High School Football

Divisions form in old rivalries

Mike Neidhold got a call from his grandmother last week asking him if he and his team were ready for Friday's season opener against Pasco.

Neidhold, the first-year coach of the Richland Bombers, gave the only response he could:

"That's all we're worrying about right now."

Neidhold's grandma is a Richland partisan, his parents both went to Richland, and he and most of his staff are all former Bombers.

A win against Pasco is a big deal. This year though, it has a little different meaning - or absolutely no meaning at all in some circles.

When the new Columbia Basin Big Nine Athletic Conference (CBBN) formed this spring, Richland found itself in the Cascade Division while Pasco was put in the Columbia Division, adding some confusion to the new 14-team league.

So a win tonight between the longtime rivals is essentially for bragging rights, and that's it. But for most of the league's coaches, that's more than enough.

"When Richland and Pasco play, it counts," said Neidhold, who has been on the Richland sidelines for the past 21 years.

But a Richland-Pasco nonleague game is not an anomaly when it comes to a rivalry game in the area that is "not going to count."

Take the Kennewick and Kamiakin game at Lampson tonight. The two teams have played 38 times and are separated by just a few miles. Yet, this year, it's not considered a league game despite both being 4A schools.

Wenatchee and Eastmont also is a nonleague game, and so is Davis and Eisenhower.

But, when Kennewick and Southridge play, it is a league game. Same with Richland and Hanford.

"It is what it is," said Southridge coach Andy Troxel. "You weren't going to make everyone happy."

This new league is a result of the expiring shelf life of the Columbia Basin League after just two years. The league began to fray when the WIAA released its enrollment figures late in 2007 showing that Eastmont was making the leap from 3A to 4A. When that happened, there was talk among athletic directors and coaches about forming separate 4A and 3A leagues.

When that news filtered down, the three Kennewick high schools (Kennewick, Kamiakin and Southridge) decided to opt up to the 4A ranks. The move guaranteed them to stay in a league with the other Tri-City schools and make scheduling a little easier on everyone.

Instead of trying to find three, four or possibly five nonleague games, teams have no problem filling out their 10-game schedule.

"We couldn't find games to schedule (at that late of date)," said Kennewick coach Bill Templeton.

Another benefit of the new 14-team, two-division league is more playoff spots. The top four 4A teams in each division qualify for the postseason and will play crossover games in Week 9. The four winners then qualify for regionals.

The three 3A teams (Hanford, Sunnyside, and West Valley) get spoiled with the new format. Two of them will qualify for regionals.

The same can't be said for the Southeast 1B League.

Tri-Cities Prep and four other teams were left stranded when four teams left the league for various reasons. Liberty Christian, for instance, moved up to 2B and will play 11-man football.

So instead of having a nice full schedule of league games, the 1Bs were left scrambling to find four nonleague games. Prep found three and will have its first-ever bye week under coach Dan Whitsett.

"We reached out all across the state," Whitsett said. "It's tough to fill those positions."