Teams that somewhat mirror each other square off tonight in the first round of State 4A and 3A football playoffs.
Greater Spokane League champion Mt. Spokane (9-1) travels to Fran Rish Stadium in Richland against Hanford (4-6) and late-charging Ferris (7-3) hosts Kamiakin (8-2) at Albi Stadium. Both games are at 7.
It’s unlikely, given comparative scores, that last year’s state-qualifying barnburner – won by the Wildcats 42-39 in the game’s final minutes – will be repeated.
East Valley, which lost to Mt. Spokane 56-0, jumped to a 21-0 lead when it played Hanford. EV led the Falcons 21-10 in the fourth quarter before giving up a couple of touchdowns and losing by three points. The Wildcats also beat Sunnyside much easier than did Hanford.
“They’re probably not the team they were last year,” Mt. Spokane coach Mike McLaughlin said of Hanford. “The quarterback and running back last year were two special players. But it is hard to determine until you see them on the field.”
The field holds fond memories for the Wildcats, he said.
“That is where this team really grew up and got a spark,” McLaughlin said.
The defensive focus against Hanford will be on stopping the run. McLaughlin said the Falcons run more than last year, when the Wildcats had trouble with the ground game. “Their quarterback is the key to the offense,” he said.
“We’ve been playing well,” McLaughlin said. “We just need to protect the football, protect the quarterback and make plays on special teams. That’s what we’ve done for five weeks.”
“They’re hot right now,” Ferris coach Jim Sharkey said of Kamiakin, which has won five straight.
Sharkey said Kamiakin receiver Tim White is the “real deal,” comparable to Ferris’ Jason Bates, but the Saxons’ defense can’t overlook other receivers. The same could be said for the Braves, who face a deep Ferris receiving corps.
Sharkey said Braves QB Corey Hutchinson throws well and came up with big plays against Central Valley in the 21-0 win last week.
As has been the case all season, the Saxons must avoid turnovers, Sharkey said.
“We moved the football well last week against a good Wenatchee defense,” he said. “We had a couple of plays called back and had 10 (pass) drops or we’d have put up big numbers.”
Sharkey’s main concern is that a couple of starting linemen will miss the game. Dillon Beschel tore a meniscus and is out for the season.
“It’s too bad for him,” Sharkey said. “He’s a kid who loves football.”
Russell Stinson has been out since the Lewis and Clark game because of injury. But sophomore Joe Arguinchona has been a quick learner.