Quarterfinal Notebook: All District 4, All the Time
District 4 Fills the Semifinals After Running the Table in the Quarterfinals; Loggers Reload Next Year; Collins Comes Close
By Aaron VanTuyl
For The Chronicle
Once upon a time, an all-District 4 set of semifinals was just a pipe dream.
With the WIAA’s new state football seeding committees, that dream is a reality. District 4 dominated the 2B bracket on Saturday, eliminating the last of the east side teams and setting up a semifinal slate that should let fans catch both games with enough gas left in the tank to get home afterwards.
Toledo, the No. 6 team on the board, ran out to an early 27-0 lead and knocked off No. 3 Tri-Cities Prep 34-23; it was the only loss of the season for the Jaguars, who were without star quarterback Dante Maiuri.
Kalama, as expected, blew out Northwest Christian (Colbert). Napavine survived a late threat from plucky Chewelah, and Adna pulled away in the second quarter of a 34-12 win over Onalaska.
Three of the top four seeds — lovingly arranged, for the first time ever, by a seeding committee rather than a preordained bracket — are in the final four, and the only top-four team to get bounced in the quarterfinals was shorthanded due to an injury.
“For years I had to watch Adna and Napavine and Kalama and Toledo and everybody beat each other up, and now, finally, here we are,” Adna coach K.C. Johnson said. “A new system, and all four of us get into it.”
Johnson, clearly, liked how things worked out.
“I think it just showed that if you split us up, we’ll end up playing each other eventually, but maybe not in round 1 or 2,” Johnson said. “That’s what used to suck; we played Napavine in round 1 or 2 a million times.”
Here’s a few more notes from Saturday’s quarterfinal action.
Wait Til Next Year
The Loggers finished the season with an 8-4 record and made their first quarterfinal appearance since 2002.
“They had a good season. I thought we had a good season, and we got a lot farther than we have in years past, so that’s nice,” said Logger coach Mazen Saade, in his eighth season with the Loggers. “It’s good for them to experience that, but I’d like to go a little farther. I think we all would have.”
There’s a few silver linings in the conclusion to Onalaska’s season. First, the Loggers four losses came to Adna (twice), Napavine and Toledo — three of the four teams playing in next weekend’s state semifinals.
Second, Onalaska’s four key skill players (quarterback Lucas Kreger, fullback Ashton Haight, and running backs Cade Lawrence and Hazen Inman) are all juniors who return next year. Big lineman Alex Frazier returns, along with center BJ Cleveland-Barrera and tight end Kayden Allison. Six seniors graduate, but the vast majority of Onalaska’s starting lineup should be back in purple next August.
“It’s a good feeling, but obviously not right now,” Saade said after Saturday’s loss. “We hope they understand what this is, where they were, and they take this feeling — and hopefully it’s a pit in their gut — and they use that for the future.”
Why Not Centralia?
One of the questions leading up to Saturday’s quarterfinal round was why Adna selected Tumwater District Stadium as its home site — and not Centralia, a shorter drive for both fan bases by around 20 miles.
K.C. Johnson, who works as both Adna’s head football coach and its athletic director, simply likes Tumwater’s Sid Otton Field.
“I love Tumwater. That’s why we’re here. I love this field,” he said. “The turf’s great. The stadium’s great. We like playing here and we’re hoping to be back again next week.”
There’s a little more to it than just that, though. Johnson also doesn’t want to (and likely won’t have to) play rival Napavine in Centralia.
“It’s Fay Field. It’s even orange and black and has a Tiger on it,” he said. “I don’t want to play him at home. That’s like playing him at home.”
Fay, of course, is Napavine head coach Josh Fay — an Adna graduate and one of Johnson’s assistant coaches before he took the Napavine job in 2007. Fay’s Tigers are an impressive 13-1 at the other Tiger Stadium since 2012, with the lone loss coming to Kalama in last year’s state semifinals.
A bit more playoff-site history:
- Adna lost to Raymond, 16-14, in a 2016 district crossover game in Centralia.
- Adna’s most recent game at Centralia was a 14-7 win over Reardan in the 2013 state quarterfinals; the Pirates went across the mountains a week later and lost to eventual state champion Lind-Ritzville/Sprague in the semifinals.
- The Pirates lost a foggy battle with Morton-White Pass in the 2011 quarterfinals in Centralia; MWP went on to the first of three straight championship game appearances (beating Napavine in the semifinals, 27-21).
- Adna lost a wild first-round game to Napavine, 44-35, in Centralia back in 2010. (Fay’s comment, afterwards: “One of these years, I’d just like to play ‘em in the Tacoma Dome.”)
- Adna beat Napavine, 37-6, in the 2009 state quarterfinals … in Tumwater. Adna went on to win the state title.
- Adna lost to Napavine, 41-34, in a classic 2008 quarterfinal, also in Tumwater. Napavine went on to win its first 11-man state title.
Brady Collins was almost there.
Collins, the Pirates’ dynamic receiver/return man, took the Loggers’ first punt of the game 65 yards for a touchdown less than two minutes in to Saturday’s quarterfinal game. That gave him nine career punt-return touchdowns — just one away from tying former Pirate Anthony Tatum’s state record.
He had another shot in the second half, picking up a punt on the 50-yard line and going up the ride side. He saw the flag early, though, and went from a sprint to a jog as he crossed the goal line. A block-in-the-back penalty called back the score.
“I was very frustrated,” he admitted. “I saw the block right in front of me. It wasn’t an awful block. It’s just tough having three or four punts called back this year.
“But I don’t put that on any of my teammates,” he quickly added. “That’s just how it goes sometimes.”
The senior still finished with three touchdowns, grabbing a pass behind the line of scrimmage on the left side of the field, running behind quarterback Braden Thomas, and then cutting upfield 11 yards for his first receiving score.
The second was a bit more impressive. In the fourth quarter, Thomas rolled out to his right, then turned and threw a dime to Collins in the back left corner of the end zone from 21 yards out.
“We ran that play two plays before, but Braden didn’t see me, so it was perfect,” Collins said.
Thomas, a junior, played tailback last season at Walla Walla High School, and has been developing under center throughout the season. The fourth-quarter pass was an indicator of his progress.
“It was money. He threw three or four great balls to me this game,” Collins said. “He’s on right now, so it’s perfect.”