Eric Maki, who was third in the Big Nine with 1,210 yards, more than any GSL quarterback.
“They’re a physical inside running team. They rarely get the ball outside in their running game,” Hook said. Ryan Hughes, who led Kamiakin with 780 yards on the ground, broke an ankle in the LC game.
“Kamiakin is a very balanced team,” Hook said. “They don’t have any obvious weaknesses other than their kickoffs. Kickoffs are low and short, but other than that, they’re talented and well-coached.”
Central Valley vs. Pasco
Both teams last week won playoff games for the first time in school history and the only obvious difference is the Bulldogs have been able to win close games all year in a bid to become the fourth straight - and fourth different - Big Nine team to make the championship game.
“Here’s the deal,” McCray said, “The two teams don’t match up too well. Pasco has that speed on the edges; those are good athletes out there. Their deal has been to run the ball well enough so you have to honor the run and then go deep. They made some great catches but we didn’t tackle well.”
The focus for Pasco is quarterback Scott Biglin, who threw only two interceptions and those came in the meaningless regular-season finale. He finished with 1,553 yards and 16 touchdowns, which opens it up for Allen, who averaged 7 yards a carry and scored nine TDs.
The Bulldogs use both dropback and sprint-out packages.
Michael Mackay had 36 catches for 754 yards and 12 touchdowns.