Twin Harbors Football Preview: Two state-ranked 2B teams collide in Oyehut

Aberdeen’s long-awaited league opener. A couple of critical Evergreen 1A contests. A showdown of state-ranked Class 2B teams.

There’s all that and more as the Twin Harbors prep football regular season reaches the midway point this week. In a rarity, all games involving area teams will be played on Friday night.

Aberdeen (2-2) kicks off its second season in the Greater St. Helens 2A League by hosting Mark Morris (3-1).

Elma (2-0, 2-2) hosts Rochester (2-0, 3-1) and Montesano (1-0, 2-2) journeys to Forks (0-1, 1-3) in Evergreen 1A League games. Hoquiam (0-4) takes a break from league competition Friday by traveling to Castle Rock (2-2) for a non-leaguer.

Tenth-ranked Raymond (1-0, 3-1) visits sixth-rated North Beach (1-0, 4-0) in a Pacific League crucial.

Mark Morris at Aberdeen

This will be the first of two consecutive stiff league tests at home for the Bobcats. They host unbeaten R.A. Long in their homecoming game Oct. 11.

Aided by a 42-6 thumping of Aberdeen in Longview, Mark Morris won the Greater St. Helens championship last year and figure to be in the title picture again this season. Playing their entire non-league slate against higher-classification teams, the Monarchs own decisive wins over Kelso, Hudson’s Bay and Prairie while dropping a 23-20 decision to Columbia River on a last-second field goal to Columbia River.

Although known primarily for ball-control, the Monarchs mixed long drives with quick strikes in last week’s 22-0 conquest of Prairie. Quarterback Max Tilton threw touchdown passes of 69 and 56 yards, while Hayden Tapani rushed for 104 yards (including a 51-yard scoring jaunt).

The Monarchs traditionally employ plenty of deception and misdirection.

“What they actually run is not complicated, but everything has a ton of window dressing and is complementary — one thing makes another thing work,” Aberdeen coach Terry Dion said. “If you get distracted on all the fakes and motions, they will hurt you.”

Bobcat quarterback Veek Cheema, who played nearly the entire contest against Black Hills last week despite suffering from the flu, was still under the weather earlier in this week. A knee injury he suffered late in that contest, however, does not appear to be serious, according to Dion.

Sophomore running back Joel Dublanko stepped in at quarterback and engineered a late touchdown drive in the 27-17 loss. Dion said Dublanko will take some snaps at QB this week, but noted that a gimpy ankle has been restricting him to primarily defensive duty.

The AHS coach would give his team a B grade for its non-league performance.

“We could be 4-0 but we have had trouble with Red Zone turnovers,” Dion said. “We are averaging 382 yards a game on offense and have dramatically cut our points allowed on defense. We have moved up to a level where we can compete with playoff teams.”

Raymond at North Beach

The last two meetings of these Pacific League rivals have been one-sided. Raymond parlayed a considerable advantage in team speed into a 54-6 victory in 2011 and a 42-0 triumph last year.

Hyak coach Todd Bridge believes his experienced crew is better equipped to compete with the defending league champion Seagulls this season.

“Our improvement comes with age,” Bridge said. “Nearly the entire team is returning with added speed, strength, size and, above all, experience.”

While the passing of quarterback Carson Ketter has given the Hyaks an added dimension, Bridge is hopeful that his team can exhibit the ball-control that has been a North Beach trademark in recent year.

“Our offense has to play mistake-free,” he said. “We can’t give them a short field to work with. We greatly increase our odds if we can keep their offense off the field for large amounts of time. Defensively, if we want to have a chance, we’ve got to keep everything in front of us and inside.”

The likes of quarterback Rayce Newman and running back/receivers Alex Sida, Darol Ratsavongsy and Marvin So gives Raymond plenty of big-play potential.

After a narrow victory over Class 1A Tenino and a turnover-plagued loss to 1A Charles Wright Academy, the Gulls have blown out their last two foes.

“Our team has gotten better and better each and every week,” Raymond coach Rob Clements said. “We made some critical mistakes early that almost cost us versus Tenino and did cost us versus Charles Wright. We were able to clean up those fundamental problems as the team continues to progress.”

Playing well on the road, Clements added, will be one of Raymond’s top priorities.

Hoquiam at Castle Rock

Castle Rock has been a difficult team to evaluate this season. The Rockets own decisive victories over two seemingly weak teams (Stevenson and Seton Catholic). They were trounced by state power Woodland, 47-7, and last week by La Center, 48-14.

Considered a run-first team, the Rockets have operated from multiple sets — ranging from an I to a Wing-T — this season.

The Grizzlies demonstrated signs of progress in last week’s 24-12 loss to Rochester.

“For once, we outplayed somebody in the second half, due to our conditioning,” HHS coach Rick Moore said. “We need to put four quarters together. We need to be more aggressive in the line. The challenge is for the guys in the front line to get better.”

Hoquiam running back Devin Kelly, who had been feared lost for a month with a shoulder injury, saw about a quarter’s worth of action last week and probably will be used more extensively this week.

Linemen Chase Watters and Kenny Huffman and lineback Tahj Malone were cited for their play against Rochester.

Other games

Friday’s contests could sort out the playoff picture in what appears to be a more competitive than usual Evergreen 1A League.

Elma will put its two-game winning streak on the line against a vastly improved Rochester club led by running back Tyler Yarber. The latter ran for 223 yards against Hoquiam last week.

Attempting to rebound from last week’s drubbing at the hands of Woodland, Montesano will be headed north to face a Forks team that appears better than its record indicates. The Spartans lost to state-ranked Charles Wright by a respectable 28-17 score and took favored Tenino into triple overtime before falling, 21-20, last week.