BURBANK -- Before the season started, Columbia-Burbank's football team knew it would have a brutal three-game stretch in Weeks 3-5.
The Coyotes got through it about as well as could be expected, finishing 1-2 against SCAC East powers Royal, River View and Connell.
Now, Burbank must bounce back from a 55-7 loss to Connell against Kiona-Benton in a game that would go a long way toward wrapping up a playoff berth for C-B.
"We would have liked to have had a little better showing against the big two," said coach Rich Harris about lopsided losses to Royal and Connell, "but we're OK with coming out with one win."
While Kiona-Benton doesn't feature the high-octane offenses of Connell or Royal, the Bears do have a sound rushing attack led by running back Dalton Morgan and quarterback Anfernee Cortez.
"You can't just key in on (Morgan),'' Harris said, "because the other guy is real fast. Morgan is a big strong kid, though. We have to contain those two kids."
While Burbank's defense will need to be sound, the offense has had little problems this season as quarterback Heath Lawrence, and wide receivers Garret Long and Nathan Roberts are off to good starts.
The game will also be a homecoming of sorts for Harris and two Kiona-Benton assistant coaches.
Harris coached Nick Edwards and Cameron Bophy when the pair were linemen at Prosser. Brophy went on to play at Eastern Oregon and Edwards at Pacific Lutheran University, while Harris has been the head coach at Burbank for three seasons.
"It will be pretty fun," Harris said. "I'm pretty close with Nick Edwards' parents; we went to the Boise State game last weekend. They'll be in attendance, though they said they can't wear any Burbank shirts this weekend."
A year after a tough season saw the Bulldogs finish with three wins total, they've already matched this season with road wins at Walla Walla and Moses Lake.
Hermiston opens league play Friday, traveling to The Dalles-Wahtonka. Each league game is vital this season, as only two teams from the Class 5A Columbia River Conference will advance to the playoffs.
Last season, every Class 5A team in Oregon made at least a play-in game.
What a difference a year makes.
The Bulldogs, under second-year head coach Dean Bickelhaupt, have tripled last season's win total and travel to Waitsburg-Prescott for an early-season showdown with the mighty Cardinals.
"I've got a great group of seniors," Bickelhaupt said about his team's early success. "It takes a year or two to get things where you want it. The kids are starting to believe."
Bickelhaupt cited five seniors as helping lead Dayton: Colton Bickelhaupt (QB), Garett Turner (WR/DB), Joey Schlacter (TE/OLB), Hayden Fullerton (RB/LB) and Kroft Sunderland (OL/DL).
After winning the mini-playoff last season to finish fourth in the Southeast 2B, Dayton gained confidence heading into this season. The confidence paid off with a 30-0 victory against Tri-Cities Prep last week.
* Craig Craker; 509-582-1509; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter.com/craig_craker