The Chiawana football team is cruising along at 3-0 and ranked No. 4 among Class 4A teams in the latest Associated Press poll.
But the Riverhawks havent forgotten what it felt like a year ago at this time, sitting at 0-3 and desperately struggling to find their identity.
We were just kind of pissed off we just got ran all over. We came together and said thats not going to happen again, senior linebacker Alex Weber said. Our defensive coach made a plan that really fit for us as players perfectly. Weve executed it up to this point, and we plan to keep doing it.
Chiawana coach Steve Graff said the biggest difference has been the seniors stepping up into leadership roles. In 2012, the lack of senior leadership was a major reason for the poor start.
There was no leadership. The juniors stepped up and decided they were going to be the leaders, Graff said. The kids worked hard in the offseason, and were off to a good start with good focus. Hopefully, we can keep that focus. The plan is to get better every week.
Thats a bit of a scary thought for Mid-Columbia Conference opponents.
Chiawana already leads the MCC in most major defensive categories, including fewest yards allowed (192 per game), rushing defense (40.3 yards a game) and interceptions (7). The Riverhawks have forced 10 turnovers in the last two games alone.
Thats one team youll never fake out. You had just better execute, said Pasco coach Dustin Lamb, whose 0-3 Bulldogs will face Chiawana on Friday at 7 p.m. at Edgar Brown Stadium in the fourth Gravel Pit Bowl. Youve got to win the turnover battle for sure. Somehow, you just have to contain them.Theyve got a stud at every position.
Chiawana has made a big statement on offense as well, leading the MCC in rushing (644 yards) and passing (781) yards while averaging 44.3 points a game. Riverhawks running back Clifton Lozano leads the MCC in rushing with 412 yards, and quarterback Joey Zamora tops the conference in passing with 753 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions.
Newcomer Deion Singleton has come on strong lately and is second in the league in catches (13), receiving yards (345) and receiving TDs (3).
Weve been taking it game-by-game. Thats all weve been doing, Lozano said.
Pasco has not won a Gravel Pit Bowl since the teams began the rivalry in 2010, but the Bulldogs have always managed to put up a good fight.
Any time you play your crosstown rival, things get heated up, Lamb said. More than anything, its just atmosphere. It makes both teams step up.
The Bulldogs lead the league in passing defense, giving up just 88.7 yards a game. Lamb said part of that is facing rush-first teams that dont like to put the ball in the air very often. But the coach also gives credit to a strong defensive backfield that includes three returning starters.
Our secondary has played very well. Each of them has a pick, Lamb said. A lot of them started as sophomores.