The road to Tacoma begins in earnest Friday for Greater Spokane League football teams.
And the journey to Milk Bowl – the culmination of state championship games in Idaho – also gets under way Friday.
Here’s a look at area teams and their matchups.
4A play-in games
Wenatchee Panthers (5-4)
When: Friday, Albi Stadium, 8 p.m.
Road to postseason: Wenatchee’s clinching win was a 34-17 decision over Davis. The Panthers lost to Columbia Basin Big Nine 4A champ Chiawana (28-0) last week and to runner-up Richland (31-19). Ferris clinched the Greater Spokane League’s top 4A seed with a 38-13 win over Gonzaga Prep.
Statistical leaders: The Panthers are led by running back Nolan Johnson (907 yards) and quarterback Cooper Helm (84 of 173; 1,003 yards; 13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions). The Saxons are led by RB Kole Heidinger (897 yards), QB Ben Goodwin (109 of 143; 1,274 yards; 18 TDs) and wide receivers Jordan Tonani (41 receptions, 472 yards) and Riley Stockton (34-461).
At a glance: The Panthers were picked to finish fifth in the CBBN after graduating 17 starters off a team that went undefeated in regular season. They’ve been up and down, and mostly down in recent weeks. They lost at Lake City 46-18 three weeks ago. The Saxons and Panthers met in a play-in opener last year with Ferris pulling off a 21-10 road victory. The Saxons, a big-strike team a year ago, have been powered by a balanced, drive-sustaining offense this year and a defense ranked No. 1 in the GSL.
Gonzaga Prep Bullpups (7-2)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Road to postseason: Richland finished second to league champ Chiawana. The Bombers’ lone loss was 17-7 to Chiawana. Richland was picked to win the CBBN. The Bullpups finished second to Ferris. They secured the runner-up spot with a big win over Central Valley.
Statistical leaders: Richland is led by RB Jake McKinney (1,507 yards, 21 TDs), second best in the CBBN, and QB Colter Quick (69 of 136; 914 yards; 7 TDs). G-Prep is led by RB Bishop Sankey (2,369 yards, 33 TDs).
At a glance: Richland is ranked fourth out of seven CBBN teams in offense and second in defense, allowing 1,001 yards rushing. The Bombers haven’t faced a back of Sankey’s caliber, though. The Bullpups fell behind 21-0 after one quarter to Ferris and discovered they couldn’t play catch up. They’ll need a better start on the road to pull out a win. Look for Sankey to have another big game and lead G-Prep to a rematch against Ferris.
Central Valley Bears (6-3)
When: Friday, 7
Road to postseason: Chiawana, in its second year and with its first senior class, didn’t have a game closer than a 17-7 win over Richland. CV clinched the final GSL postseason berth with wins over Mead and Lewis and Clark.
Statistical leaders: The Riverhawks are led by RB Jordan Downing (1,439 yards, 20 TDs) and QB Luc Graff (95 of 149; 1,395 yards; 14 TDs). The Bears are led by RB Brandon Garcia (882 yards, 13 TDs) and QB Gaven Deyarmin (51 of 109; 708 yards).
At a glance: Graff is the son of Chiawana coach Steve Graff, who built Pasco into a league power before moving to the city’s new school last year. Chiawana ranked first in the CBBN in defense and second in offense. The Riverhawks could cage up the Bears’ offense, which struggled in a 6-0 win over Lewis and Clark last week.
3A play-in games
University Titans (4-5)
When: Friday, 7
Road to postseason: The Titans finished second among GSL 3A teams – albeit a distant second. The Wildcats played for the league title last Friday, losing 30-15 to Kamiakin in a game not as close as the score would indicate.
Statistical leaders: The Titans are led by RB Jory Zettle (1,458 yards, 14 TDs). The Wildcats are led by QB Lucas McGill (69 of 142; 959 yards; 512 rushing) and RB Michael Perez (647 yards).
At a glance: U-Hi should benefit from playing four tough games against GSL 4A teams, not to mention Mt. Spokane. The Titans are coming off a 28-21 overtime win over Mead – which should provide a confidence boost. In addition to their loss to Kamiakin, the Wildcats lost to 4A Wenatchee (24-21) and Davis (32-7).
Kennewick Lions (7-2)
When: Friday, Albi Stadium, 5:30
Road to postseason: The Lions finished third among four CBBN 3A postseason qualifiers, securing their berth with a 35-14 win over Southridge. The Wildcats took second overall in the GSL and had their postseason book stamped by early October.
Statistical leaders: Kennewick is led by QB Drew Loftus (910 yards rushing and 1,295 passing to go with 27 combined TDs). Mt. Spokane is led by QB Carson Blumenthal (1,383 yards passing, 658 rushing).
At a glance: The Lions, measuring by margin of defeat, gave CBBN 3A champ Kamiakin (9-0) its closest game, falling 25-13. Their offense may be one-dimensional with just Loftus as the main threat. Although Blumenthal leads the Wildcats, they have a diverse offense.
Lake City Timberwolves (6-3)
When: Friday, 7
Road to postseason: Both teams beat Post Falls and Lewiston. The Vikings rallied to beat the T-Wolves 19-14 to capture the league title last week.
Statistical leaders: LC is led by RB Allen Carmichael (1,243 yards), who had 193 yards on 42 attempts last week. CdA is led by QB Chad Chalich (164 of 257; 2,208 yards; 27 TDs), who completed 25 of 38 passes for 258 yards and three TDs last week. Ten of those passes went to receiver Drew Turbin, including the winning TD.
At a glance: LC has been limited since losing QB Mark Smyly to a dislocated shoulder three weeks ago. So the burden to move the ball will be put on Carmichael’s shoulders again in the rematch. LC bottled up CdA RB Zach Keiser (40 yards) last week. The T-Wolves will have to stop Keiser again and contain Chalich to have a chance at an upset.
Skyview Hawks (7-2)
When: Friday, 7
Road to postseason: Skyview finished second in the Southern Idaho Conference, losing only to league champ Bishop Kelly, 15-13. Sandpoint defeated Lakeland (41-21) and Moscow 31-28 in double overtime last week.
Statistical leaders: Skyview is led by QB Hunter Hyde. Sandpoint is led by RB Anthony Gold (844 yards, seven TDs).
At a glance: The Bulldogs lost much to graduation off their state runner-up team a year ago. Gold, who suffered a stinger, missed two games before returning to provide a huge lift against Moscow. Skyview returned intact, with a team that missed the postseason by a game last year.