State Preview: Bearcats Head North to Face Undefeated North Kitsap
By Aaron VanTuyl
The state playoffs are here, with five local teams trying to advance out of the first round this Friday and Saturday. Here’s a look at who’s going where this weekend:
W.F. West at North Kitsap
Where: North Kitsap High School (Poulsbo), 7 p.m., Friday
Bracket Glance: The winner plays either River Ridge or Archbishop Murphy in the quarterfinals of the 2A state playoffs.
For an undefeated team, North Kitsap has flown somewhat under the radar this season.
The No. 5 Vikings enter the State 2A playoffs with a 9-0 record, coming off a 66-25 blowout of Eatonville in the crossover round. They’ll start state action on Friday night with W.F. West visiting.
“I think they’ve always been overlooked,” W.F. West coach Bob Wollan said. “Coach (Jeff) Weible’s been there quite a while now, and they’ve got some great athletes.”
Last season was a perfect example; the Vikings went 10-1, only to lose to eventual state champ Archbishop Murphy in the first round.
“That wasn’t a fair matchup for anybody, playing Murphy last year,” Wollan said. “I think they’ve got a ton of kids back, they’ve got a chip on their shoulder, and they’re really good.”
Most of the damage against Eatonville came from 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior running back Dax Solis, who racked up 371 rushing yards on 22 carries. He scored five touchdowns and added a 71-yard touchdown pass on a fake punt.
“He’s something else. We haven’t really seen a back like him this year,” Wollan said. “If you had to draw up a scenario that we probably don’t want to be in, it’s a big line with a big back and them coming right downhill with him.”
He’s had plenty of room to run this season behind, according to the Kitsap Sun, left tackle Connor Ryan (6-1, 230), left guard Connor Westby (5-11, 215), center Jordan Austin (6-1, 190), right guard Ryan Brooks (6-3, 245), and right tackle Robert Shipp (6-2, 240).
“It’s just a really big, physical group of people,” Wollan said. “And obviously they’ve identified what they are, and they’re comfortable being in that and not trying to do too much.”
W.F. West, meanwhile, is coming off a wild 38-35 win over Woodland in the crossover round and wrapping up what Wollan said has been an outstanding week of practice. Being in their current position, after losing a handful of experienced skill players to injuries over the course of the season, is an accomplishment in itself, he added.
“I thought our kids really bowed their neck,” Wollan said. “We’ve won some close games, and we’ve shown we’re pretty resilient.”
And being matched up with a highly-touted team in the first round is nothing new. W.F. West faced 9-1 River Ridge in the first round last year; faced undefeated Squalicum in 2015; faced 9-1 Sedro-Woolley (the eventual champion) in 2014; and faced undefeated Sumner in 2013.
“You’ve got to give yourself a chance. You’ve got to prepare, and there’s a lot to play for,” Wollan said. “I think a lot of times the toughest one is the first one.”
Note: Wollan pointed out that senior defensive back Tyson Guerrero played an outstanding game against Woodland last week, when he notched three interceptions and set up the Bearcats’ final drive with an impressive punt return.
“He’s an amazing corner(back), and anybody we put him up against, he wins the battle,” Wollan said. “He’s an invaluable guy. I think people kind of know where he’s at offensively, but I think his defense is as good as we’ve had at corner at Chehalis.
Adna at Kalama
Where: Kalama High School, 7 p.m., Friday
Bracket Glance: The winner plays either Friday Harbor or Pe Ell-Willapa Valley in the state quarterfinals.
It’s a tall order of business for the Pirates in their return to the state playoffs.
Adna (9-1) heads south to face top-ranked, undefeated Kalama (10-0) in both teams’ state opener. It’s the third-straight state bid for the Chinooks, though they haven’t been past the first round since 2007.
Alex Dyer, the Chinooks’ junior quarterback, has completed 136 of his 179 passes for 1,948 yards and 31 touchdowns, leading an offense that’s averaging over 40 points a game. Kalama’s only close game was a 14-8 overtime win over Napavine in Week 2 — the same Tiger team Adna lost to, 18-7, in Week 5.
Adna, though, is coming off a 45-0 win over Raymond in the crossover round and trying to make some noise after missing the state playoffs in 2015 and 2016. Cole Fay leads a balanced offense, with 937 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, and quarterback Conner Weed has hit an efficient 60 of 90 passes for 853 yards, with 12 touchdowns and just one interception.
Rainier vs. Napavine
Where: Tiger Stadium (Centralia), 7 p.m., Friday
Bracket Glance: The winner plays either Toledo or Concrete in the state quarterfinals.
These teams met just three weeks ago in a SWW 2B League Mountain Division game, with Napavine (9-1) holding Rainier (7-2) to a grand total of 9 offensive yards. That contest, however, was played in sideways rain on a muddy field in Rainier, while Friday’s game will, almost by default, be played under better conditions on the turf at Tiger Stadium. Quarterback Dawson Stanley had his biggest passing game of the year in the Tigers’ crossover win over South Bend, hitting 15 of 23 passes for 252 yards and four touchdowns, and since a Week 2 loss to top-ranked Kalama has thrown 21 touchdown passes without an interception. The only time since then he’s been below the 100-yard passing mark, in fact, was the Week 8 win over Rainier — when he threw just five passes, but ran for 182 yards.
Rainier, meanwhile, is coming off a 47-7 blowout of Wahkiakum in the crossover round in which junior quarterback Zach Lofgren ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns, threw a pair of touchdown passes, and intercepted three passes.
Toledo at Concrete
Where: Sedro-Woolley High School, 2 p.m., Saturday
Bracket Glance: The winner plays either Napavine or Rainier in the state quarterfinals.
Toledo (6-4) takes its three-headed rushing attack on a long road trip Saturday morning, but the Indians have been there before; they beat Concrete in the same round, on the same field, in a wild 65-40 game back in 2014. They’re making their fourth-straight appearance in the state playoffs. Running back Keyton Wallace, who has run for over 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns, leads Toledo’s offense, with Ethan Buck and Coleby Cherrington giving the packed backfield depth.
Concrete’s Marshall Fichter, a 5-foot-8, 160-pound junior, leads the Lions, with 21 touchdowns and over 1,500 rushing yards through nine games. His biggest performance was in a 66-0 win over Vashon Island on Sept. 15, when he ran for 179 yards and four touchdowns, with a kickoff return score and an interception return TD.
The Lions (8-2) are coming off a 50-6 win over La Conner, but lost games this season to South Whidbey (27-17) and Lummi (20-18).
Friday Harbor at Pe Ell-Willapa Valley
Where: Willapa Valley High School (Menlo), noon, Saturday
Bracket Glance: The winner plays either Adna or Kalama in the state quarterfinals.
The Titans got a relatively favorable draw in the first round, hosting a Friday Harbor squad with a 4-4 record that’s allowing more points (17.3 a game) than it’s scoring (14.9). The Wolverines lost to Raymond, 47-13, back on Sept. 16 — the same Raymond team PWV beat, 45-7, on Oct. 27. The Titans have won six straight games, with a trio of running backs carrying a big part of the load. Sophomore Peter Hamilton has run for 1,122 yards and nine touchdowns; Max Smith has 669 yards and 10 touchdowns; and Tyson Nissell has 651 yards and 11 touchdowns.