RICHLAND -- The Richland defense has already gone toe-to-toe with some of the best running backs in the state, including its own Jake McKinney, who leads the CBBN with 21 rushing touchdowns, every day in practice.
But the Bombers have not faced anyone like 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior Bishop Sankey, a Washington State-bound record-setting running back from Gonzaga Prep.
Richland (8-1) will play host to the No. 6 Bulldogs (7-2) at 7 p.m. today at Fran Rish Stadium in the CBBN-Greater Spokane League crossover playoffs.
"He's as good as advertised. He's big, fast and strong and as good as anybody that's ever played on this field," said Bombers coach Mike Neidhold, who was an assistant with Richland for 21 years before taking over as head coach in 2008. "He's the best running back we've played that I can remember. And I've been here a while."
With 2,369 yards and 34 touchdowns on just 254 carries -- an astonishing 9.3 yards per carry average -- this season and 4,355 career rushing yards, Sankey has rewritten the GSL record books and has his eyes set on the single-season 4A state mark as well.
Sankey supplanted former Central Valley standout Tyree Clowe (3,937 yards) as the GSL career rushing leader in Week 8 and last week shattered Clowe's GSL single-season mark of 2,318 in 1998.
Sankey needs 307 more yards to break former Ferndale star Matthias Wilson's single-season 4A state mark of 2,676, set in 1997.
Both teams feature marquee running backs -- McKinney is second in the CBBN with 1,507 yards and a 7.6 average -- but that won't be the extent of the offense for either side.
"(Quarterback Shane) Schmidlkofer has to have a big game for us," said Prep coach Dave McKenna. "We'll have to throw the ball to keep them honest."
Neidhold, too, will look for ways to exploit one of the GSL's most susceptible pass defenses. The Bulldogs were second to last in the league, allowing 150 passing yards per game.
(6) Gonzaga Prep (7-2) at Richland (8-1)
7 p.m., Fran Rish Stadium
Key players--Gonzaga Prep: RB Bishop Sankey (254-2,369, 34 TDs rush; 14-30-0-299, 3 TDs pass); RB Griffin Hare (55-472, 7 TDs); QB/K Shane Schmidlkofer (19-219, 1 TD rush; 22-25 PAT, 2-3 FG, 32 pts). Richland: RB/DE Jake McKinney (199-1,507; 21 TDs); QB Colter Quick (69-136-9-914, 7 TDs); RB/DB Gage Reynolds (652 all-purpose yards, 5 TDs); RB/DE B.K. Robinson (49-414, 2 TDs); OL/LB Joel Teats; DB Malcolm Jimerson (3 INT).