Bearcats seek home playoff berth in regular-season finale

A home playoff game will be the likely prize if the Grays Harbor Bearcats can register an upset in their regular-season finale.

The Bearcats (5-4, 6-4) will host the Pacific Football League co-leading Seattle Stallions (8-1 in league) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field.

While the Bearcats are only tied for fifth in the overall league, they are tied with the Springfield Buzzards for the top spot in what has been informally designated the Southern Division. The top seed from the Southern Division will host a playoff game July 6. Both teams, however, are assured of some type of postseason berth.

While the Buzzards own the tiebreaker advantage by virtue of their previous victory over Grays Harbor, they close out their regular season against the other PFL co-leader, the Yakima Mavericks. That gives the Bearcats a good chance of landing the Southern Division’s top seed if they can top the Stallions.

That won’t be easy. The latest in a succession of rugged opponents the Bearcats have faced in the second half of the league season, the Stallions have lost only to the South King County Colts, 32-30. The Seattle club handed the Mavericks their only loss, 39-21.

“Their personnel per position is, I think, the best in our conference,” Grays Harbor coach Todd Hoiness said. “It’s a loaded team. They’re well-coached, they play hard and they’re physical.”

The power-running Stallions present a stark contrast to most of the clubs in the wide-open PFL. While not possessing the most dazzling of attacks, they tend to wear down opponents in the second half.

“They’re one of the basic teams out there,” Hoiness said. “They’re content to go smash, smash, smash and sometimes they throw over the top. Their defense doesn’t do crazy stuff. They play real basic coverage and do really basic stunts and they tell you that you have to go the length of the field on them. They’d be really happy in a 60-play game to run 50 times and throw 10.”

Tailback E.J. Ash, Seattle’s top ball-carrier has a knack for picking up extra yardage after initial contact, Hoiness added.

A bye in the league schedule last week was beneficial to the injury-riddled Bearcats, who are expected to have some ailing linemen return to action this week.

But ace tailback Jeff Gates, who has been suffering from what was initially diagnosed as a high ankle sprain but may have been a stress fracture, remains doubtful for Saturday’s game. Cornerbacks Robby Lisle, who sustained a job-related injury, and Tex Johnson (groin and back injuries) are also regarded as questionable.

Playing largely turnover-free ball is Grays Harbor’s top priority.

“Do I think we have a chance to win? Absolutely,” Hoiness said. “We have to be so efficient. We have to make it through the first half with a good chance to win and hopefully our playmakers will be able to make some plays (in the second half).”