For most teams, State 2A and 2B football playoff games tonight and Saturday will be pretty much old hat.
It’s a new experience for West Valley.
The Eagles’ (10-0) last state appearance was 22 years ago during a run that included eight trips between 1975 and 1987, including three finals appearances.
They qualified for a play-in game with the CWAC league in 2007. But today’s 7 p.m. game against visiting Selah (8-2) ends a long state drought.
In other games today, 2A postseason perennial Clarkston (5-5) earned its second trip in three years and is at No. 1-ranked Ellensburg (10-0). In 2B, Reardan (5-3) is making its ninth straight trip, to No. 1 La Salle (10-0) in Yakima’s Marquette Stadium.
Colville (6-4) makes its seventh state appearance in eight years in Othello (8-2) and plays the Huskies for the fourth consecutive year Saturday in 2A play. Colfax (9-0), No. 2 among 2B schools and semifinalist last year, hosts Waitsburg-Prescott (9-1) as part of nearly all-Eastern Washington half bracket.
WV coach Craig Whitney said Selah, even though a third seed, is as good as any team in the CWAC. The Vikings lost 7-3 to Othello and 19-0 to Ellensburg. State staple Prosser missed the playoffs for the first time in 22 years.
“Selah is very good defensively and up front the lines on both sides of the ball (featuring 6-foot-4, 230-pound tackle/defensive end Jake Lunceford) are good,” Whitney said. “They have skilled kids who run well. We’ve got a big test ahead of us.”
Tanner Fife is the leading rusher. Trent Douglass has passed for more than 1,000 yards out of a shotgun spread offense and two-way All-CWAC Quincy Davis is the leading receiver.
WV quarterback Drew Clausen also poses problems, passing for 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns, and rushing for 720 and 11 TDs. Dylan Ellsworth (720 yards) and Chris Smith (more than 600) make for a balanced ground game. Sam Schoesler, Mitch Peterson, Clinton Gregg and Ryan Dahlstrom are Clausen’s targets.
“We need to get off the ball up front, match their physicality, hold onto the football and match their intensity and speed,” Whitney said. “If we do that, we’ve got a real chance.”
Clarkston finished second and fast-closing Colville forced and won a three-way playoff for the GNL’s third state berth.
“Two words, Austin Pete,” Colville coach Randy Cornwell said of the player who suffered a season-ending head injury and inspired his teammates. “It was such a tragic deal, the kids wanted to play for him. It just galvanized our whole team.”
With Sawyer Bardwell at quarterback in place of injured Jade Dorman, Colville won its last three games, scarcely having to punt, and won the three-team tiebreaker, confident in its successes in five past overtime games over two years.
“What are the odds?” Cornwell asked of facing the same team in the playoffs four years. The Indians beat Othello at home in 2006, lost by a touchdown the next two years and now the two meet again. “It’s typical Othello. It’s a tough team, plays good defense and loves to run the ball.”
Whose son is he?
Colfax coach Mike Morgan kidded Waitsburg-Prescott coach Jeff Bartlow that dangerous QB Zach Bartlow must belong to Bartlow’s wife.
“I told him, ‘No way that boy’s yours, He’s an athlete,’ ” Morgan said.
Then whose son is Colfax tight end Kellen Morgan?
“On a good night, he’s a chip off the old block,” said dad and coach. “When he doesn’t play well, he’s his mother’s boy.”
The Morgan Bulldogs open against the Bartlows in a rugged half-bracket. Seven eastern schools have a combined 56-10 record. In a tiebreaker among Waitsburg-Prescott, DeSales and last year’s state runner-up, Asotin, Asotin was left home from District 9.
The Colfax defensive front (and also offensive line along with center Austin Neu), Ryan Conrad, Tyler Morse, Sam Mellor and 6-7, 280-pound junior Tuffy Hickman, set the tone, pitching three shutouts. Of the 112 points allowed this year, half came in the fourth quarter when the subs were in.
Colfax averaged 40.3 points per game. Alex Teade completed 62 of 94 passes for 1,044 yards and 10 TDs, and added 211 yards and nine scores on the ground. With Tyler McNannay (7.6 rushing average) coming back after being sidelined by injury for three games, sophomore Alvin Li (57 carries, 542 yards) emerged.
With fullback Stetson Steiger, the Bulldogs have a “four-headed monster” running game.
But Morgan is wary.
“Like my father always told me, if you play better than the other team you’re going to win,” he said. “It’s one and done and we have to play right.”