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Sports >  High school sports

Friday Night (High)Lights: Region sends 13 teams to state, most receive lower seed than RPI rating

UPDATED: Sun., Nov. 7, 2021

Gonzaga Prep defensive lineman Luke Miller (92) pulls visiting Chiawana running back Aiden Villarreal down to the turf on Nov. 5, 2021. G-Prep won the crossover game 34-14.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Gonzaga Prep defensive lineman Luke Miller (92) pulls visiting Chiawana running back Aiden Villarreal down to the turf on Nov. 5, 2021. G-Prep won the crossover game 34-14. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

No more jockeying for position. No more guesswork. No more confusion or indecision. It’s playoff time.

Last week’s games provided plenty of intrigue as playoff spots and seeds were still being determined. But we now know who made it (and didn’t), where they are seeded and who they’ll face in the state tournament brackets.

Let’s take a look back and a look forward as we jump right in to the playoffs.

(Dis)R-E-S-P-E-C-T

There were 13 teams from the paper’s traditional “delivery area” that made state. Of those, eight received a lower seed than their RPI rating, including Gonzaga Prep (RPI No. 5, seeded No. 6), Shadle Park (13-14) all three 1A teams and both 2B teams that qualified.

Dropping East Valley from the list, which had an RPI of 26 outside the seed range, seven of eight in the five biggest classifications received a lower seed than RPI rating, with only Mt. Spokane (RPI 18, seed 10) getting a better seed.

Only 1B – which had the first, second, fourth and eighth seeds – equaled or outperformed their RPIs.

I’m not accusing anyone of anything, and I know it’s a difficult job of seeding these brackets, especially with a reduction of nonleague and “marquee” matchups this season as we still wrestle with the pandemic.

In 2019 there was a more transparency with the seeding committees, considering there were some media – including independent media – on the committees, but media members were not invited to participate this year.

Per the WIAA website, “The RPI will be one tool utilized by the seeding committees to determine first round bracket pairings into the State Tournaments.” It doesn’t list the other tools. Why make such a big deal about RPI during the regular season if it’s not the determining factor?

Bullpups top dog

Gonzaga Prep showed again on Friday why it should be considered legit contenders this season. With the weather always dicey this time of year, the Pups showed they are built for the postseason with a 34-14 win over Chiawana in their District 8 crossover game.

The only real question going in was if the vaunted Gonzaga Prep defense could limit Chiawana’s UCLA-bound quarterback JP Zamora. The Pups more than limited the talented athlete – Zamora finished 9 of 17 for 75 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown after things were decided.

Chiawana’s most prolific play was rolling Zamora out to his right, and when he couldn’t find a receiver due to the blanket coverage, he’d try to weave his way past linebackers dropped into coverage. It worked on the Riverhawks’ first drive as he scrambled for a 12-yard touchdown, and he finished with 78 yards rushing. But his first-quarter score was his only real highlight of the evening.

Meanwhile, G-Prep rushed for 237 yards on 34 carries with six different back getting significant touches. Of course, they’re paced by quarterback Ryan McKenna, who has rushed for 1,346 yards and 18 TDs this year – and thrown for another nine.

Getting defensive

G-Prep wasn’t the only area team to flex its defensive muscles last week. Mt. Spokane generated five sacks and three interceptions in its round-of-32 win over Gig Harbor on Saturday.

The Cats offense had some tough sledding with the breezy conditions and stout Gig Harbor defense, but the Mt. Spokane defenders were downright brutal to their quests.

The line pressured quarterback Will Landram into mistakes all day and held him to 12-of-30 passing for 93 yards. Picks on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter, including Aiden Prado’s 60-yard return for a score, turned a nailbiter into a lopsided win.

Mt. Spokane’s RPI of 18 is hurt by its strength of schedule, but make no mistake – no one in 3A wants to draw the Cats early.

Survivor

East Valley qualified for the playoffs with a dramatic win in the 2A three-way tiebreaker. It’s their first postseason berth for coach Tom Griggs and first for the school since 2013.

The hero of the night was Alonzo Vargas, who kicked a 43-yard field goal to put the Knights up 10-0 in the second game against Clarkston – a game EV won 10-7.

Vargas, who doubles as an interior offensive and defensive lineman, straight-kicked it and bounced the kick off the crossbar and over to give the Knights the clinching insurance it needed.

Into the pool

The Northeast A League pools its two bids to state with the Caribou Trail League’s two, so that Districts 6 and 7 send four teams to state. It’s beneficial when one of the leagues has more than two obvious state-caliber teams, as was the case this year.

NEA champion Lakeside, second-place finisher Riverside and No. 3 Freeman all won their crossover games and head to state. All three were deserving this season and proved it when it was on the line – though all three received a lower seed than their RPI.

B sides

It was the same story in 2B, where Lind-Ritzville/Sprague and Davenport qualified for state but got lower seeds than RPI rating.

In the state’s smallest classification, Almira/Coulee-Hartline, Odessa and Pomeroy have been in the top 4 in RPI and polling all year and have been among the strongest teams in the state for the last several. You know second-seeded Odessa would love a shot at revenge against No. 1 ACH for its only loss this season.

Gem State update

And then there was one.

Top-seeded Sandpoint bounced No. 8 Shelley 21-14 on Friday to advance to a 4A state semifinal. They were the only North Idaho team to reach the final four this season, as Coeur d’Alene, Timberlake and Mullan all fell in quarterfinal games.

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