The state football playoffs are down to the final four in each of the six classifications and just two teams from the region remain in the running.
Thursday’s holiday gives a chance to give thanks for all the great high school football competition we saw this season.
They’re already playing basketball in Idaho, and Washington will catch up on that soon, but let’s take a look back at the season that was in the Greater Spokane League and across the region.
The GSL had several outstanding team performances, led by quarterfinal appearances by 4A Gonzaga Prep and 3A Mt. Spokane.
Both had to travel to the Seattle area against serious competition in the quarterfinals.
While both fell, that should do little to dim their achievements this season.
G-Prep went undefeated in league play, romped in the crossover and first-round contest before running into Power Five prospect Jayden Limar and his Lake Stevens teammates.
The Bullpups were led all season by senior quarterback Ryan McKenna, who has been in the program since he was a ball boy as a kid.
His season numbers tell part of the story – 1,588 yards with 21 touchdowns. The other part is his leadership and mutual respect with his teammates, especially fellow seniors.
Mt. Spokane spread the ball out to a half-dozen players, any of whom could have had the “big game” on any given night. QB Kellen Flanigan was the distributor, and his big right arm could produce a long ball on any series.
The Wildcats’ defense pitched five shutouts, including in its first playoff game, and allowed 10.8 points per game.
Mt. Spokane drew Eastside Catholic in the quarterfinals and only trailed by 10 at the half before the Crusaders clamped down in the second half.
Some seniors who stood out were QB Luke Abshire, WR Justin Finn and OL/DL George Sonko (Central Valley); WR Jordan Sands, RB Tyler Alm, K Ethan Moczulski and LB Jackson Kink (Mt. Spokane); WR Anthony Aguire (Ferris); DE Kaz Melzer, DT Ephraim Watkins and LB Luciano Reynolds (Gonzaga Prep) and punter LJ Harm (Mead).
We got next
Mead junior quarterback Colby Danielson got better each game and is primed to be a force next season. Junior running backs Malaki Miller (University) and Gentz Hilburn (Lewis and Clark) led their respective teams in offense. Sophomore QB Tanner Smith (Ridgeline) took some lumps but also provided glimpses into a bright future.
Ridgeline ninth-grade wideout Brayden Allen already notched his name in the GSL record books with a 17-catch game Oct. 8 against Cheney, topping the previous single-game record of 15. He had an 11-catch game earlier in the season, tied for sixth most in a single game.
Work to do
The GSL 2A teams beat up on each other all season. The two that made it out for the postseason, Shadle Park and East Valley, took it on the chin at the state level.
That doesn’t take away from the achievement of getting there, but I think if you ask any of the coaches in the 2A ranks, they’d all say they expect more.
It’s a league in flux, made up of four former Great Northern League schools, plus three former 3A schools that were reclassified by the WIAA.
The change would have been tumultuous regardless, but COVID affecting the past two seasons certainly didn’t help matters.
Indicative of the growing nature of the league, fewer than half of the first-team selections in the league were seniors.
Shadle Park had the most consistent season of the bunch, led by QB Tre Dickerson, WR Liam Johnston and RB Beckett Ensminger. Dickerson and Ensminger are just juniors.
Perhaps the most exciting player at the level was East Valley sophomore Diezel Wilkinson, who excelled at whatever position he lined up in.
The Northeast A had three teams qualify for state with league champion Lakeside, Riverside and Freeman. Fourth-place Newport almost upset Caribou Trail champ Omak in the crossover.
League MVP Kole Hunsaker at Lakeside and Freeman QB Boen Phelps are juniors, so the league should remain as competitive as ever next season.
Top-seeded Almira/Coulee-Hartline and No. 2 Odessa are participating in State 1B semifinals Saturday at Lions Field in Moses Lake, with the hopes of facing off again in an All-Northeast 1B final.
Odessa is the two-time defending state champ, but ACH won in 2015 and ’17 – and beat Odessa 50-20 on Oct. 8 as senior QB Dane Isaak carried 19 times for 190 yards with three TDs, and completed 3 of 4 passes for 102 yards and two more scores.
The Tigers could get another crack at the Warriors.
Top-seeded ACH faces No. 5 Naselle at 1 p.m., and No. 2 Odessa plays No. 3 Quilcene at 4 p.m.
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