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LRS seniors want to go out with another title

The State 2B football championship game is chock-full of storylines.

First, there’s the rematch when the defending state champ Lind-Ritzville/Sprague Broncos (12-0) face the Morton-White Pass Timberwolves (12-0) at the Tacoma Dome on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is at 4.

Second, it’s No. 1-ranked MWP against No. 2 LRS.

Third, there’s the revenge factor. LRS came from behind late last year to knock off MWP 21-19 after converting on a fourth-and-19 situation during the winning drive.

Fourth, there’s the winning streak. The Broncos have won 25 straight since the start of last year.

Fifth, there are the seniors for both teams. The Broncos’ seniors expect to end the season just like their previous 25 games. The Timberwolves’ seniors are in their third straight state final, having lost to Waitsburg-Prescott two years ago, so they want a different ending.

Sixth, and certainly not the final storyline, the game should be nothing short of entertaining.

Last year, the Broncos limped into the game with a patchwork offensive line. They were down two all-league linemen and LRS coach Greg Whitmore converted two running backs, one a freshman, into linemen for the final.

“We’re much healthier this year,” Whitmore said.

MWP’s passing game has improved greatly this year behind quarterback Rylon Kolb. He’s thrown for 1,717 yards, completing passes at a 65 percent clip. He has 22 touchdowns.

The Timberwolves’ running game, behind a big line, is led by Brian Reynolds, who has 1,295 yards and 21 TDs. Kolb also has rushed for 637 yards and 14 TDs.

“They want to run the ball first,” Whitmore said. “They want to play physical and pound it at you.”

The Broncos’ statistics are similar. Senior quarterback Dylan Hartz, a three-year starter, has thrown for 1,408 yards and 25 TDs. Both quarterbacks have just three interceptions.

LRS’s ground game is led by three-year starter Connor O’Neill, who has 1,043 yards and 18 TDs. Four other Broncos have 338 or more yards rushing.

Senior wide receiver Ryan Whitmore – the coach’s son, a three-year starter and nice target at 6-foot-7 – has a team-high 25 receptions for 455 yards and 11 TDs. O’Neill has 24 catches and junior Cort Ruzicka has 23.

Both teams have stingy defenses.

“There are a lot of the same faces,” Whitmore said. “Some people say the pressure’s on us and some say the pressure’s on them. It’s not about the win streak. The boys want to keep the trophy here. For the senior class, it’s their last game. How do you want to go out? To win two in a row would be special.”

Whitmore knows his team must play well.

“We’ve got to play our rears off,” he said. “I’m going to go to my grave saying this is the best team that’s ever played here. We’re really not lacking anything. I feel great about our health, about how we’re playing and about how we’re coaching. We feel like we’ve come up with a good game plan.”

Whitmore expects everything the Timberwolves can offer.

“We have the utmost respect for our opponent,” he said. “This is the third time in a row they’ve been in the title game. Think about how their seniors are feeling. They have to feel some extra motivation. They have a lot of pride. We’ll have to play as good as we can to win the game.”

And there’s the fact it’s the last game together for coach and son.

“It’s going to be pretty emotional,” the coach said. “I’m so attached to these seniors. I’ve been with most of them since Pee Wee basketball in third grade.”

If rankings mean anything, it’s a true one-against-two matchup.

“(MWP) has been ranked No. 1 all season and we love it,” Whitmore said. “Polls are totally meaningless until the end of the year. There’s no validity in them. We don’t want to be No. 1 until after the final game.”