Four seaons ago, Liberty Christian coach Mike Olson was working through what he called a “period of growth” in Patriots football.
With enrollment hovering around 100 students, Olson was doing his best just to field enough players for an 11-man football team and build for the future.
“That was the situation then. It wasn’t real positive,” Olson said. “But we had a really good group of sophomore kids, and we were hoping to complement them with more players coming up behind them.”
As it turned out, 11-man football was not in Liberty Christian’s future, as the Pats began playing 8-man ball the following year. That was good news for the crew of freshmen that turned out in 2009, for they would become the backbone of what is now the top-ranked 1B team in the state.
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“One of them (Mike Jr.) is my son, so I’ve been able to get closer to that group that other classes,” the coach said.
That group — quarterback Mike Olson (Jr.), running back Tyler Morris, wide receiver Brandon Peterson, lineman Timmy Koglin and linebacker Corbin Steele — has led LC to a 5-0 start. The Pats have outscored teams 298-38 and dispatched two state playoff teams — Touchet and state runner-up Almira-Coulee-Hartline — from 2011, outscoring them 100-14.
“I’d be lying if I told I could see this exact scenario, but when we made the decision to play 8-man, I envisioned that we had a chance to be pretty good,” coach Olson said. “Last year we didn’t have any seniors, so our juniors really had two years, to become good leaders. Now, they’re providing the leadership we need at this point.”
Olson also said the team learned a few valuable lessons during three losses last season. One thing LC (5-0 overall, 2-0 Southeast 1B) seems to have learned is that they don’t like to lose.
“We’d just like to keep this momentum going. We’ve got a couple teams coming up in league that we’re concerned about,” coach Olson said regarding the team’s matchup with Sunnyside Christian at 7 p.m. today at Hanford High School. “It looks like they’ve gotten considerably better. They had a big win last week over Pomeroy. We’re working hard, and we expect a tough game.”
Liberty Christian’s toughest remaininig game, however, will likely come in Week 9, when the Pats host LaCrosse-Washtucna (4-1, 2-0), the same program that set a Washington state high school record with 49 consecutive wins, a run that included four state titles in a row from 2002-2005.
Coach Olson says those marks aren’t quite on the Patriots’ radar just yet, but his team is good at keeping its own success in perspective.
“(LaCrosse) had an awesome run. It takes a special program to accomplish something like that,” he said. “If we’re a good team every year and be a challenge to everybody we play, then that would be a good accomplishment for us.”
The Othello Huskies, the top-ranked 2A team in the state, has passed big tests against Connell and Prosser, two teams that beat the Huskies in 2011. Othello outscored the two perrennial powers 69-27.
The Huskies’ next big game will come at home against Ellensburg at 7 p.m. today. Othelo did beat the Bulldogs 41-7 on the road last season, but Ellensburg still has several weapons, including the CWAC’s fourth-leading rusher Matt Bennett and one of the league’s best receivers in Garrett Hull.
Othello still has the league’s most balanced offense led by quarterback David Garza, running back Tanner Wagner, and receivers Juston Lind and Trevor Walker.
Other top games: Kiona-Benton at Columbia-Burbank, 7 p.m.; River View at Granger, 7 p.m.; Waitsburg-Prescott at Dayton, 7 p.m.