Brett Jay knows a little something about River View football and the hardships the Panthers fans have endured over the years.
He was a standout football and basketball player in high school, quarterbacking River View to the state quarterfinals his senior season in 2001.
That’s when the Panthers ran into a buzz saw of a Colfax team and were sent packing 60-0 at Martin Stadium in Pullman.
Jay was the coach at River View the next time the Panthers made a push to the quarterfinals in 2009, only to see that bid ended by a 47-7 loss to Connell.
So the Finley product understands the excitement that has taken over the town since his team’s 14-0 win over Quincy last weekend, earning the program its first trip to the Class 1A state semifinals.
“Finley is definitely talking football,” he said this week after a day of practice for Saturday’s semifinal matchup with Royal (11 a.m., Lampson Stadium).
“We’re excited about that. It’s a neat time for us, but there is more work to be done. We’re excited for another week of preparation to get ready for a semifinal game.”
River View’s first semifinal experience will be against a familiar foe in the top-ranked Knights (12-0), who handed the Panthers (11-1) their only loss of the season back in Week 5 (39-7).
Jay said the team has been studying that game along with other video of Royal.
“We didn’t play well that first game,” he said. “And whenever we play against a good opponent, they’re the cause of that. We’re just excited for the opportunity.”
There is no question playoff history is heavily tilted to one side in this matchup: River View will be playing in just its 17th state game on Saturday, while Royal will be in its 54th, with its five state titles and two runner-up finishes already in the trophy case among 10 semifinal showings.
However, as Royal coach Wiley Allred pointed out recently, it’s been four seasons since the Knights have played in a semifinal (2008), so this is all new ground for his team as well.
Actually, when it comes to state semifinal experience, River View has the edge as seniors like Kody Bartlett, Austin Weatherby, Ricky Castillo, Spencer Combs and Josh Marshall all played on the 2009 semifinal team.
“Those seniors who played on that (semifinal) team three years ago have done an excellent job leading us through this playoff run,” Jay said. “They got a taste of it as freshmen ... and since that game they have done everything in their hands to get back to this game.”
Indeed, Jay went out of his way to praise the senior class for carrying a lot of water for the program.
“When they entered the program compared to where the program is now, it is much improved,” he said. And the anticipation around Finley is at an all-time high.
“We’ve had some great teams in the past that got to the quarterfinal game, but the matchup was not there,” Jay said. “The anticipation to get past the quarters — I can’t tell you how bad the players wanted it and the community as well.
“Our football team is on the right track.”
When, where: 11 a.m. Saturday, Lampson Stadium in Kennewick
Records: River View 11-1, Royal 12-0
Forecast: 47 degrees; 50 percent chance of rain; 5 mph wind.
Last playoff appearance: River View, 2009 (lost to Connell 47-7 in quarterfinals); Royal, 2011 (lost to Chelan 27-17 in quarterfinals)
Playoff history: River View, 7-10 in 12 appearances (best finish: semifinals this season); Royal, 36-17 in 23 appearances (best finish: state champions in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2007).
Top players: River View, RB Alonso Mendoza 105-938 rushing, 9 TDs; QB Ruvim Tyutyunnik 144-221-10—2,368 passing, 30 TDs; WR Terran Brown 37-623 receiving, 8 TDs. Royal, RB Damien Delarosa 155-1,167 rushing, 17 TDs; QB Alex Myrick 123-181-3—2,272 passing, 30 TDs, 107-1,026 rushing, 18 TDs; WR Brady Dixon 29-552 receiving, 5 TDs.
Last meeting: Royal 39, River Veiw 7 in Week 5.
Last week: River View’s defense cracked down on Quincy in a 14-0 quarterfinal win. Mendoza rushed for 107 yards, and the Panthers scored on an errant snap on a punt to seal the game. ... Myrick ran for four scores and threw for four more in a 61-27 rout of Cle Elum/Roslyn. Both Myrick and Delarosa topped 100 yards rushing, and the QB also threw for 261 yards on 10-for-14 passing.
Up next: Championship game against Mt. Baker/Montesano winner in Tacoma Dome.