One of Steve Graff's biggest concerns at the beginning of the season was how the seven sophomores in his starting lineup would perform under pressure.
Nine weeks later, Chiwana is 8-0 and ranked No. 2 in the state. Not to mention, those same sophomores -- plus one more who filled in after Jordan Downing's late-season injury -- have contributed mightily to Chiawana's second consecutive CBBN 4A championship.
"They shouldn't be playing like sophomores anymore," Graff said.
This week, however, Graff gets to see how his young team handles itself in the postseason, beginning with today's 7 p.m. game against Central Valley at Edgar Brown Stadium.
"We've been working hard. I remember last year watching (quarterback) Luc (Graff) step by step," said sophomore signal-caller Joey Zamora, who has done an admirable job managing the offense, throwing just three interceptions against 12 touchdowns for a 154.9 rating.
"I've never been (in the playoffs) before, but coach Graff, (Scott) Bond and (Dave) Spray have done a good job preparing us," Zamora said.
Graff said one of the factors of a solid game plan is watching film. Once the regular season ended, he and the team spent a little more time analyzing game film than usual.
With enough attention to detail, Graff's hope is that his team can take advantage of a few "tells" -- he already has caught a couple -- that might help them tonight. But ultimately, he knows the game will come down to what the teams have been practicing from Day One.
"It's going to come down to who takes care of the football," Graff said. "They're physical up front, and they've got three different running backs who are all good."
The Bears (7-2) feature a well-balanced offense led by quarterback Gaven Deyarmin (103-178-10-1,481, 13 passing TDs, 6 rushing TDs), running back Alex Jacot (101-492, 11 TDs) and receiver Anthony Brommer (24-421, 3 TDs).
The Riverhawks still are without Downing, who punished Central Valley in a 35-7 crossover win last year, but sophomore Terro Bell (118-647, 7 TDs) has stepped in with some impressive games at running back. Receivers Miquiyah Zamora and C.J. Edrington have combined for 73 catches for 1,078 yards and 12 TDs.
Mt. Spokane (3-6) at Kennewick (8-1), 5:30 p.m., Lampson Stadium: The Lions' top-ranked defense could face its biggest challenge this year against Wildcats' RB and GSL scoring leader Chase Naccarato (148-764, 20 TDs rushing; 31-502, 2 TDs receiving), who has been clocked under 4.4 in the 40. But Kennewick will have a few weapons of its own, namely CBBN 3A scoring leader Grant Woods (155-1,168 yds, 14 rush TDs).
Hanford (3-6) at Kamiakin (9-0), 8 p.m. Lampson Stadium: A rematch of Week 8, when the Braves won 28-14, dispatching a scrappy Falcons team that wouldn't give up.
"Our kids are pumped about playing them again," said Kamiakin coach Scott Biglin. "We know we'll have to play our best or they'll upset us."
Hanford RB Isaac Benard showed his game-breaking ability with a 91-yard scoring run against the Braves' defense, but the Falcons averaged just 2.6 yards a carry otherwise.
Kamiakin has continued its high-scoring ways, averaging more than 33 points a game thanks to RB Zach Umemoto (155-1,168; 14 TDs), QB Jason Hutchison (100-172-2-1,772; 19 TDs) and WR Brandon Larson (30-44; 3 TDs).
Southridge (6-3) at University (5-4), 7 p.m.: U-Hi quarterback Connor Johnson passed for 2,215 yards (and 23 TDs) this year, moving past Mark Rypien for second on the GSL single-season list. But the Titans porous run defense could struggle to stop Suns' versatile RB Chris Haueter (177-1,055, 10 TDs rushing; 18-172, 1 TD rec.).
Lewis and Clark (6-3) at Richland (6-3), 6 p.m., Fran Rish Stadium: This isn't the way the Bombers wanted to go out, playing a meaningless crossover game, but several proud seniors have a chance to go out with class.
Richland's secondary will be challenged by Brennan Schon, LC's 1,000-yard receiver, and QB Jeff Livingston. The Bombers are led by RB B.K. Robinson (137-845; 7 TDs).