Almira/Coulee-Hartline doesn’t need to look over its collective shoulders any longer. The Warriors are carrying the mantle now.
ACH and Odessa, both out of the Northeast 1B League, have won four of the past five State 1B championships, with Odessa taking titles in 2018 and ’19; ACH in ’17 and ’15.
When ACH knocked off Odessa 50-20 on Oct. 8, many across the state in the smallest classification pointed to a rematch in the state title game.
“(Odessa coach) Jeff (Nelson) and I have talked about this,” ACH coach Brandon Walsh said. “When they are good, then we feel like that’s when we’re at our best. It’s a great ‘feeding-off-of-one-another’ rivalry, and they’ve had the upper hand on us for a few years now.”
On Saturday at Lions Field in Moses Lake, ACH lived up to its end of the bargain in its state semifinal. Odessa ran into a bulldozing fullback and did not.
ACH (11-0) will meet Quilcene (10-1) for the state title at noon Saturday at Mount Tahoma High in Tacoma.
“There’s only a couple East Side teams left in all classifications, so we want to represent for sure,” Walsh said.
ACH 68, Naselle 32: Grady Murray scored six touchdowns – three rushing and three receiving – and the top-seeded Warriors ran away from the fifth-seeded Comets (9-2) in the early game to advance to the State 1B title game.
Murray finished with seven rushes for 159 yards and four catches for 83 yards.
ACH quarterback Dane Isaak carried 16 times for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s what we’ve been working for this whole year and it’s what we wanted to come out and do.” Murray said.
“This group said its goal was to be in this spot at the beginning of the year,” Walsh said.
“I mean, it’s a lot of seniors and Naselle knocked us out two years ago in the semis, and we lost to Odessa in the final three years ago. So they wanted to get back and have their chance at it. We got done what we wanted to get done today.”
On the first play of the game, Isaak faked an inside run, then faked a pitch and took it 53 yards for a touchdown.
Naselle answered on its first play, a 54-yard TD run by Kolton Lindstrom.
After a turnover on downs, Murray got loose for a 47-yard TD run. On Naselle’s next possession, Cooper Correia forced a fumble and recovered at the 12.
On fourth-and-16 at the 18, Isaak found Cody Kagele in the back corner of the end zone for a 24-8 lead.
Murray added 60- and 32-yard scoring runs in the second quarter to make it 38-8.
Naselle halted the run on ACH touchdowns with a 15-yard TD run by Lindstrom, but Isaak hit Murray on a short middle screen on fourth-and-11 and Murray took it 40 yards for the score.
“I mean, we haven’t had to pass it very much and against a good team, you know, the situation called for it a little more today,” Walsh said. “We’re confident in Dane’s ability to throw it and our ability to protect him.”
The Warriors got the ball back with just under a minute left in the half. Isaak hit Roberts for 19 yards, then found Murray in the end zone from 19 yards. ACH led 52-14 at halftime.
Naselle’s Joe Strange scored on a 1-yard plunge to open the second half, but Isaak connected with Murray from 24 yards for his sixth TD and the start of a running clock.
“Last time we played in the semis we got knocked out by a West Side team when we had to travel over there, so it feels pretty good to get some revenge,” Isaak said.
Quilcene 36, Odessa 12: Bishop Budnek carried 35 times for 187 yards with four touchdowns and the third-seeded Rangers knocked off the second-seeded Tigers (10-2) in the late game.
“We got third in state,” Odessa coach Jeff Nelson said. “You can’t always win it, that’s just sometimes the way it goes.”
The Tigers took the opening drive right down the field and a nine-play drive culminated with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Chad Strebeck. The 2-point conversion attempt failed.
Quilcene fashioned a long touchdown drive on the next possession. Nathan Kieffer hit Kevin Alejo for 15 yards and a penalty put it at the Odessa 25. Budnek carried six straight times, the last a 3-yard TD run to tie it at 6.
It stayed that way until late in the half. Quilcene held on fourth-and-1 and took over at the Odessa 36. Six plays later, Budnek plowed in from the 7. The conversion pass was incomplete and the Rangers led 12-6.
Another fourth-down stop gave Quilcene the ball with just under 2 minutes in the half. On fourth-and-4 from the 16, Budnek went off tackle for a TD with 45 seconds to go.
“He’s a dude,” Nelson said of Budnek. “He’s one of the better, bigger running backs we’ve ever seen. So yeah, there’s not a whole lot of answers when he’s that big, that fast.”
The 2-point conversion put the Rangers up 20-6 at intermission.
Jayden Love returned the onside kick to start the second half 55 yards to make it 28-6 and Budnek added a 9-yard run early in the fourth.
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