RICHLAND, Wash. — There are few feelings worse for a defensive football player than lying on the turf and watching a ball carrier scamper toward the end zone.
In 8-man football, that can happen quite often, as high-scoring games are the norm compared to 11-man games.
"There are more islands. If you miss a tackle, they are scoring," Liberty Christian safety Tyler Morris said. "Eleven man is almost more controlled. In 8-man, you have more open-field tackling."
Good form tackling is just one reason Liberty Christian has improved so much on defense. The Patriots are also blessed with team speed, and led by four seniors, work together as a unit.
"It's teamwork," nose guard Timmy Koglin said. "Keeping in your lanes, quickness and everyone knowing their responsibility and not trying to do too much.
"We practice tackling every day. A couple of years ago, we had a lot of trouble with that, but now that we have the feel for (8-man) we do better."
Liberty Christian, which faces Cusick at 1 p.m. Saturday in the state 1B semifinals at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, switched to 8-man football for the 2010 season, when this year's seniors were sophomores.
They've steadily improved throughout their time in high school, culminating in a season where they have allowed 86 points in 12 games.
"We didn't have the speed and experience," coach Mike Olson said of the last few years. "We've worked on pursuit angles, and taking proper ones. It can be forcing an option team inside so they can't cutback, or shrinking the field outside in on teams that have one guy in the backfield."
It's also a mental shift for the Patriots, who take more pride in shutting down opponents than scoring gobs of points offensively.
"Our ability to pursue is what makes us good," cornerback Brandon Peterson said. "And no one gives up on a play. There is no one walking."
That effort has paid off this season, as the team has earned its first state playoff berth and a trip to the semifinals and a big part of that has been not giving up big plays, or very many points.
"It's pretty disheartening to know you could've stopped (a score)," linebacker Mike Olson said. "We haven't had many plays like that this year, but it could happen the next few weeks."
And that is something the coaches have been preaching to the kids in practice.
Be prepared to give up more points as the competition improves, but keep working as a unit and the Patriots might just find themselves in the Tacoma Dome playing for a state title.