Coming out of signature games with wins under their belt, both Hoquiam and Aberdeen spent the past week keeping their players focused and pointed in the right direction on the practice fields.
For Montesano, it had an unbelievable three-day stretch that started with a tough loss to rival Hoquiam and ended with the loss of its landmark stadium grandstand to a fire. Its focus this week has been on regaining some normalcy amid the confusion and sorrow.
For all three teams, the task at hand on Friday night will vary, but will set up the second half of the season all the same.
The Grizzlies (3-0, 1-0) shook a large monkey off of their backs with a dominant 41-14 victory over the Bulldogs at Rottle Field last Friday night. Now state-ranked, Hoquiam (Class 1A No. 9, computer rankings; No. 4, TNT coaches poll; No. 6, AP media poll) will no longer be outside the spotlight this season.
“You have to keep the practices the same, keep the tempo the same and you have to talk more about the mental aspect of the game,” HHS head coach Jason Ronquillo said. “You have to keep your edge and not look past opponents. Every opponent we play will have a new kind of threat that we’ll have to deal with. That’s what we’re trying to do, get the kids mentally prepared for it. We need to.”
Hoquiam established itself as a running team during the Montesano game, led by a single-game school record performance by senior Nolan Hoiness (354 yards) and finished with 551 yards rushing overall. Rochester’s threat on defense comes in the form of a run-stopping base formation that will test Hoquiam’s offensive line — Jake Guined, Dakota Boone, Joel Brydon, Ronnie Espedal and Alex Munoz, and tight end Cole Smith.
“Those guys up front did a fabulous job (against Montesano),” Ronquillo said. “Defensively, Rochester will bring a 4-4 stack and it is unlike any other defense we’ve seen this season. At camp, we never went up against that defense either. The block schemes change slightly, so we’ll have to put in some time to change and block that scheme.”
Offensively, Hoquiam will be tested by Rochester quarterback Tyler Yarber, who ran for 236 yards on 15 carries and four touchdowns. He also added a fifth touchdown on a 51-yard pass to Alex Markva in a 52-0 rout of Rainier on the road.
The Bobcats (1-2 overall) overcame two deficits to register their first win of the season, a 28-21 victory over Centralia at Stewart Field. For Aberdeen, it was a signature game for its first-year head coach and a program that has been looking to get back to a winning stride.
“The team is really enthusiastic and it is something we needed,” AHS head coach Terry Dion said. “Now, we need to refocus and get back to that level again. Sometimes, when you haven’t won in a while, the winning hangover lasts a little longer. So, we’re trying to get the players refocused. I also think it’ll give us some energy going down the road.”
Black Hills also used a comeback route to pick up a win last Friday, knocking off Bainbridge Island, 34-20, at Tumwater Stadium. The Wolves, like the Bobcats, trailed twice and rallied for the victory. Dion noted that Black Hills may not have standout players like Centralia’s Drew Baldwin, Hoquiam’s Hoiness and Montesano’s Matthew Jensen, but is stacked full of athletes.
“Black Hills is fairly similar to Centralia and has very good athleticism,” Dion said. “I don’t think they’re out of our league. If we play hard like we did against Centralia, we should be fine. I was very encouraged by our effort over 48 minutes; we played hard right down to the end.
“Their running backs are quick and they’re more of a balanced team,” added Dion about Black Hills. “They have some pretty darn good athletes. It’ll be a tendency type of a game, playing their schemes and being aware of what they like to do.”
Dion cited quarterback Veek Cheema for his leadership and guts and linebacker Cory Mays for his overall play, leading the team in tackles (11 tackles, nine primary), against Centralia.
For Montesano, it has been a time of coming together as a community, a school, a team, a student body. The loss of the Rottle Field grandstands on Sunday night put a lot of things into perspective, including Friday night’s loss to Hoquiam.
On Friday, Montesano will hit the road to take on a Woodland squad that has been looking forward to this week in the schedule since the matchup was announced early in the summer. Montesano head coach Terry Jensen noted that preparation for this contest has been a welcome distraction.
“We won’t ever forget what has happened, but putting in the preparation for Woodland is somewhat therapeutic for the staff and the players,” Jensen said. “Initially I think the reaction was a lot of sadness and anger. It was a lot of people’s, including myself, favorite part of the school. As a rallying point, it goes beyond the team, it is an entire school and community rallying point. All the athletes wore their jerseys to school on Monday as a sign of school solidarity and that we are all in this together.
“The biggest areas we need to improve on are running the football and stopping the run, that is our focus,” Jensen added. “We all realize we need to get better at those two things. We are trying to simplify what we do to allow our players to just play football and not have to think as much. Hopefully, it allows us to play faster and execute better, and be more physical.”
Having dropped three games to tough teams despite rolling up impressive total yardage, Elma will be favored over a Rainier club that has been outscored 133-18 this season.
State-ranked unbeaten teams will collide when Willapa Valley travels to Naselle. The reigning Pacific League champions, the Comets were hit heavily by graduation but have still looked good in early season tests, including a 39-6 conquest of North Beach last week.
Saturday’s King’s Way Christian-Wishkah game at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field will be a non-league contest. A Coastal League power the last few years, King’s Way jumped all the way to the 1A classification this year, but is still playing 8-man football as an independent team ineligible for the playoffs.
Taholah received a forfeit from State Deaf this week.