Rivalries — two of which were recently rekindled, a third ranking among the longest such series in Western Washington — will take center stage on the opening weekend of the Twin Harbors prep football season.
Class 2A Aberdeen and reigning state 1A champion Montesano will clash for only the second time since 1930 when they square off Friday night at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field.
Hoquiam, meanwhile, hits the road to do battle with erstwhile league foe Centralia in another non-league season opener.
The entire opening-week slate, in fact, is composed of non-leaguers. That includes the first meeting of the season between Willapa Harbor rivals South Bend and Willapa Valley, who will clash for the 124th time on Friday at South Bend’s Millam Field.
The remainder of the Friday lineup includes Elma at Hockinson, Raymond at Tenino, North Beach at Toutle Lake and Taholah at Neah Bay. On Saturday afternoon, Wishkah hosts Clallam Bay and Ocosta entertains Concrete.
The new high school football picks column can be found on Page B3.
A classic battle of Montesano’s speed vs. Aberdeen’s power shapes up at Stewart Field.
The nod clearly went to speed in last year’s opener, the first meeting of the Grays Harbor schools in football in 72 years. The Bulldogs used their superior quickness and the passing of Matthew Jensen for a 38-0 victory.
With Jensen having graduated (he is now scheduled to play baseball at Columbia Basin College) and the Bobcats possessing far more experience, this year’s contest figures to be much tighter.
Both coaches acknowledge the other’s assets in sizing up this year’s contest.
“Monte is one of those programs that doesn’t seem to rebuild as much as (they) reload,” second-year AHS coach Terry Dion said. “They use their talent exceptionally well and execute some trademark plays with perfection. They have looked exceptional this fall and I think those who predict a down year from them are mistaken.
“We are a little quicker this year in the skill positions, but up front we are big but not exceptionally quick,” Dion continued. “They have a couple of kids that can really move, but our concern is if we can handle their quickness in the box and maintain blocks.”
While calling Aberdeen “definitely the biggest team we will face all year,” veteran Montesano coach Terry Jensen agrees that the Bobcats have athleticism at the skill positions.
“If we have any advantage at all, it might be team speed,” Jensen said. “We will do what we can, hope we can run at a high tempo and try to tire them. We will have to make them respect our passing game. The key is to control the line of scrimmage. Aberdeen was effective running the ball in their jamboree. We can’t let them get into long scoring drives and wear us down with their size.”
Both teams, interestingly, are expected to try different combinations at skill positions in Friday’s game.
The Bulldogs will continue the no-huddle attack they utilized successfully last year. The Bobcats used a pistol formation, with four wide receivers, in their jamboree at Steilacoom. Dion said his team performed well against Steilacoom but not against Eatonville in their mini-games. Jensen was generally pleased with what he saw in a jamboree at Elma.
Last year’s opener at Olympic Stadium was a harbinger of things to come for both teams.
The Class 1A Grizzlies launched an unbeaten regular season with a 43-6 triumph. The 2A Tigers wound up enduring an uncharacteristically winless campaign.
Centralia has a new coach in former Tenino standout Matt Whitmire and is expected to sport a new look offensively. Whitmire has said the Tigers will operate from a pistol spread formation, but they used other offensive sets in the Elma jamboree.
“I think they’ll try to run the ball first and then pass when they find it opportunistic,” said Rick Moore, who will be making his Hoquiam head-coaching debut in the contest.
The Tigers do have an experienced quarterback, however, in Joe Blaser.
The Grizzlies, who bypassed a jamboree in favor of an intrasquad scrimmage last weekend, enter the opener in good health and with plenty of team speed but without a great deal of varsity experience.
Moore believes defensive pursuit will be the key to the contest.
“I think we’ll be ready to hit people,” he said.
Because the Willapa Harbor neighbors frequently play twice in a season, the Willapa Valley-South Bend series ranks among the most prolific in Western Washington.
Only Montesano and Elma, who have met 144 times, exceed the Vikings and Indians among games played by Twin Harbors rivals, according to state prep historian Ralph Lovelace. Valley leads the series 80-37-6 and is heavily favored over the rebuilding Tribe again this season.
Expected to rank among the Evergreen 1A contenders, Elma should receive a good early test at Hockinson. The Class 2A Hawks beat the Eagles last year, 40-21, and wound up tying for second in the Greater St. Helens League before being blown out by Tumwater in a state-qualifying playoff.
Raymond also moves up in class for a road game at Tenino. The consensus favorite in the Class 2B Pacific League, the Gulls will open the season against two 1A squads. They’ll host Charles Wright Academy in a rare Thursday night contest next week.