After winning two games last week to make it into the state tournament — and having to play three games over a nine-day span — the Southridge High School football team is glad to get back to a normal schedule as it prepares to play Lakes on Saturday at Lampson Stadium.
“We got the week planned out and it was like, ‘OK, we can take a little bit of a breather now,’ ” first-year Southridge coach Keith Munson said. “And we can reevaluate. I think the evaluation of the previous game had to get put aside some so that we could get ready for those games so quick.”
The chaos started Oct. 28 when the Suns (8-4) lost 50-10 in their regular-season finale against Kamiakin, which doubled as the Mid-Columbia Conference Class 3A championship game. They bounced back with a 44-20 road win over Greater Spokane League foe Shadle Park on Nov. 1, then won a 35-29 thriller over KingCo 3A top seed Juanita on Saturday.
As the injuries started to rack up and fatigue set in as Southridge attempted to pull off the seemingly impossible, Munson said it was sticking to the fundamentals that got the Suns through to state for the first time since 2011.
“It goes back to what we put in place at the foundation at the beginning of the year,” Munson said. “If we teach it well out of the gate, then that fundamental, sound football will carry through in situations like this.
“There’s only so many ways you can block, and so many ways you can tackle. There’s nothing new under the sun in that regard.”
The Suns seemed to get back to their run-first mindset in the win over Juanita, as running back Zayid Al-Ghani went for 243 yards and four touchdowns on his 32 carries.
But under Munson, Southridge has seen a notable uptick in the passing game this season, with quarterback Mason Martin attempting 61 more passes this year than last. A big — 6-foot-1, 200-pound — reason why is sure-handed tight end Brycen Kelly emerging as a red-zone threat and security blanket.
Although he’s a solid blocker, Kelly views himself more as a pass-catching tight end, and said he’s enjoyed getting more involved in the offense this year.
“I’m starting to watch more film and see what opposing DBs are starting to do, and learn what I can do better against them,” Kelly said. “I thought we were going to be more of a run team, but when I found out we would be a little more balanced, I started to get more involved.”
Kelly leads the team with 375 receiving yards and is second with five touchdowns. Wide receivers Gavin Willingham (284 yards, six TDs) and Samuel Kori (334 yards, three TDs) have been solid on the outside.
The Southridge defense did a nice job of slowing down one of the top running backs in the state last week, Juanita’s Salvon Ahmed, holding the senior to 161 yards on 32 carries. They’ll face another prolific ball carrier Saturday in Lakes’ Melvin Miller, who has 897 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
“It’s gonna be tough. It’s gonna be tough on our bodies, but I think we can do it,” Martin said. “Obviously we’ve seen that Zayid can run the ball really tough, and I think we’ve got a tough team all around. We’re gritty.”
Southridge will kickoff against the Lancers (6-4) at 4 p.m. Saturday following Kamiakin’s game against Gig Harbor.
AROUND THE MCC
SUNNYSIDE AT RICHLAND: The No. 3 Bombers (10-0) may have played their most complete game of the season last week as they beat Central Valley 37-0 while dominating the Bears in all three phases.
Offensively, Richland quarterback Paxton Stevens shook off two first-half interceptions to pilot the team for 341 yards and 31 points. Defensively, the Bombers intercepted quarterback Conner DeGeest four times and held Braedon Orrino, one of the top backs in the state, to 93 yards on 19 carries. And on special teams, Gaven Brasker returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown and Adam Weissenfels blocked a field goal attempt.
While Richland is a common fixture in the state tournament field — made it to the Class 4A semifinals last year — the Grizzlies (8-2) are making their first appearance since the beginning of the Reagan administration.
Sunnyside was one of the biggest surprises of the season when it jumped out to a 6-0 start. But consecutive losses to Big Nine champ Moses Lake and state powerhouse Camas have chilled the Grizzlies’ momentum.
Richland and Sunnyside haven’t played since 1963, a 30-0 victory for the Bombers, according to BomberFootball.org. The last time the Grizzlies beat the Bombers was an 18-7 affair in 1948.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Lampson Stadium.
SKYVIEW AT CHIAWANA: Since losing their first game of the season to Richland in Week 8, the No. 7 Riverhawks (9-1) appeared to be losing their touch.
They turned the ball over eight times against the Bombers. They beat 3-7 Walla Walla by just two points. And they trailed defending state champion Gonzaga Prep 13-0 after the first quarter of the loser-out, winner-to-state game last week.
But in a poetic reversal of fortunes, Chiawana forced six G-Prep turnovers and held off a late comeback attempt to win 37-35.
Running back Andrew Vargas was again the Riverhawks’ workhorse, carrying the ball 39 times for 306 yards and four touchdowns to bring his season totals up to 2,538 yards and 39 scores. The state single-season record for rushing yards is 2,929 (Bryce Hoisington, Vashon Island 2015) and total touchdowns is 50 (J.R. Hasty, Bellevue 2004; Matt Hadley, Connell 1010).
Skyview quarterback Brody Barnum dazzled in his team’s winner-to-state victory over Olympia last week, throwing for 385 yards and three touchdowns.
Although Chiawana and Skyview have never played before, there will be a little healthy rivalry on the line for the teams’ head coaches as Chiawana’s Steve Graff and Skyview’s Steve Kizer were assistant coaches at Walla Walla Community College in the ’80s.
Graff said Kizer was a groomsman at his wedding, and that this will be the first time they’ve coached against each other.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday.
GIG HARBOR AT KAMIAKIN: The MCC Class 3A champion Braves (8-2) hope to keep picking on teams their own size against the Tides (6-4), who finished fourth in the South Sound Conference.
No. 4 Kamiakin has played three 3A opponents this season (Kennewick, Southridge and Evergreen) and beat them by an average of 39 points per game.
Zach Borisch was unstoppable in the Braves’ 56-16 rout of Evergreen in their winner-to-state matchup. He threw for 287 yards and five touchdowns on 12-of-16 passing and added 31 yards on the ground. Champ Grayson had two touchdowns and 122 yards receiving in his first game back from injury.
Gig Harbor and Kamiakin will kickoff at 1 p.m. Saturday.
COLVILLE AT ROYAL: Well rested after a Week 10 bye, the top-ranked Knights (9-0) will look to extend their 25-game winning streak and begin their state title defense.
Royal beat Colville 21-7 in the second round of the state tournament last year — the closest game the Knights had in the playoffs. The Indians (7-3) lost to Cascade Christian in overtime in the 2014 state championship.
Kickoff is scheduled for noon Saturday.
MONTESANO AT CONNELL: Since the Eagles (9-1) lost their regular-season contest against Royal, they had to play the SCAC West’s Granger in a Week 10 matchup. That proved to be nothing more than a minor inconvenience as quarterback Brian Hawkins and running back Jaxs Whitby combined for six touchdowns to lead Connell to a 56-0 victory to get into the state tournament field.
Both No. 3 Connell and No. 4 Montesano (10-0) made it to the state semifinals last year, but the Bulldogs fell to King’s 28-25, and the Eagles lost to Royal 47-7.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday.
TRI-CITIES PREP VS. DAYTON-WAITSBURG: EWAC champion and eighth-ranked D-W (9-1) won the earlier installment of this matchup, going on the road to beat the Jaguars 35-20 in Week 4. But TCP (8-2), led by dual-threat quarterback Gavin Baker and tailback Mario “Bubba” Valencia, has won five of its last six, including a 40-0 drubbing of Manson in a loser-out, winner-to-state game last week.
Kickoff is scheduled for noon Saturday at Edgar Brown Stadium. D-W will be the home team.