By Brett Manney
Aside from California, this week’s western region preview features highly contested playoff games as some teams are now meeting for the second time this season. November is playoff football season and throughout the west coast, teams are fighting to live another week. Highlighting the action will be North and South Dakota in addition to Wyoming crowning state champions this weekend.
No. 4 Pomona Panthers (10-1) vs. No. 5 Columbine Rebels (9-1): Revenge will be on the mind of the Rebels as they try to end the Panthers' season. The Rebels suffered their only loss in league play a couple of weeks ago when the Panthers defeated them 21-6. Both squads rely on the run and Panthers RB Donovan Bowen hopes to repeat his success from the last game as he had 81 yards rushing. The Rebels rely on their two running threats QB Danny Spond and RB Kevin Richards, who each have over 600 yards rushing. There is nothing like a matchup of league rivals with the loser going home.
No. 14 Douglas County Huskies (8-3) vs. No. 11 Poudre Impalas (9-2): This quarterfinal matchup has two underdogs fighting for survival. Poudre is coming off an emotional 3-0 double overtime win against Legacy in the second round. Poudre RB Josh Morton rushed for 134 yards and the defensive line was phenomenal against the run. The Huskies have won their last six games and look to return to the state title game from a year ago. Jose Astorga has rushed for over 1,400 yards and averages eight yards a carry. This is a battle of two teams trying to gain respect and keep their season alive.
No. 7 Fountain Ft. Carson Trojans (10-1) vs. No. 2 Wheat Ridge Farmers (11-0): The stakes are high for each team as they are trying to earn the elusive title of state champion. The Trojans have won their last six games but gave up 21 points last week against Ralston Valley, the most they have surrendered all season. Farmers RB Parker Orms, a Wyoming recruit, averages over 12 yards a carry and has over 2,100 yards rushing with 23 touchdowns. The Farmers look to stay grounded against a formidable Trojan team, which has been on their high horse as of late.
Russell Rustlers (9-2) vs. Billings West Golden Bears (9-1): This AA state semifinal game will be a battle of two teams meeting for the second time this season, but with much more at stake. The Golden Bears have been lead all season by RB Eli Swain, who has 11 touchdowns and averages 105 yards rushing a game. The Golden Bears handed the Rustlers their first loss of the season way back on Sept. 5, 28-7. Meanwhile, the Rustlers look to reverse the outcome from last time by throwing the ball early and often to WR Spencer Thomson, who has seven touchdowns and averages more than 91 yards per game receiving. It is state playoff time and a big time rematch in Big Sky Country.
No. 4 Omaha North Vikings (8-1) vs. No. 1 Millard West Wildcats (9-0): This state semifinal game means that only one team will be a step closer to wearing a gold medal. The Vikings rely on a ground attack and pound mentality supported by their superior offensive line which opens holes for RB Bryant Giles, who has 16 touchdowns and 1,243 yards rushing this season. The Wildcats have been outscoring teams in addition to playing solid defense all year. Their perfect season is not a fluke because their stingy defense only allows 9.8 points per game. Darius Evans is their featured back who can score on any possession.
Bismarck Demons (9-1) vs. Fargo South Bruins (9-1): This battle is one highly anticipated state championship between the two best teams in the state is this weekend. The Demons' defense can be suspect at times often with their high-powered offense bailing them out. The Bruins have been red hot and have not lost since their season opener. They have played exceptionally well their last four games while only giving up 23 points total and averaging almost 30 a game. Look for the state title game to be a shootout in North Dakota.
David Douglas Scots (8-3) vs. South Medford Panthers (9-1): The must-watch game in 6A action pits two squads looking to pave their way to the state championship. South Medford’s only loss was to Foothill (CA) and the squad has some true playmakers. E.J. Singler is a huge target at TE and has committed to the University of Oregon for basketball. Douglas has been up and down this year winning some close games and many times giving up a few touchdowns per contest. Yet, they will have upset on their mind against a powerful South Medford team.
South Albany Rebels (8-3) vs. Sherwood Bowmen (9-1): South Albany will have upset on its mind in this 5A state playoff game against Sherwood. The Rebels arguably have the best one-two RB combination in the state with Jesse Duke and Greg Hoover. Combined, the two standouts have rushed for over 2,100 yards and hope to see their success continue against a powerful Sherwood team. The Bowmen’s only loss was to 5A king West Albany by one touchdown in the season opener. The Northwest Oregon conference champions are hoping Ben Butterfield can repeat his last week’s performance of four receptions for 121 yards. Sherwood has been dominant, but they cannot overlook South Albany in the first round matchup.
Bothell Cougars (7-3) vs. Curtis Vikings (8-1): Bothell has struggled against top tier opponents as its three losses have a combined record of 28-2. The Cougars held one of the nation’s best teams in Skyline to only 16 points and saw their lead diminish late in the fourth quarter. With five different players scoring touchdowns in their last contest, the Cougars hope to spread out their dangerous weapons. Coach Bob Lucey’s Vikings are one of the hottest teams in the state. Furthermore, they have not lost since their first game of the season and have averaged 41. 4 points a game behind their dangerous offense. Even though it's a first round game, this shapes up to be a close one as the teams are very evenly matched.
No. 8 O Dea Fighting Irish (5-2) vs. No. 3 Lakes Lancers (9-0): A quality matchup of two 3A teams fighting for their season to continue one more week. O’ Dea is making its 15th consecutive appearance in the state tournament. The Irish are led by Washington recruit RB Zach Fogerson, who last week ran for 104 yards on only 13 carries. The Lancers defense is spearheaded by tackle Darius Waters, who leads the team in tackles. On the offensive side of the ball, the Lancers look to run behind their two great backs Teddy Cotton and Willis Wilson, who each average over seven yards a carry. These teams are closer to each other than their seeds indicate, so be prepared for a battle in the Evergreen state.
No. 3 Stevens Point Panthers (10-2) vs. No.1 Arrowhead Warhawks (11-0): State semifinal action in Division One looks to be a battle in Wisconsin. Stevens Point has reestablished its offense and look to dominate on the ground and through the air. QB Ethan Winker will look for his favorite target, TE Nick Peplinski, to create matchup problems in the secondary. The perennial power Warhawks have scored fewer than 30 points only once this season and look to repeat as state champions. The Panthers look to knock the Warhawks off their throne this weekend.
No. 1 Homestead Highlanders (13-0) vs. No. 2 Middleton Cardinals (11-1): A hot contest between two top teams with the winner advancing to the state final. The Highlanders have advanced to the state semifinal for the seventh time this decade and look to move on in state tournament play. Highlanders TE Joshua Wickman had a career day last week, catching four balls with 123 yards receiving and two touchdowns. On the defensive side, Middleton's offensive coordinator must work his game plan around highly-touted DL Shelby Harris. The Cardinals rely on Brooks Braga to carry the load offensively. The tailback averages 175 yards rushing a game and has scored 17 touchdowns this season. The Cardinals hope to slow down the Highlanders in this barnburner matchup.
Green River Wolves (8-2) vs. Campbell County Camels (9-2): With the 5A state championship on the line, expect tempers to flare and a lot of intensity in Wyoming this weekend. Green River has done a phenomenal job of rebounding after losing versatile star Mike James to a dislocated shoulder two weeks ago. The offensive line has been huge for the Wolves all season. The Camels have been relying on their stiff defense which has only allowed 13 points their last five games and a major reason is DL Derek Thrall. Offensively, look for the Camels to get the ball to their big-time playmaker WR Spencer Bruce. Missing this game is not an option for any football enthusiast in Wyoming.
Buffalo Bison (8-2) vs. Douglas Bearcats (8-2): Buffalo looks for redemption after losing in last year’s title game and in an earlier matchup to the Bearcats on Oct. 17, 21-14. QB Tyler Gibbs is very accurate and hands the ball off to RB Dan Long, who had 146 yards rushing last week. Douglas is coming off a one-point win, but the previous two games they put up 91 total points and gave up zero. Bearcats head coach Jay Rhoades hopes the team from two weeks ago comes to play because a loss will signal the end of his team's season.
Bishop Amat Lancers (7-2, State PR: 77.43, Rank 41) vs. Notre Dame Knights (9-0, State PR: 99.41, Rank 2): Bishop Amat hopes they can do what no team has done to the Knights this year and that is win. The Knights are one of the best teams in the country as ranked by FootballPower. QB Ryan Kasdorf is one of the most decorated quarterbacks in the state and averages 297 yards passing, along with 30 touchdowns and only four interceptions. His favorite target is stud WR James Flynn, who averages 105 yards receiving a game with 16 touchdowns. The Lancers are looking for a share of the league title with a win against Notre Dame. QB Jeremy McCalanahan had a key two-point conversion run in last week's win and looks to upset the highly-touted Knights. This must-see league game in California could result in the Lancers missing the playoffs or the Knights being dethroned.
Serra Cavaliers (9-0, State PR: 93.67, Rank 5) vs. Cathedral Phantoms (7-1, State PR: 75.83, Rank 47): These two teams are battling for bragging rights and will be looking to end their regular seasons with a win this Friday night. The Cavaliers have Div. I talent on both sides of the ball and have not been contested since a 21-19 win against Carson back on Sept. 12. QB Ted Landers has completed 67 % of his passes and most of them to electrifying WR Robert Woods, who has 766 yards receiving with 11 touchdowns. The Phantoms will try to get back on the winning track after losing last week to Harvard-Westlake, 19-6. WR Randall Carroll is a USC recruit and will run, catch and occasionally pass in the Phantoms offense. A great football matchup with Pac 10 recruits covering the field.
No. 10 Willow Canyon Wildcats (7-3) vs. No. 7 Boulder Creek Jaguars (7-2): This 5A Division II playoff game is a rematch as both teams squared off on Oct. 10, with Boulder Creek pulling out a 35-7 victory. The Wildcats have not lost since that game and rely on the run. RB Garrick Shelton averages 133 yards a game with 10 touchdowns to pace the offense. Boulder Creek has won eight in a row since starting the season 0-2. QB Taylor Davis has thrown for 23 touchdowns and is improving every game. WR Dashawn Briggs uses his speed for separation and as a result, has 12 touchdowns and 987 yards receiving. Expect this matchup to be nothing like the regular season as Willow Creek is vastly improved and looking for payback.
No. 7 Chandler Wolves (7-3) vs. No. 10 Gilbert Tigers (7-3): Another matchup in Arizona of two teams that met earlier in the year, but now, there are different circumstances. Tigers head coach Jesse Parker is the state's all-time leader for wins in Arizona and looks to get revenge. The Wolves' balanced passing and running attack makes it hard to stop just one aspect. QB Kyle Youn, has thrown for over 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns. His WR combo of Markus Wheaton and Caleve Deboskie form one of the best units in the state. The 5A Division 1 game of the week will be played with enormous amounts of pride considering the bitter taste left lingering in the Tigers' mouths from a few weeks ago.
Syracuse Titans (9-1) vs. Alta Hawks (9-1): This 5A state semifinal matchup features two of the best teams in the state this weekend. The Hawks are looking to repeat as state champions and have a good shot behind the arm and legs of QB Ammon Olsen. The athletic QB has thrown for over 2,400 yards and rushed for over 500, making him the most dangerous player on the field. WR Parker Webster has superior hands and his 929 yards receiving has proven that. The Titans' only two losses were in league play. They are looking to make thei first state championship appearance in just two years of existence. QB Braden Hamblin looks to lead his troops to the promised land.
Cottonwood Colts (10-0) vs. Pine View Panthers (8-1): The Colts have plenty of talented players and look to keep their undefeated season alive with a win. The Colts' offense -- which hasn't scored fewer than 31 points -- is headed by RB Isis Sofele, who has been one of the best backs in the state over the past two seasons. This year, the small, agile back has rushed for 1,034 yards with 13 touchdowns. The Panthers, who are the 2008 region nine champs, have a great linebacking core which will try to shut down Sofele and the Colts running attack. Offensively, WR Robert Evans is a big-time receiver who makes plays in multiple of ways for the Panthers.
Sioux Falls Washington Warriors (8-1) vs. Sioux Falls Lincoln Patriots (8-2): This state championship matchup will feature a dangerous Warriors team and an underdog Patriots squad, which makes their first trip ever to a state championship game. The Warriors defeated the Patriots on Sept. 13, 41-22. QB Brett Grevlos has thrown 19 touchdown passes with only five interceptions and RB Sam Hoskins provides quality running. The Patriots running attack is lead by RB Gannon Moore, who averages 148 yards a game with 27 touchdowns. The defense has some stars and the leading tackler is Lee Washington, who averages 9.4 tackles a game. When two rivals face off, the game will surely have some fireworks, but only one goes home with a state championship trophy.
Look for Brett's regional breakdowns every Thursday right here at FootballPower. You can reach him at email@example.com.