The weeks on the football calendar are shrinking, along with chances for Twin Harbors teams to lock down district crossover berths and league titles.
Tonight, Montesano is in the rare position of hunter against the hunted, Evergreen 1A-leading Rochester, at Stewart Field in Aberdeen.
On Friday night, Aberdeen will stay home to host another Longview school — R.A. Long — in its attempt to muscle into the top spots in the Greater St. Helens 2A League.
Also on Friday, Grays Harbor rivals Elma and Hoquiam will meet at historic Olympic Stadium in a must-win Evergreen 1A contest for both teams.
The Bobcats felt done wrong last Friday following a third-quarter unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that extended Mark Morris’ drive that turned into a game-changing touchdown one play later. However, as AHS head coach Terry Dion’s acknowledged, Aberdeen left opportunities to score on the field.
That will be one point of emphasis for the Bobcats when eighth-ranked R.A. Long (seventh in 2A, computer rankings) visits Stewart Field on Friday night.
“We are accountable, we did have a few turnovers and had a couple of mistakes,” Dion said after the Mark Morris game. “We were disappointed to just have seven points at halftime. We had some opportunities, but you have to score more than just seven points with the yardage we piled up in that half. We didn’t translate those yards into more points.”
The Lumberjacks are led by running back Jacob Yordy, who leads the Longview-Kelso-Cowlitz County area with 1,202 yards on 105 carries through the first five weeks of the season. Quarterback Ryan Peerboom had thrown for 598 yards for the Jacks, with Brady Hulings leading the area and the team with 11 catches for 298 yards.
“The R.A. Long game is another great chance — we control our destiny for the playoffs,” Dion added. “There are a lot of ifs, but it all starts with us coming back with heart and determination. Yordy is a top-notch sprinter and is a threat to take any touch into the end zone. If we can control him, we have a very good chance of winning.”
Dion cited Austin Floch, who ran for 154 yards and one touchdown, on offense as one of the standout Bobcats in last week’s game.
These two rivals are coming in with different mindsets following Friday’s games.
Elma was handed a 49-14 loss to league-leading Rochester at home, while Hoquiam experienced the sweet taste of victory for the first time in a 37-7 win over Castle Rock on the road. Both teams still control their destiny for postseason play, but a loss on Friday will damage those aspirations.
“It was good for the kids; we’ve been working them hard and they put together a game, both sides of the ball, and played well,” HHS head coach Rick Moore said. “It was a validation of the work we’ve put in, especially conditioning. We felt we were better conditioned than Rochester, but it didn’t show on the scoreboard. The building blocks are falling into place and the foundation is being developed, so we hope that will continue.”
“The league is wide open still,” Elma head coach Jim Hill said. “Every coach would say the same thing. It is really what group wants it the most right now.”
Hoquiam will come into this game with all of its offensive playmakers on the field. Senior running backs Devin Kelly and Brenner Carlstrom, along with quarterback Kenny Wakefield, will see an Eagle defense that has given up big chunks of yards on the ground to Rochester and Eatonville in losses.
“We have to take care of a few things on our team; it has been a tough two weeks so far,” Hill said. “We have to stop breakdowns in certain areas and we need to be more physical, play with more pride. That’s what we’ve concentrated on. Obviously, you see what they do and how they line up, but we’re more concerned about what we’re doing than anything else right now.”
For Elma, its offense has been a balanced blend of passing and rushing. Quarterback Ryan Collin has found throwing lanes open up because of the senior running back Todd Swinhart, who has 11 touchdowns to his name over the last three games.
“Jim will put the ball in the air, they seem to prefer passing first,” Moore said. “Our challenge is to limit their possibilities in the air and get them out of their series quickly. I do think that if they have to run the ball to win, that is in our favor. (Swinhart) is a good athlete. The key will be controlling the airwaves and keeping them contained.”
Coach Hill cited Ricky Escalante, Kevin Farr, Rashad Lorton and Swinhart as players who have stepped up this season. Coach Moore cited Carlstrom for his work on offense and defense, Jarod Steen and Tahj Malone on defense and Kelly’s work as a punter last week.
The Bulldogs are coming off a rare loss to Forks last week, which turned on an inadvertent whistle call that negated a Montesano defensive touchdown with 2 minutes left in the contest. The Warriors dismantled the Eagles last week and are now atop the league standings at 3-0, 4-1 overall. Their lone loss came to state-ranked R.A. Long in Week 2.
“Not sure we have experienced what happened in Forks before,” Montesano head coach Terry Jensen said. “We didn’t play as well as we could have and Forks played hard. Our kids battled and our defense found a way to win in the end with the fumble recovery for a touchdown. Then, to have it taken away by an inadvertent whistle, you feel bad for your players.”
Rochester’s Tyler Yarber will try for his fifth consecutive 200-yard rushing game tonight after posting 207 yards and three touchdowns against Elma. Quarterback Tyler Gedney can also keep Monte’s defense honest in the passing game as well. He finished with just 129 yards passing on 6-for-11 attempts, but hit a 51-yard scoring bomb to Bobby Brien early in the game.
“Rochester could possibly have the best quarterback and best running back in the league,” Jensen said. “Both are difference makers, but the rest of the team is much improved also. They are playing with a lot of confidence right now. We need to help the defense out by sustaining drives and finishing drives with touchdowns. Fifteen total points in the last two games isn’t going to get it done in this league.”
Montesano missed Jake Massoth last week, but the veteran linebacker will be back tonight. However, senior center/nose guard Isaiah Pellegrino was injured on the first play from scrimmage last week with a knee injury and is most likely out for the season.
Oyehut will be the place for another pivotal Pacific 2B League matchup — Willapa Valley at North Beach. Both teams are coming off losses from last week, but the Hyaks suffered a tough one to rival Raymond, 28-6. The Gulls, who host rival South Bend on Friday, are tied for sixth in the sportswriters’ state 2B rankings, while the Hyaks slipped to No. 8 in the poll.
In the ScoreCzar.com 2B computer rankings, Raymond moved up to No. 4, while Willapa Valley sits at No. 6 and North Beach is No. 9. Six of the top-10 teams in the rankings reside in the district — Morton-White Pass at No. 1, Napavine at No. 5 and Wahkiakum at No. 10.