State football: Area teams bring local flair to Gridiron Classic
Regardless of anything else, Eastern Washington will be able to boast about two state football champions this season.
Teams from the area will compete against each other Saturday for the 1A and 1B titles, at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. respectively.
Some might say it’s a shame that four fan bases from the east side of the state would have to brave the elements and have to travel to Tacoma to see it happen.
“No way,” said Odessa coach Jeff Nelson.
“We want to play in the dome. It’s a great place to play. Our kids are really looking forward to this.”
The top two teams in the Northeast A league spent most of the season ranked in the top 10 of the state. In the final Associated Press poll, Newport ranked No. 6, while Colville fell just outside the top 10 among others receiving votes. When they faced off in a league game on Oct. 12, many thought it would decide the league title – and it did.
Colville (12-2) beat Newport (11-1) that day fairly convincingly, 28-7, as two second-quarter touchdowns – including an 80-yard pass from league MVP John Knight to all-league receiver Chase Kanamu – allowed the Indians to build a 21-7 lead at intermission.
Neither team lost again en route to state semifinals last week, and now the Grizzlies will get a chance to avenge that October loss.
Of course, it’s easier said than done.
Newport handled Lynden Christian last week, claiming a 27-14 win to advance to the title game. Quarterback Adam Moorhead rushed for two touchdowns, and all-league receiver Tug Smith added a pair of TD runs for the Grizzlies.
While impressive, it was Colville’s semifinal win that really opened eyes.
The Indians generated four turnovers and Trevor Morrison’s fourth-quarter, 35-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed a 31-28 win over No. 1 Royal, ending the Knights’ nation’s best 53-game winning streak. In fact, the last time Royal lost was in the 2014 state semifinals – to Colville.
The two best teams in the state play in the same division of the same league in Southeastern Washington.
Odessa and Almira/Coulee-Hartline were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 all season in the state 1B poll, and that’s how they finished.
“They know us and we know them,” Nelson said. “Both programs knew, probably from the end of last season, it would come down to this.”
In the wide-open game of eight-man football, Odessa (13-0) averaged 77 points in 12 games this season (the Tigers won one game by forfeit), while ACH (12-1) came in at 70.4 in 13 games.
When the teams faced off in division play on Oct. 4, all-league RB Marcus King ran for 204 yards with four touchdowns – including a 37-yard punt return – and the Tigers defeated the Warriors. Odessa overwhelmed ACH in the first half, building a 40-6 lead at intermission.
Odessa cruised unchallenged through the rest of the season, including routs of Neah Bay and Quilcene in the postseason. The Tigers have allowed 26 points in their last five games.
ACH crushed Crescent 100-16 in a state quarterfinal, and all-league QB Maguire Isaak passed for 391 yards with five touchdowns and ran for 162 yards with three scores in an 82-28 win over Naselle in the state semis.