Regardless of whether the game was played on Thanksgiving, prior to Labor Day or on the second week of the season, the Aberdeen-Hoquiam football rivalry has always been accompanied by questions.
This year is no exception.
The Bobcats (0-1) and Grizzlies (0-1) will tee it up for the 108th time in a non-league contest scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Hoquiam’s Olympic Stadium.
That will be the centerpiece of a Week Two slate that will also include the renewal of Montesano’s rivalry with Cascade Christian on Friday night at Aberdeen and a battle of state-ranked teams (in different classifications) tonight at Raymond.
Unlike most of the recent meetings, this year’s trans-Myrtle Street confrontation will be contested without a clear-cut favorite.
Hoquiam graduated most of the key operatives from the club that rolled to a 49-6 rout of the Cats last year. Last week’s season-opening games may have raised more questions than they answered. Those include:
• Was Aberdeen’s exciting 31-27 loss to reigning state Class 1A champion Montesano more impressive than Hoquiam’s 36-22 defeat at the hands of Class 2A Centralia?
• Will Hoquiam’s speed — a key factor in the Grizzlies’ last two wins in the series — trump Aberdeen’s size and experience?
• Can the Bobcats control the line of scrimmage against their smaller foes?
• Will anticipated warm, dry weather have a bearing on the outcome?
Both coaches acknowledge that the contest could be decided by the answers to the second and third questions on the list.
Hoquiam coach Rick Moore, who characterizes the Bobcats as “large and strong,” is hoping to avoid trench warfare on Saturday.
“Our kids are going to have to play fast against their size,” he said. “We’re going to have to get them out in space. We’re going to have to play a game that’s efficient and error-free and (play with) a lot of emotion.”
Moore was generally happy with his club’s offensive performance against Centralia, but was disappointed that the Grizzlies were unable to consistently control the line of scrimmage.
He cited running backs Devin Kelly (who rushed for 110 yards and three touchdowns), Tyler White and quarterback Brenner Carlstrom for particularly fine performances last week.
With this contest, incidentally, Moore will become the first person (according to state historian Ralph Lovelace) to be a head coach for both sides in the Aberdeen-Hoquiam rivalry. He was head man for the Bobcats from 1998 to 2001 and went 1-2-1 against the Grizzlies (including the famous, or infamous, 1999 tie).
While acknowledging his unique perspective in the rivalry, Moore said he is approaching the game in the same way he did in Aberdeen.
Aberdeen coach Terry Dion labeled his team’s showing against Montesano as the first great 48-minute effort during his four years on the Bobcat staff, although he lamented “numerous small mistakes” that proved fatal in that contest.
He is cognizant of Hoquiam’s big-play capabilities.
“We will have to play smart because they can score any time from anywhere on the field,” he said. “(We have to) establish the run game and maintain drives. We also need to be real clean in turnovers and special teams.”
Linebacker Lorenzo Ontiveros, receiver Carter Harris and Aberdeen’s defensive backfield (Harris, Drew Stocker and Austin Floch) drew Dion’s praise in the Montesano game.
Aberdeen leads the overall series, 67-35-5.
For the second consecutive year, the Aberdeen-Hoquiam game will be part of the Great American Rivalry Series sponsored by a national online service. Further details about that aspect of the contest will be reported in Saturday’s edition.
If their history in this series wasn’t frustrating enough, the Bulldogs enter this year’s contest short-handed. Junior running back/quarterback Anthony Louthan, Monte’s leading rusher against Aberdeen, sustained what has been tentatively diagnosed as a high ankle sprain (results of an MRI are due Friday) late in that contest and is expected be sidelined from four to six weeks.
Making its first Grays Harbor appearance, Cascade Christian has gone 4-0 against the Bulldogs since 2008, with three of those victories coming in the state playoffs. Despite being outgained, the Cougars from Puyallup pulled out a 28-25 decision in last year’s first regular-season meeting, an outcome that caused Montesano coach Terry Jensen to declare, “We have met the enemy and we’re looking at them right now in the mirror.”
The Bulldogs rebounded from that defeat to win the state 1A championship. Cascade Christian, a perennial state power, had a rare down season last year but re-established itself among the state’s elite with a 21-3 victory over traditionally tough Cashmere last Saturday. Among its nine returning starters is junior quarterback Jaelin Goldsmith, a three-year starter.
“They’re solid everywhere, good size up front and good team speed,” Jensen said. “They are well-coached and execute well on both sides of the ball. They are legitimate state title contenders.”
Jensen was unhappy with his club’s penalties and mental mistakes against Aberdeen, but was encouraged by the players’ supportive attitude toward each other in the face of adversity.
One of the week’s most interesting contests is slated tonight at Raymond. Charles Wright Academy, ranked sixth among state 1A teams by the A&B Football Report, will visit the Seagulls, No. 9 in the publication’s 2B ratings.
The Gulls rallied to edge Tenino, another 1A team, 27-21, in last week’s opener. Charles Wright topped Forks, 28-17, last week.
The game was shifted to tonight at Charles Wright’s request to avoid conflicts with Yom Kippur observances Friday.
Coming off a hard-fought 7-0 loss to Hockinson last week, Elma will be hosting an Eatonville club that fell to Orting, 34-13.
The Eagles will be staying close to home for the remainder of the regular season. Seven of their final eight games will be played in Grays Harbor County.