State 2B Football: No Bad Outcomes: State Semifinalists Offer Familiar, Fun Fates
By Aaron VanTuyl / For The Chronicle
We’ve come to that stage of the season where all the local 2B football fans can puff out their chest, breathe in that chilly November air, climb atop their van, and shout the good word of District 4 to passers-by.
It’s another all-SWW 2B League semifinals — something that, we should keep in mind, wouldn’t have been possible two seasons ago.
In the new seeding committee era, though, it’s become the norm. Last year No. 1 Adna, No. 2 Kalama, No. 4 Napavine, and No. 6 Toledo landed in the semifinals; this year No. 1 Onalaska, No. 2 Napavine, No. 3 Kalama, and No. 5 Adna are still standing.
That’s not bad work by the seeding committee. (“Six strangers, picked to live in WIAA headquarters, talk football together and have their takes taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start ranking teams!”) The only issue with the bracket was that, if anything, District 4 didn’t get enough credit: Toledo, seeded 10, upset No. 7 Colfax 32-12 in the first round; and Rainier, seeded 14, lost to Kalama in the only in-district first-round game.
The Mountaineers, in retrospect, likely would have held their own against any of the east side teams; they lost to Toledo by a point, and Toledo beat No. 7 Colfax 32-12. They scored 14 against Kalama and 22 against Onalaska, which is something neither No. 6 Lake Roosevelt nor No. 9 Tri-Cities Prep can say. They kept things interesting with Adna in a 34-24 win, and the Pirates had a running-clock win over No. 12 Davenport and led No. 4 Chewelah 35-7 before a last-play touchdown.
That being said, after two rounds of play the bracket has inarguably left the four best teams in the state standing. From here on out there’s no combination of outcomes that doesn’t look like fun.
Let’s take a look at the teams and then the matchups.
Are they good?: They’re the last undefeated 2B team left in the state and have been for a few weeks now. They’re not bad.
Do they have any Dudes?: Yes. Ashton Haight (2,234 yards, 31 touchdowns) is comfortable running the ball 40 times a game, and the durable senior fullback is as accustomed to that workload as anyone in the state. Alex Frazier, at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, is probably the best 2B lineman in the state. Quarterback Lucas Kreger is really good at hiding behind the line, pretending he’s handed the ball off, and then running a long ways without anyone seeing him.
What’s their offense like?: It’s like playing Mortal Kombat against a kid who only knows one player’s special move and they just keep, like, playing as Sub-Zero and freezing you. The Loggers don’t pass, don’t run trick plays, and don’t do anything you can’t see coming from the parking lot.
Are they good?: They’re in the semifinals for the sixth year in a row and the only game they lost was against Onalaska. They’re pretty good.
Do they have any Dudes?: Linebacker/tight end Cade Evander is a strapping fellow. Quarterback Laythan Demarest is one of the quickest, shiftiest runners in the state and his receivers have looked good the last few weeks. Lineman Keith Olson is the size of a walk-in refrigerator.
What’s their offense like?: It’s like when your friend gets the new Madden and invites you over and claims they haven’t played it hardly at all but then you realize they’ve actually been playing it every day for a few weeks. They can do a lot of stuff, they don’t make a lot of mistakes, and they’ve got so many weapons they haven’t really needed to run Demarest much the past weeks.
Are they good?: They finished third in the SWW 2B Mountain Division, but nobody’s surprised to see them in the semifinals. They’re decent.
Do they have any Dudes?: Cole Fay, the Pirates’ star running back, is quite good whether he’s in the backfield, catching passes, or returning punts. Quarterback Braden Thomas is tough to bring down and can throw a decent ball when the Pirates spread it out.
What’s their offense like?: It’s multifaceted. If it isn’t working with Fay and Zach Berg or someone in the backfield, they’ll spread it out and let Thomas throw it around.
Are they good?: They’ve won the last two state championships. They’re fine.
Do they have any Dudes?: Quarterback Jackson Esary is a dude. Brennon Vance is one of the best receivers in the state and also someone you could call a dude.
What’s their offense like?: It’s been sort of a work in progress, but in a good way. Esary isn’t the same type of quarterback Alex Dyer — last year’s 2B Player of the Year — was, but he’s gotten better at playing quarterback, instead of just being athletic at the quarterback position, as the season has developed. He throws a good ball.
Option 1: Napavine vs. Onalaska.
The skinny: These two teams have been ranked 1 and 2 most of the season. The Loggers beat Napavine, 36-13, in a slippery, muddy downpour on Oct. 18 in Onalaska that dramatic folks might call a moment of truth or something. This, frankly, is the championship game people have been expecting.
The chatter: There’s a debate to be had, perhaps to the Loggers’ chagrin, that if that Oct. 18 game had been played under clear skies, and on turf, and maybe in the daylight, with no golf carts on the sidelines, the outcome would have been different. The counter to that, of course, is that the game happened the way it happened, and maybe you can’t blame 23 points on a little drizzle, and if you didn’t like bad weather maybe you shouldn’t have gone to an October game in Onalaska.
Option 2: Kalama vs. Onalaska.
The skinny: This is the only potential matchup on the board we haven’t seen this year. The last time they played was a crossover game back in 2017; Kalama won, 50-6, to keep the Loggers out of the state playoffs. The Chinooks went on to win the state championship.
The chatter: Stylistically, it looks like fun: Do the Chinooks have enough size up front to stop the Loggers from picking up 5 or 6 yards every snap? Can the Loggers keep the big-play Chinooks from cashing in on an Esary-to-Vance scramble touchdown? It could be an entertaining finale.
Option 3: Napavine vs. Adna.
The skinny: Napavine beat Adna 46-13 on Oct. 4, and upset the Pirates in last year’s state semifinals. There’s plenty of history between the two teams and an Adna-Napavine state championship game is probably what plenty of folks along Highway 603 had in mind when the state decided to ditch the predetermined-bracket playoff system.
The chatter: Napavine, with that 33-point win in its back pocket, would be the heavy favorite in a rematch. But watching Adna coach K.C. Johnson dig into his playbook for oddball strategies and trick plays to catch the Tigers off guard could be a lot of fun.
Option 4: Kalama vs. Adna.
The skinny: Kalama beat Adna 27-14 back on Sept. 20, though the Pirates lost their quarterback (Thomas) to an injury in the first half. Adna beat Kalama, 27-17, during the regular season last year, but Kalama lost quarterback Alex Dyer in the first half. It stands to reason that Thomas and Esary should each wear two helmets and be encased in bubble wrap if this matchup should occur.
The chatter: The 3 and 5 seeds meeting in the finals seems like the most unlikely of outcomes. That being said, it feels like a matchup made for big plays and, purely from a high-scoring entertainment standpoint, could be the most fun of the four possibilities.