There are three weeks left in the high school football regular season.
Teams are jockeying for playoff berths, so each contest as we near the end of the regular season is akin to an extra playoff game.
Friday night is no exception, starting with the Kamiakin-Richland game in the Mid-Columbia Conference.
But there are big games in the Big Nine, the CWAC, the SCAC and the EWAC too.
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Here’s a look at some of the big matchups:
Kamiakin (4-1 MCC, 4-2 overall) at Richland (3-2, 4-2), Fran Rish Stadium, 7 p.m.
These two teams have tough stretches to finish the regular season.
Kamiakin goes to Richland on Friday, hosts Chiawana next Thursday, then finishes at Hermiston on Oct. 26.
Richland – with four straight wins – has Kamiakin, is at Kennewick next Friday, and at Hanford on Oct. 26.
Kamiakin is the top 3A team in the MCC standings. If the season ended today, Richland would get the No. 3 seed to the 4A playoffs.
For the Braves to win, their No. 3-ranked defense must find a way to stop Richland RB Dhaunye Guice, who has gotten hot at the position over the past month. Last week against Southridge, Guice scored four TDs and rushed for 160 yards.
Throw in Bombers QB Josh Fonner, who after missing a few games early is the second-best passer in the MCC with a 155 pass efficiency rating, and Richland has balance on offense.
But the key for Richland to win will be how will the Bombers defense stop Kamiakin’s No. 3 offense?
Braves sophomore Tuna Altahir is back after missing a game and a half due to injury. Last week against Walla Walla, Altahir had 109 yards of total offense.
But it’s QB Lucas Castilleja who runs that offense. Against Wa-Hi, he passed for 170 yards and rushed for another 64. Plus he has very tall receivers to throw to in Niko Wiltz (top receiver in the MCC), Jaxson Nichols (No. 2) and Messiah Jones.
While both teams likely will make the playoffs, this game should actually have a playoff atmosphere. SWX television and KONA 610 AM radio will both cover the game.
So will I.
Sunnyside (2-0 Big Nine, 4-2 overall) at Eastmont (2-0, 5-1), East Wenatchee, 7 p.m.
Both teams are battling for the lone Big Nine state football berth, and Wenatchee sits atop the standings with a 3-0 mark.
After Friday, the visiting Grizzlies play host to Wenatchee, Davis and Moses Lake for three consecutive Fridays. Eastmont, meanwhile, hosts Ike next Friday, then travels to Moses Lake and Wenatchee.
The key for Sunnyside and its No. 1 offense – facing the Big 9’s No. 1 defense, by the way – is QB Derrick Escamilla, who has 648 yards rushing, 1,227 passing, and has been a part of 20 touchdowns (10 running, 10 passing).
Most of those passes go to Mike Rivera, who leads the Big Nine in receiving with 33 catches for 800 yards. That averages out to 24 yards every catch.
The Grizzlies defense will have to step up to stop Eastmont rusher Carson Talley, who ranks second in the league with 754 yards rushing.
Toppenish (3-0 CWAC, 5-1 overall) at Prosser (2-0, 4-2), Fiker Stadium, 7 p.m.
This is for the top CWAC South playoff seed. Whoever finishes atop of that division gets to play the CWAC North champion on Oct. 27 at Lions Field in Moses Lake – in which the winner gets an automatic state playoff berth.
Toppenish has been led by Keyano Zamarripa. The quarterback has been a standout either running or passing the ball this season.
Prosser counters with QB Will Weinmann, who is great at distributing the ball to a number of receivers.
However, sophomore Haden Hicks – Weinmann’s top target – won’t be among them.
Last Friday in Ellensburg, Hicks dived for a pass in the end zone and took a legal hit. It’s not sure whether the hit or his landing hard in the end zone was the cause, but Hicks lost consciousness.
He was transported to the hospital, where doctors determined Hicks had three fractured vertabrae in his upper back.
He was released from the hospital the next day, as doctors determined the fractures are stable and should heal on their own.
“He’s doing alright,” said Prosser coach Corey Invalson. “They expect him to be okay with rest. I do not expect him back this season.”
Warden (2-1 SCAC East, 4-2 overall) at Connell (2-1, 3-2), Connell High, 7 p.m.
Along with Kiona-Benton, these two teams are tied for second place in the SCAC East standings. All three should make the playoffs, but only the second-place team gets a home game in the regional crossovers.
So this should be like a playoff game.
Connell must stop Warden QB Ryan Arredondo’s passing and Holden Haworth’s running.
Meanwhile, the Eagles need a bounce-back game after losing 42-0 last Friday to top-ranked Royal.
Connell QB Austin Smith will need a good game.
Columbia-Burbank (3-1 EWAC, 4-2 overall) at DeSales (3-1, 3-3), 7 p.m.
Just like the SCAC East big game, this Eastern Washington Athletic Conference 2B game gives the winner the inside track to a home regional playoff game against the Central Washington 2B league.
Burbank played Tri-Cities Prep tough last week in a 30-12 loss, but a win over DeSales would be key in getting a home playoff game – especially since DeSales has the Holy Bowl next Friday at Tri-Cities Prep.
Friday’s other games
Kickoffs at 7 p.m., unless noted otherwise
Chiawana at Southridge, Lampson Stadium: Visiting Riverhawks trying to keep pace with the MCC leaders.
Dayton-Waitsburg at Kittitas/Thorp: Winner still has a chance to grab one of five EWAC regional playoff berths.
Eisenhower at Hermiston: Homecoming for Bulldogs, who are looking for a strong bounce-back game after last week’s loss at Chiawana.
Hanford at Pasco, Edgar Brown Stadium: Host Bulldogs had a strong defensive game at Kennewick last week; will need that again against MCC’s top offense.
Kennewick at Walla Walla, Borleske Stadium: Visiting Lions, winners of 4 straight, must find away to vault Hermiston in standings to get 3A playoff spot.
Liberty Christian at Mabton: Winner of this game jumps into third place in EWAC.
Othello at Ellensburg: Visiting Huskies must have a win if they have any hope to advance to postseason from CWAC North.
River View at Goldendale: Visiting Panthers take a break from SCAC East wars with a non-leaguer.
Royal at Kiona-Benton: State’s top 1A team visits Benton City.
Tri-Cities Prep at White Swan: The top team in the EWAC visits the winless Cougars.
Wahluke at College Place: Winner has an outside chance of making 1A regional crossovers.
Wapato at Grandview: Greyhounds host Wolves in a battle to stay out of CWAC South bottom.