Business-like is a good way to describe football practice at Richland High School this week as the Bombers prepare to host Central Valley in a Class 4A state play-in game.
With an undefeated regular-season record and a Mid-Columbia Conference championship already to their credit, the Bombers are focusing on taking care of the little things in their matchup with the Bears (7-2) at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We’ve gotta play hard, we’ve gotta run hard, we’ve gotta execute, we’ve gotta complete passes when we need to, and we’ve got to play good strong Bomber ‘D,’ ” junior wide receiver/defensive back Adam Weissenfels said. “We’ve got to swarm to the ball and get 11 men on it every single play, hit ’em in the mouth and make them wish they didn’t have to play the Bombers this week.”
There probably isn’t a team in the state that would wish otherwise.
On top of its 9-0 record, Richland boasts the best offense in the MCC (402.3 yards per game) and second-best defense (207.6 yards allowed). The Bombers have navigated a brutal schedule, racking up wins against Skyline, Chiawana and Kamiakin, and have defended their top-two state ranking on a weekly basis.
As Richland coach Mike Neidhold points out, they’ve done it without a true superstar at running back or wide receiver, but instead with a roster full of players who are capable of contributing.
Senior Alex Chapman led the MCC in receiving for the first six weeks of the season, but he has only caught four passes for 31 yards in the past three games. Neidhold said that’s not because of a drop-off in Chapman’s play, but because so many other guys have stepped up that there aren’t enough touches to go around.
While guys such as Josh Mendoza, Weissenfels and Ryan Piper have contributed all season, senior Kody Kjarmo and junior Gaven Brasker have seen an uptick in targets the past few games, and their increased production has rounded out the Bombers’ offense.
“They’ve always been there, since Week 1,” Neidhold said. “I think the first game we played against Skyline, we might have had 15 or 20 completions to 10 different guys.
“We don’t think that we lose a whole lot when we put our seconds in. They’re not really seconds, they’re just numbers five, six, seven and eight behind the one, two, three, four.”
Armed with a stable of receiving talent, senior quarterback Paxton Stevens has feasted on opposing defenses to the tune of an MCC-leading 2,075 passing yards. He also has thrown 24 touchdown passes, tied for second in the conference.
“Not very many teams have eight guys that can cover all eight of our receivers,” Stevens said. “We’re solid all the way across with our receivers, and I’m glad to have those guys at my back. It’s good to throw to them.”
Central Valley running back Braedon Orrino leads the Greater Spokane League in rushing (976 yards and 11 touchdowns), but kicker Ryan Rehkow might be the Bears’ top weapon.
Rehkow’s older brother, Austin — a senior at the University of Idaho — has twice been named an All-America punter and famously made a 67-yard field goal when he was at Central Valley. Ryan Rehkow’s career long is a mere 57-yarder, and he leads the GSL in punting (48.4-yard average on 23 attempts).
Neidhold said he has to strategize against a kicker as talented as Rehkow, whom the Bombers got a good look at last year when they beat the Bears 30-3 in the first round of the state tournament.
“You try to get your offense to take the field goal off the plate so they have to score, so that a three won’t help them,” Neidhold said. “It puts a little pressure on your offense when you have such a weapon like that. And he’s their punter too, so if you get them bottled up in their end, he kicked a 68-yard punt against (Gonzaga) Prep.
“He’s able to flip the field with his foot, which is a nice weapon.”
If Richland beats Central Valley, it will host the Skyview-Olympia winner in the first round of the state tournament.
MCC PLAYOFF GAMES
CHIAWANA AT GONZAGA PREP: The Riverhawks (8-1) turned the ball over eight times in their Week 8 loss to Richland, then narrowly escaped Walla Walla with a 14-12 victory over the Blue Devils last week.
They’ll hope to reverse their recent fortunes quickly against the defending Class 4A state champion Bullpups (7-2), who boast a GSL-best defense (allowing 177 yards per game). Gonzaga Prep’s two losses this season came against perennial state powerhouses Skyline and Eastside Catholic.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday.
EVERGREEN AT KAMIAKIN: The Plainsmen posted a 2-7 overall record this season, but they won a three-way, Kansas Plan tiebreaker Monday over Hudson’s Bay and Prairie to get their shot against the Braves (7-2).
Kennewick earned the right to host its playoff game this week by trouncing Southridge 50-10 last Thursday.
Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday.
SOUTHRIDGE AT JUANITA: The Suns (6-4) bounced back nicely from a blowout loss to crosstown rival Kamiakin in the regular-season finale, dispatching visiting Shadle Park 44-20 on Tuesday in a loser-out game.
Juanita (4-4) is representing the KingCo 3A’s top seed in this loser-out, winner-to-state game, as Bellevue, which went 5-0 in conference play, was slapped with a four-year playoff ban this offseason.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday.
OTHELLO AT ELLENSBURG: Even after a loss to Prosser last week, the Huskies (7-2, 7-1) could at least end up in a three-way tie for the CWAC’s top playoff spot with a win over the Bulldogs (8-1, 8-0).
After suffering a season-opening loss to 1A Royal, Ellensburg is beating opponents by an average of 46 points per game.
The conference champion gets the district’s top seed to state and doesn’t have to play a crossover game against a Great Northern League opponent.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday.
PROSSER AT SELAH: A win for the Mustangs (8-1, 7-1) guarantees them a spot in the postseason, and would put them in a three-way tie for the CWAC championship if Othello knocks off Ellensburg.
A victory for Selah (6-3, 6-2) would at least put the Vikings in a tiebreaker for a playoff spot.
The league’s No. 3 seed will play Tuesday at Pullman, and the No. 2 seed will host West Valley (Spokane).
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday.
GRANGER AT CONNELL: The Eagles wrapped up their 8-1 regular season with a 62-16 win over Wahluke last week. They will host a 6-3 Spartans team that lost 42-6 to Naches Valley in its regular-season finale.
The winner gets the district’s No. 3 seed to state. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday.
COLUMBIA-BURBANK AT LA SALLE: Coyotes quarterback Reece Humphreys leads a prolific Burbank (4-5) offense that has only failed to score 40 or more points twice in SCAC East play — against Royal and Connell — but will get a tough test from a 7-1 Lightning team that almost beat perennial SCAC West champion Zillah a few weeks ago.
The winner gets the district’s No. 5 seed to state. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Marquette Stadium.
MANSON AT TRI-CITIES PREP: The Jaguars (7-2) look to bounce back from a Week 9 loss at Kittitas against the District 6 No. 4 team. Manson (5-3) beat Brewster 36-0 last week to improve its seeding.
The winner will travel to face Dayton-Waitsburg or Tonasket in the first round of the state tournament.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Chiawana High School.
Non-playoff crossover games include Mead at Walla Walla, Hanford vs. Ferris at Joe Albi Stadium and Pasco at University, all of which will kick off at 6 p.m. Thursday. Lewis & Clark visits Kennewick at 7 p.m. Thursday at Lampson Stadium.
Other local matchups are Grandview at Quincy (7 p.m. Thursday), Touchet at Colton (7 p.m. Thursday) and Tonasket vs. Dayton-Waitsburg (7 p.m. Friday at Brewster High School).