The final week of the regular season is a special time to reflect upon the season that has just transpired and look to either the postseason or the off-season.
For Hoquiam, Montesano and Elma, this Friday’s games are the final step before the postseason, with the Bulldogs and Eagles meeting in their annual East County Civil War game at Davis Field.
The Grizzlies, state-ranked by the state’s coaches and media and computers, will cap their historic Evergreen 1A championship season at Olympic Stadium against Forks.
While the three Class 1A teams gear up, the Aberdeen Bobcats are preparing for the end of the season. With Friday’s road trip to Ridgefield left, the Bobcats are aiming for a statement game to cap their first Greater St. Helens 2A campaign.
Montesano at Elma
For the first time in 2005, both the Bulldogs and the Eagles will walk into this rivalry as district crossover postseason participants. That year, Elma won the Evergreen League and lost in the state 2A quarterfinals to Cashmere. Montesano fell to Woodland in a district crossover game.
This year’s meeting will have some added meaning for Elma, which last defeated Montesano also in 2005, 14-6. The Eagles used a late-game rally to defeat Forks, 15-14, on the road to earn a postseason berth and erased last season’s episode that suspended nine players — eight of them starters — prior to last year’s Civil War game.
“It was a goal of ours going into the year,” Elma head coach Jim Hill said. “After all we’ve been through, it’s a big deal for us. It is an Elma-Monte rivalry and our kids are excited about it and what it means.”
For Montesano, this game is the second emotional contest in two weeks. Last week, the Bulldogs returned to Rottle Field for the first time since the fire that destroyed its grandstands for Senior Night and Homecoming ceremonies. It also marked Monte’s return from a slow start this season to the postseason and a possible No. 2 seed with a win on Friday.
“No doubt it was an emotional night; the seniors shed some tears in the pregame ceremonies and, although it wasn’t the same, it sure beat playing anywhere else,” Montesano head coach Terry Jensen said. “There is a lot on the line, and that always creates more excitement. It is a rivalry game, and both teams have played well lately.”
The keys for both teams will come down to how their defenses can slow down the opposition. Both coaches have pledged to speed up the game tempo to their liking, marked by Elma’s passing attack and Montesano’s balanced rushing offense.
“It is the same old Monte team; they’re aggressive and well-coached,” Hill said. “We’re going to have to play a little faster and a little more aggressive. Every week, we’ve gotten better at certain areas, (but) we haven’t always put them together. Every opponent we’ve played, excluding Hoquiam, we’ve had a chance to win.”
“I think a big key will be how our defensive line plays against their offensive line —who can control the line of scrimmage will definitely have an advantage,” Jensen said. “Offensively for us, we have been more balanced (running and throwing) this season than most. Again line play will be the key. We need to protect the quarterback and be able to run the football. Elma’s defense has played well and they have good team speed.”
Another twist for Friday’s game — the district crossover games themselves. If Elma registers a win over Montesano and Tenino knocks off Rochester, a three-way tie for second place will have to be broken up by a coin flip to determine district seeding. A Montesano win gives the Bulldogs the No. 2 seed and home-field advantage against the Trico League’s third-place team.
Hoquiam will finish off the regular season with a league title in their possession and a visit from Forks to Olympic Stadium on Friday. Focus and execution is the name of the game for the Grizzlies, especially after getting a test from Tenino last week.
“I thought Tenino did a great job of keeping themselves in drives and we didn’t execute as cleanly as we had in the past,” HHS head coach Jason Ronquillo said. “There are always things you need to work on.”
The Spartans will feature a shotgun Wing-T offense and a stack 4-4 defense for the Grizzlies to contend with. And, for the second week in a row, an opponent will come into Olympic Stadium intent on smashing Hoquiam in the mouth from start to finish.
“Forks is also a physical team, as they showed last year,” Ronquillo said. “They are big up front and have some good returning linemen. Did I say they were physical? Our hope is to come into this game a little more sound with our execution against the stack defense.”
Hoquiam has a few injuries to contend with. Senior wide receiver Cody Parker and junior running back Devin Kelly are out for Friday’s game, with others probable with minor aches and pains.
Nolan Hoiness, who ran for 268 yards on 21 carries and four touchdowns against Tenino, was named WIAA state Class 1A male athlete of the week. Hoiness, as well as Paul Girts, Zach Phillips and Jake Guined were cited for their play.
Aberdeen’s first year in the Greater St. Helens 2A League didn’t turn into a postseason campaign, but the rebuilding program has shown improvement and competitiveness this season.
On Friday, the road trip down to Ridgefield will end the season for the Bobcats and they are hoping to play spoilers to the postseason-bound Spudders.
“This is a program we’re trying to build,” AHS head coach Terry Dion said. “We may not have had the total success we’ve been looking for, we want to end on as positive of a note as we can. We’ll lose some valuable seniors after this season, but we’ll return a very good nucleus of players next year.”
The Spudders feature a stable of running backs, led by Clayton Farr (680 yards, 17 TDs), and have locked up the No. 2 seed in the district crossovers last week. Ridgefield is also the only GSHL team to give league champ Mark Morris a run for its money before falling, 21-14, late.
“They have really athletic running backs and they’re doing well in league,” Dion said. “They play with a lot of intensity and focus, so we’re going to have to be ready to match their intensity.”
Despite the loss to Hockinson, Dion cited junior lineman/linebacker Chase Johnson for his work, senior defensive back Carter Harris for his sixth interception of the season and sophomore running back Austin Floch for his play.