KENNEWICK -- Another week, another showdown between league unbeatens at the Lamp.
The Kamiakin Braves have thrived in the spotlight that comes with being the defending league champ that made a run to the state title game.
Tonight, it's Southridge's turn to try and knock the Braves off the mountain top in front of what figures to be another packed house at Lampson Stadium (7:30 p.m. kickoff).
The No. 4 Braves (3-0 CBBN 3A, 5-0 overall) are coming off back-to-back close calls -- 14-6 against Kennewick two weeks ago and a surprisingly tough 28-23 win at West Valley last week.
The unranked Suns (3-0, 4-1) also have had their share of close shaves, opening the season with a two-point loss at Wenatchee and winning by one over visiting Sunnyside in Week 3.
"Two rivals, just like in the Kennewick game, the atmosphere is going to be rocking," Kamiakin coach Scott Biglin said. "Both undefeated in league, battling for first place. We don't want to give that up, and they're not going to give it up either."
Southridge and Kamiakin are Nos. 1 and 2 in offense, and while the Suns defense has given up more yardage than anyone but Eastmont (328.6 per game), it has have allowed just 76 points total, the same as Kamiakin's stout crew. That points to a defense that gets tougher as the field gets shorter, solid special teams and an offense that doesn't turn the ball over.
"You look at our first couple of games, and you take out five plays where we didn't tackle well, and you take out 350, 400 yards of offense," said Southridge coach Tony Reiboldt, adding that his young defense has improved each week.
"We focus on rallying to the ball better, fundamentals. We want our tackling to be sound. But you take a sophomore and put him in there, and there's going to be a learning curve."
Suns running back Chris Haueter leads the league in rushing (112-651, 6 TDs) and all-purpose yards (841), despite coming off a game in which he gained just 43 yards and 2.9 ypc against Hanford.
Life doesn't get any easier against a Kamiakin squad with uber talent in the front seven and that held Kennewick big-play back Grant Woods to just 22 yards on 10 carries.
Still, the key factor is Suns QB Matt Mendenhall (1,272 yards, 11 TDs) and the Kamiakin pass rush.
The Braves are relentless with depth and talent across the defensive line and athletes at linebacker who love to blitz. If the Southridge line -- with copious help from the running backs, tight ends, etc. -- can keep Mendenhall upright, he will have time to find top receivers Paul Hamada and Josh Richards (coming off a 256-yard, 3-TD game vs. Hanford) and make the Braves pay. Otherwise, the ball will stay in the grasp of the Kamiakin offense, the most balanced in the league.
Kamiakin running back Zach Umemoto (93-564, 5 TDs) is second in the league in rushing. When he didn't suit up last week (ankle, expected to play), Cody Wilmoth ran for 149 yards and two TDs in his first action of the season.
Quarterback Jason Hutchison's 930 passing yards trails only Mendenhall, but he's thrown the same 11 TDs on 70 fewer attempts than the Suns QB.
"It's been a progression for me as a play caller," said Biglin, in his third year at Kamiakin. "The first year we threw a thousand times, and that put a lot of pressure on our quarterback. Last year, we had some phenomenal guys (at receiver).
"This year, we got the big uglies up front and they're getting it done for us. We got a running back who can get three, four yards and he's carrying the load. We're running more plays and controlling the clock."
If that clock-control offense and the pass rush keeps Mendenhall on the sideline, the Braves likely will continue as kings of the league.
Kennewick (2-1, 4-1) at Hanford (2-1, 2-3)
This key matchup at Fran Rish will decide who will be tied in second place in the CBBN 3A and who will be tied for fourth -- a big deal in a league with four postseason berths and just three more weeks of league play after this.
The Lions -- ranked just outside the 3A top 10 -- are coming off a closer-than-expected 20-7 win over Sunnyside and continue to lead the league in defense in yards allowed (172 per game) and points (27 total in five games).
Hanford also has been stiff on defense (298.4 ypg, third) but has been out-played in the big-play department -- Southridge broke a couple of long TDs last week, and the Lions have that same ability with the likes of Grant Woods and Reggie Clinton.
The Falcons have a stable of talented running backs ... provided they are healthy and suited up. And their line is getting better each week -- tackle Joe Douglas looks awful tough pulling around the end.
Ball control is king for Hanford, big plays for Kennewick.
Pasco (0-3, 0-5) at Sunnyside (0-3, 1-4)
Two teams searching for their first league win, and a Pasco team trying to get on the right track.
The Bulldogs are giving up about 100 more yards and twice as many points as they are gaining. Receiver Ethan Cantu (26-420, 5 TDs) is among the league's top big-play makers. But consistency across the board has been a big problem.
The Grizzlies have perhaps the league's most exciting player in QB Eduardo Salmeron, who can make a 3-yard scramble a 50-yard event. Also, do-everything running back/special teamer Israel Manzo returned to the lineup last week.
West Valley (1-2, 2-3) at Eastmont (1-2, 1-4)
Last in offense (Rams) vs. last in defense (Wildcats) -- kind of a resistible force/moveable object battle.
Moses Lake (0-3, 0-5) at Chiawana (3-0, 5-0)
Talking heads would probably call this a trap game for No. 5 Chiawana, coming off a stirring comeback win over rival Richland and a week away from taking on No. 9 Davis.
But don't expect Jordan Downing -- already just 53 yards away from 1,000 yards rushing -- Miquiyah Zamora, C.J. Edrington and company from letting off the gas until well in front and well into the second half.
Downing put 177 yards and 3 TDs on the Bombers defense that has been the best in the CBBN 4A overall and against the run. Against the Chiefs, who give up nearly 200 yards rushing a game, he could get a good start on his next 1,000.
Richland (0-2, 3-2) at Wenatchee (2-1, 4-1)
Tough way for the Bombers to have to bounce back from a disappointing second half against the Riverhawks, traveling north to play in the Apple Bowl.
Moreover, Richland is still searching for its first league win after opening CBBN 4A play with Davis and Chiawana. The Bombers face a Panthers team that has beaten Southridge (18-17), Eastmont (40-19) and Moses Lake (51-26) at home. A loss, and the Bombers will likely find themselves on the outside looking in come week 10 and the regional crossovers.
Wenatchee is one of the best against the pass, one of the worst against the run, so Richland's passing game will be key. But if the Panthers consistently get the ball to their big-play guys like Spencer Smith (8.2 yards per carry) and Connor Black (six receiving TDs), it could be a very long bus ride back home.
Eisenhower (1-1, 4-1) vs. Davis (3-0, 5-0)
You don't have to have a dog in this race to love the matchup, which should be a passing-palooza.
Davis' Deion Wright has thrown for 1,712 yards and 18 TDs, Ike's Kolney Cassel for 1,634 and 16. The Cadets' Denzel Jones gets the academy award for best action hero, with his 43 catches, 823 yards and 11 TDs -- far and away the best in the league. His 19.1 yards per catch is surpassed only by Davis' Chris Chapman (21.4) and Cooper Kupp (19.5, 7 TDs).