Grays Harbor in a ‘must-win’ game vs. Yakima Saturday


Two weeks remain in the Pacific Football League season and it is a ‘must-win’ time of the season for Grays Harbor.

Still laboring with injuries to key positions up and down the roster, the Bearcats welcome league rival Yakima Mavericks today at 6 p.m. at Stewart Field in a pivotal matchup.

Following last week’s 43-12 loss to South Kitsap County Colts, Grays Harbor (5-3, 6-3) needs a win today to set up a home postseason game in July.

“If we win, we’ll host a playoff game, regardless of what happens in the last week (of the season),” Grays Harbor head coach Todd Hoiness said. “This has been the toughest this league has been — top to bottom — in four years. Unfortunately, we haven’t been healthy. We’re going to MacGyver this thing — we’re going to take some string, some baking soda, even some mayo and make something happen.”

The Bearcats will possibly be without leading rusher Jeff Gates for today’s game. Vincent McCrory, Cameron Smith and Loyal Linton will be called upon to run the ball for the Bearcats.

Newcomers Vernon McCrory and Rich Charley will play key spots on offense, defense and special teams. McCrory showed his pass rushing skills against the Colts, while Charley added depth in the receiving corps and on special teams.

On the wings, Grays Harbor will have Chris Jackson back in the fold at wide receiver. Jackson missed last week’s game, but Jeremy Walker hauled in a pass from quarterback David Evans and rambled 70 yards for a touchdown against the Colts. Walker will be a game-time decision with a lower leg injury.

“It was competitive; we were still in striking distance in the fourth quarter,” Hoiness said of the Colts game. “They’re a really good team.”

For today’s game, it’ll be another chapter in a rivalry that got started in an ultra-competitive preseason game four years ago in Yakima and has produced great games ever since. The Bearcats own a 3-1 record over the Mavericks, but all three victory margins have been less than a touchdown.

Quarterback Marshall Lobbestael will challenge the Bearcats’ secondary in the air. Lobbestael, a former Washington State University QB who is throwing to his older brother, tight end and former quarterback John Lobbestael, averages 242 yards passing per game and has 20 touchdowns to nine interceptions this season.

The Mavericks don’t run the ball much, according to Hoiness, but the offense has moved through every PFL team this season.

“The defense will have to bend, but don’t break,” Hoiness added. “They move the ball on everyone. They’re efficient on both sides of the ball. They’ve been a huge rival since the exhibition game. They’re ultra-competitive and I’m sure they’re happy to see us banged up.”

Kickoff is at 6 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.