Five years ago, the Liberty Christian football team had a serious numbers issue.
The private high school in Richland was classified as a 2B school, which meant it played 11-man football. But with the economy tanking and their enrollment numbers dropping, the Patriots went into some games with just 13 players suited up.
So, a tough decision was made before the 2010 season -- Liberty Christian would play in the District 9 Southeast 1B league, but it would not be able to advance to the postseason because it was classified as a 2B school.
“It wasn’t very safe to go into a game with that many players,” coach Mike Olson said. “And we didn’t have much of a chance.”
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By dropping to 8-man, though, the Patriots had a much better shot. They went undefeated in 2010 and then finished 7-3 last season, playing without any seniors.
This season, the Patriots not only are loaded with talent, but they also are officially a Class 1B team, and they have a deep December run on their minds.
“This year, we’re going to hopefully reap the benefits,” said Olson, whose team hosts Echo, Ore., on Friday. “We have a pretty good team. We weren’t at full strength for either of our first two games yet, but even with the kids we have right now, we’re tough.
“We play really good defense and have the ability to score a lot of points.”That was evident last week, when the Patriots roughed up Almira/Coulee-Hartline on the road. ACH played in the state title game last season.
“A lot of people might think ACH isn’t that good this year,” Olson said, “but I think we are just that good. I bet ACH will be one of the teams in the playoffs.”
Olson hopes his team is, too, which would be a nice change of pace from the last two seasons.
Prosser at Othello, 7 p.m. Friday: An early-season matchup of top-10 teams will showcase two high-flying offenses.
The Mustangs feature quarterback Ryan Fassler and receivers Danny Raap and Sterling Clark. The Huskies have quarterback David Garza and receivers Juston Lind and Trevor Walker.
Whichever team makes the biggest plays will be the one that escapes with a key CWAC victory.
“I think they will have a really hard time matching up with us,” Prosser coach Benji Sonnichsen said. “I think the key will be getting some big-time plays on offense, and then getting the ball back so we can make more of them.”
Both teams are undefeated, though Prosser’s win over Kamiakin in overtime in the opener should give the Mustangs confidence that they can play with anyone in the state.
“I think there was a sense of accomplishment in that win,” Sonnichsen said. “Kamiakin was a big lift.”
River View at Kiona-Benton, 7 p.m. Friday: The Bears still are facing some major injury concerns, but coach Charlie Hobbick is hoping his youngsters, with a week of practice under their belts, can step up in the SCAC East opener.
Gavin Ferguson and Jaden DeLong will be tasked with replacing the injured Dakota Renz and Cruz Del Angel this week. Ferguson and DeLong played in last week’s loss to Zillah.
“We have them a little more oiled up this week,” Hobbick said. “They played really well against Zillah, actually, but it was tough to go in with not so many reps.”
Beyond those two, the Bears also must figure out how to stop the high-powered passing attack of River View.
“We faced two power-I running teams,” Hobbick said of his first two opponents this season. “We’ve been working hard this week to see how we can stop this aerial assault. Other than that, we just have to come out and play our brand of football and keep the ball away from them.”
w Craig Craker: 582-1509; email@example.com