TACOMA – When Spokane-area football teams take center stage during the Gridiron Classic today at the Tacoma Dome they’ll be facing teams that mirror themselves.
Ferris completes the four-game day at 7:30 p.m. for the State 4A championship against Skyline. Both teams have a spread-offense style as the game pits the top two quarterbacks in the state, Washington State-bound Connor Halliday of the Saxons against Skyline’s Jake Heaps, headed to Brigham Young.
West Valley plays for the 2A championship at 10 a.m. against Lynden. Both teams rely heavily on the running and passing of their quarterbacks.
Unbeaten teams Colfax and Adna square off in the 4 p.m. 2B title game, a clash of teams with colorful coaches who put their faith in the efforts of their linemen.
•4A: It’s been a busy week for Ferris and coach Jim Sharkey. Following last Saturday afternoon’s win over Skyview in Spokane, the coaches flew to Tacoma to watch Skyline and Bothell play.
“It was a fun trip until the game started,” Sharkey said. “Skyline is so good and Bothell was the same. It was an amazing football game coming down to special teams mistakes.”
Early in the week, the Saxons traveled to the Kibbie Dome in Moscow to get a feel for playing indoors. Tonight, back in Tacoma, it’s time for the real thing.
Skyline’s losses were to Oaks Christian in California, 28-25, and to Bothell, 25-20, in league play before winning the rematch by five points in the semifinals. Most of its wins were lopsided.
What impressed Sharkey most about the Spartans, who are seeking a third straight state title, was not necessarily Heaps or receiver Kasen Williams, who was a major factor on defense as well in last year’s 24-21 semifinal victory over the Saxons. It is their defensive front seven, which he said has no weakness.
“They are scary good,” Sharkey said. “And offensively they are under center more. They have a huge playbook that’s more diverse than anyone in state.”
In four postseason games, Ferris has done a good job of offensive execution. The Saxons minimized mistakes (Halliday has thrown just one interception), going from minus-4 during the regular season to plus-8 in turnover ratio in the playoffs. Sharkey hopes the trend continues and the Saxons prevent big plays.
“We were so close the last two seasons, this is just a great reward for our seniors,” he said of the school’s first state football final.
•2A: Lynden quarterback Jordan Hastings, who has rushed and passed for more than 3,000 yards this year, had no intention of pursing football or his schooling beyond this year.
“He’s changed his mind on that,” said Lions coach Curt Kramme. “Our quarterback has been a very good player for us.”
What scares him about West Valley is the Eagles’ QB, Drew Clausen. Like Hastings, Clausen will run or pass, but what makes him especially dangerous is what he’s done after a play breaks down.
“He is a phenomenal athlete and very creative,” Kramme said. “He makes a lot of plays out of nothing and will be difficult for us to defend.”
“Drew is fantastic,” WV coach Craig Whitney said. “Hopefully, he will play in college somewhere.”
But like all football teams, the quarterbacks are only as good as their linemen. Kramme said he has always maintained that the offensive line is the key to football success. Lynden has seven starting linemen back from last year’s state-title team.
Lynden, in its third final in four years, averages more than 260 pounds on the line, including 300-pound sophomore Taylor Witman on one side and 275-pound guard Donovan Gratton and 270-pound tackle Marcus VanVoorst on the other. Marcus’ twin, Matthew, is the center.
The defense has pitched five shutouts and allowed double-digit scores five times, same as the Eagles.
“They are a tough, tough opponent and have been there before,” Whitney said. “They say they are way more impressive in person than on film. We had a coach watch who told us the same thing. We will go with all guns loaded and do battle.”
“It will be quite a game, I suspect,” Kramme said.
•2B: Adna coach KC Johnson wondered if Colfax coach Mike Morgan said that when the two teams played, it would be like looking into a mirror. Yes, Morgan did.
“They come at you with those big corn-fed linemen,” Johnson said. “We’re really strong up front. That’s going to be the interesting thing about this game.”
Both have veteran teams that dedicated themselves to the weight room to exorcise the memory of past playoff shortfalls and earn a trip to the finals. Colfax may be more I-veer oriented and Adna a little more spread, but otherwise both boast stingy 4-3 defenses, powerful kickers, a good running game and versatile quarterbacks in Alex Teade and Kyle Grosshans. Both programs have long histories of success.
“I think this will be the first time all year they’ve had a team that can match them,” Johnson said. “This one is going to be a great game – one of the best matchups in a 2B championship game in a long time.”