KENNEWICK -- It became evident two weeks ago -- when Kamiakin completed the sweep of its intracity rivals -- that the CBBN 3A race was strictly for second place.
The finish line for that race is tonight, when Southridge and Kennewick square off at 7:30 at Lampson Stadium.
The winner will have the No. 2 seed into the regional crossover games with the Greater Spokane League and will entertain the GSL No. 2 -- either two-win North Central or one-win Mount Spokane. The loser will be No. 3 and play at University (4-3).
"It's always a big deal between Kennewick and Southridge," said Lions coach Bill Templeton. "There's a longtime rivalry between the two schools, mostly grown out of the fact that the coaches, parents and kids all grew up playing baseball together. When there's relationships like that, the rivalries can run deep."
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On the surface, the Suns (5-2, 4-1) and Lions (6-1, 4-1) seem like a matchup of big-play offenses: Grant Woods has 1,135 all-purpose yards and 10 TDs for Kennewick; Southridge's Chris Haueter (1,101 AP yards, 8 TDs) and Josh Richards (23.4 per catch, 7 TDs) are threats to score from anywhere.
But really, it boils down to two things: Southridge QB Matt Mendenhall buying some time and stepping into his throws against a quick defense that is tops in points and yards allowed and will make a play on most balls in the air too long; and the Lions' ability to pick up some big gains on their stretch plays and keep the second- and third-and-long pressure off QB Bryce Leavitt.
"We've done a good job against the pass and run," Templeton said. "With Mendenhall and his group of receivers, and Haueter in the backfield, we've got a lot to think about. We've got to fill the gaps. If you've got a kid throwing 60 yards off his back foot, going sideways, anything can happen."
Sunnyside (2-5, 1-4) at Eastmont (2-5, 2-3)
Despite their 1-4 record, the Grizzlies have as good a chance as anyone at nabbing the 3A's No. 4 playoff spot.
First, Hanford (3-5) lost to Kamiakin 28-14 on Thursday, which means that a Sunnyside win over Eastmont tonight moves the Griz within a game of the Falcons.
Second, Sunnyside entertains Hanford at Clem Senn Field next week. Bottom line, Grizzlies win out, and they are in.
West Valley (2-5, 1-4) at Pasco (0-7, 0-5)
The Bulldogs, still searching for that first win, have improved since underclassmen Clifton Lozano (running back) and Sean McNiel (quarterback) were inserted into the lineup three weeks ago.
If Pasco can get up on the Rams early, the Dawg 'D' should be good enough to keep West Valley's last-place offense (242 yards per game, 15 ppg) from making much noise.
Eisenhower (6-1, 3-1) at Richland (5-2, 2-2)
Mike Neidhold had a difficult decision to make two weeks ago after Richland's 22-14 home loss to Chiawana in Week 5. After falling to 0-2 in the CBBN 4A, he knew it was time to make a change at quarterback, but he wasn't sure how to tell senior Colter Quick, the Bombers' signal-caller since his junior year.
"I have Colter in class. I've known him for five years, and he's good friends with my daughter. I had to be honest and truthful with him," said Neidhold, who turned the job over to sophomore transfer Zack Whitby.
"I know making a change at quarterback is hard, but Colter has responded. He's just awesome. He's now starting at wide receiver and free safety instead of hanging his head thinking he should still be quarterback."
The move has turned out to be a win-win situation for Richland, which will face Eisenhower in a matchup that could make the difference between a regional postseason berth or a meaningless crossover game.
With Whitby at quarterback, the Bombers have rolled up more than 700 yards of offense in two games -- a 24-0 win over Wenatchee and a 31-15 victory at Walla Walla.
But it's Quick who still provides a lot of the heart and talent that could make a big difference in the end.
"(Quick) had always hoped to play safety, but there's a lot that goes with being a quarterback here, so that's all we had him do," Neidhold said.
Quick's presence on defense is part of the reason Richland has allowed just 15 points over the last two weeks. He's also been a big plus at receiver. In the win over the Blue Devils last week, he caught three passes for 77 yards.
"He's a tall target with an incredibly strong pair of hands," Neidhold said. "He uses some of that basketball see-the-court savvy as a receiver. He's not exactly our fastest wide receiver, so we have a little fun with that in practice.
"He hasn't lost his sense of humor."
Walla Walla (0-6, 0-4) at Moses Lake (0-7, 0-5)
This is the Thunderdome Bowl -- two winless teams will enter, only one will leave.
Wenatchee (4-3, 2-2) at Davis (5-2, 3-2)
The Pirates hope to bounce back from last week's reality-check, 28-0 domination by Chiawana. They need a win to make Richland (the Bombers play Moses Lake next week) and Eisenhower (vs. Walla Walla) earn their playoff berths.