Three weeks are left in the regular season on the Twin Harbors, setting up an interesting mix of scenarios for several high-profile and mid-level teams.
For Aberdeen, the focus couldn’t be clearer — win the next three games to ensure a place in the postseason. This stretch of must-win games begins Friday night at home against Washougal.
For Hoquiam, it has been taking a long look at all of the small details on offense and defense in preparation for its only road trip outside the Twin Harbors — at winless Rainier.
Montesano, even with a slow start to the season, has a great chance on Friday night to secure second place in the Evergreen 1A against Tenino. Elma will hit the road to take on Ilwaco in a non-league encounter.
The Bobcats’ first Greater St. Helens 2A League home game will feature a team that was inches away from a pivotal win against R.A. Long and a team that was blown out by Ridgefield on the road.
“With the exclusion of some bizarre plays, that was the best we’ve played since I’ve been here at Aberdeen,” AHS head coach Terry Dion, who has been with the Bobcats for four seasons, said. “We had 352 yards rushing, nearly 400 yards of offense. It was just a fluke way to lose. I still don’t know how we lost.”
Aberdeen (0-5, 1-5) needs wins over Washougal (0-2, 3-3), Hockinson and Ridgefield to make sure it has at least third place in the league standings secured. The Panthers will showcase an intricate Wing-T offense that they’ll break out non-traditional Wing-T plays through. Defensively, Washougal’s Bear defense is a high-pressure, high-blitz, high-risk scheme that tests shake offenses and gives steady teams chances to score.
“They are pretty creative in their offense and they have some good athletes,” Dion said. “Defensively, they bring the house every time. They do some un-characteristic things; it isn’t a typical Wing-T. It fits our defense well. Our awareness has to be high, to know what formation they are in and what they want to do.”
Crossing the Grays Harbor County line has been a rare treat for the state-ranked Grizzlies (fifth, state 1A media poll/third, ScoreCzar.com/fifth, TNT.com coaches), but the trick will come against a winless Rainier squad.
The Mountaineers (0-4, 0-6) suffered a 39-0 loss at Forks last Friday night to add to the long road trip home. In three of its four Evergreen 1A contests, Rainier has been on the wrong end of 40-point mercy rule running clock contests — 52-0 to Rochester; 47-15 to Elma; 62-0 to Tenino.
In other words, it is a trap game for Hoquiam, a road contest against a team on Homecoming Night that has nothing to lose and just one win from making its season.
“We just try to find the finer points of the game and the small details and try to work on them,” HHS head coach Jason Ronquillo said. “The kids are playing well. They know they are playing well. They can tell when they are playing well. It is our job to find what these kids can improve on from one week to the next. In these kind of situations, we still need to get better. We can’t underestimate the opposition and let the kids believe they are at their best right now. We have a ways to go now and there are more chances for them to get better each and every week.”
Rainier runs a Full House (three-back) backfield and a rushing game that is designed to keep opposing offenses off the field. The Mounties have a tall task to climb — Hoquiam has been averaging 323 yards rushing this season, has run for more than 300 yards three times (including a record 511 yards against Monte) and has scored more than 40 points in all six games this season.
Montesano will put its three-game winning streak on the line against a Tenino club that had been flying high until last week’s 40-6 non-league loss to state-ranked La Center.
The Beavers added transfer Mac Shaw, a second-team all-league quarterback last year at Rainier, and shifted fleetfooted Devante Harris (last season’s QB) to running back and receiver. Statistically, Tenino appears to be much more of a passing team this season, but Monte coach Terry Jensen said that impression is deceptive.
“Their style really hasn’t changed,” Jensen said. “They will spread you out formation-wise and then find ways to get Harris the ball. He will align in different spots in their offense. They will run sweeps with him and shovel passes to allow him to use his athleticism in the open field, but they will also throw to him down the field.”
Jensen offers mixed emotions about Monte’s recent surge.
“The players have worked very hard each week and I think we have gotten better — the work ethic and attitudes have been great,” the Bulldog coach said. “(The coaches) would like us to play with more emotion. Football is an emotional game and at times we have not shown that. This will be a big test. Tenino is tied for first in our league.”
The Pacific League game of the week will take place at Raymond, where the Gulls will host defending league champion Naselle.
The Gulls have won four straight — all by lopsided margins — since dropping their first two contests to Class 1A opponents (Tenino and unbeaten Charles Wright Academy). Naselle’s lone loss was to Willapa Valley, 34-20, last month.