KENNEWICK — The Kennewick Lions are 3-1 and on the verge of a 3A top-10 ranking.
The Sunnyside Grizzlies are 1-3 and coming off a tough 3A CBBN loss at West Valley.
Despite the disparity in records, there's really not much separating these two teams in terms of what they're capable of when they meet at Lampson Stadium at 7:30 p.m. today.
"Right now we're playing really solid. I told the kids if I could tell them what they're doing wrong, I would," Sunnyside coach Mark Marro said. "We're outgaining opponents 2-1 (in yardage), and I think we're about three or four plays from being 4-0."
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None of which surprises Kennewick, which fell 14-6 to fourth-ranked Kamiakin last week in its only loss of the season. The Lions proved they can play with the best in the state and also boast one of the most explosive offensive players in the CBBN 3A in Grant Woods, who leads the league at 8.3 yards a carry and is tied with Chris Haueter of Southridge for the CBBN scoring lead with six touchdowns.
But both coaches agree this one will come down to defense.
"It's going to depend on the front seven up there doing their jobs," said Kennewick coach Bill Templeton. "Kamiakin did some offshoots of the trap, but (Sunnyside) runs an old-school trap that's tough to defend even when you know it's coming. If our linebackers don't read their keys and our defensive linemen fly straight up the field, it's going to be a long night."
The Grizzlies' defensive backs have done a number on some of the CBBN's top quarterbacks, holding Deion Wright of Davis and Matt Mendenhall of Southridge -- who led the CBBN 4A and 3A in passing last season -- to just over 100 yards passing.
"We're really happy with the play of our defensive backs. That's our strength," Marro said.
The Lions boast the CBBN 3A's top defense, allowing a league-low 165.5 yards a game. Kennewick's 3-4 defensive scheme features talent at every position but doesn't depend on just one player to get things done.
"We have some good standout athletes on the team, but I've been really happy with the unselfishness of the starters," Templeton said. "The thing I like to see each week is them just getting better and better."
The Grizzlies will play without returning all-CBBN 3A running back Steven Monterrey, who injured his knee during a Week 3 loss at Southridge. Even without Monterrey (6.5 avg, 2 TDs), Sunnyside still has the league's top rushing offense, which has averaged over 200 rushing yards a game with Ramon Hernandez (7.4 avg, 2 TDs)
One solid addition to Sunnyside this year has been quarterback Eduardo Salmeron, an elusive scrambler who has rushed for five touchdowns and passed for three more.
"They've always been athletic, and they like to run around," Templeton said. "We'd better buckle up our chinstraps."