In more ways than one, Raymond’s Seagulls will bask in the glow of an uncharacteristic spotlight on Saturday.
The fifth-ranked Gulls (9-1) will challenge state poll leader Morton/White Pass (11-0) in a state Class 2B semifinal scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
Although Raymond has four state football championships to its credit (three of them consecutive Class A crowns in the 1970s), this will be the Gulls’ first Tacoma Dome outing in 20 years — since their 1993 state championship season.
The game will be telecast by ROOT Sports. It is believed that this will be Raymond’s first-ever appearance on live regional television.
If the Tacoma Dome is uncharted territory for current Seagulls, it is practically a second home for Morton/White Pass — albeit a home filled with considerable heartbreak.
The Timberwolves have made it to the state 2B championship game in the T-Dome the past two years. They are 0-2 in those contests, having been blown out by Waitsburg/Prescott in the 2011 title game and losing a 21-19 thriller to Lind-Ritzville/Sprague in last year’s final.
Lind-Ritzville/Sprague, incidentally, faces surprising Adna in the other semifinal Saturday at Moses Lake. Saturday’s winners will collide for the state championship at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Tacoma Dome.
Raymond and Morton/White Pass have at least two things in common. Both are explosive teams that cruised to league championships and survived tough tests last week.
Until last Saturday, the Central League champion Timberwolves’ closest victory margin was 26 points. They appeared headed for a comfortable state quarterfinal victory over LaConner as well last Saturday, owning a 26-7 lead early in the second half. Aided by a tipped pass that a lineman intercepted and returned for a touchdown, the third-ranked Braves scored the next two touchdowns before falling short, 26-21. That reduced MWP’s season scoring average to a shade over 48 points per contest.
The Timberwolves are extremely diversified. They’ve averaged close to 280 yards per game rushing, while quarterback Rylon Kolb has passed for 1,628 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. Last Saturday’s pick-six against LaConner was only his third interception of the season.
Senior Brian Reynolds is MWP’s leading rusher with more than 1,200 yards for the season. He is averaging 7.8 yards per carry.
Raymond coach Rob Clements is also impressed with the Timberwolves’ line.
“They are fast and physical,” he said. “They thrive on your mistakes and love the big play. They also have great team speed on defense that helps any lapses in assignments.
“They will be the most physical team we have played,” Clements stressed.
After splitting a pair of tight non-leaguers against rugged Class 1A foes (beating Evergreen 1A League champion Tenino and losing to Charles Wright Academy), the Gulls were only occasionally tested during the balance of the regular season.
They’ve proven more than equal to tough challenges in the state playoffs. After scoring a last-minute touchdown to edge Wahkiakum, 20-14, in an opening-round contest, they scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to rally past Napavine, 27-24, in last Saturday’s quarterfinals at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field.
While happy with his team’s fortitude in those games, Clements believes his club needs a more consistent overall performance to make it a state trifecta over Central League foes.
“We have to sustain our energy for four quarters,” the Raymond coach said. “We went into lulls in the second and third quarters of our last two games and that can’t happen (again). Our execution in all phases of the game has improved each week and we will need to continue this to be able to advance.”
Running back Alex Sida was Raymond’s chief weapon against Wahkiakum, rushing for 150 yards and scoring all of his team’s three touchdowns in that contest. Backfield mate Darol Ratsavongsy took up the bulk of the ball-carrying chores last week, getting the majority of his 114 yards in the second half.
Clements attributed the late turnaround against Napavine to double-covering ace receiver Cole Doughty (who had 14 receptions) with linebacker Rayce Newman and defensive back Marvin So in the fourth quarter. He added that the Gulls controlled the line of scrimmage in the late going.
“By the last drive, it was apparent we were winning the battle up front and Darol was going to get at least four yards every carry,” Clements said. “So we let him carry us down the field.”
Like most Twin Harbor teams who are new to indoor football, Clements said the change in temperature will require some adaptation.
“The biggest adjustment is going from playing in 40-degree weather to playing in 72-degree weather,” he concluded.