By Brett Manney
Aside from California and Arizona, teams in Hawaii, Washington, Nevada and Oregon will all be playing for state championships this weekend. Dreams can be crushed or they can come true on the West Coast as some of the most elite teams in the country do battle.
Punahou Buff n Blue (11-1) vs. Leilehua Mules (11-2), Dec. 5: The Division 1 state championship game in Hawaii will be packed with fireworks and plenty of scoring. The Buff ‘n Blue were sparked by WR Dalton Hillard last week, who had 13 receptions for 139 yards in a 35-28 win over Farrington. On the defensive side, Mantai Te’o is one of the most feared linebackers in the country. Meanwhile, the Mules are riding their emotions coming off a come from behind 17-10 overtime victory last week against Kahuku. Junior QB Andrew Manley threw for 291 yards with two touchdowns. As the final game is played in Hawaii, look for each team to leave it all out on the field with a state title up for grabs.
Issaquah Eagles (11-2) vs. Skyline Spartans (13-0), Dec. 5: Skyline has been the class of 4A all season and Issaquah looks to play the role of spoiler. The Spartans are coming off an emotional battle against Ferris last week and prevailed, 24-21. Skyline can become the first team ever in state history to win back-to-back state championships in different classifications (they were 3A last year). The Spartans feature four Seattle Times offensive selections, including the state’s best receiving duo in Gino Simone and Kasen Williams. Anthony DeMatteo, who was the league defensive player of the year as a junior, leads an unheralded defense. On the other side, Issaquah looks for senior leadership and toughness to win against Skyline in the Tacoma Dome. Lineman Christian Rennie is one of the best tackles in the state and opens massive holes for his team’s running game. The Eagles hope to avenge the 38-0 loss to the Spartans earlier in the season.
Bellevue Wolverines (13-0) vs. Union Titans (13-0), Dec. 6: Two undefeated teams clash for the Class 3A title game. Bellevue experienced some recent trauma when its team bus flipped over before last week’s game against Capital. Due to the incident, the squad had to play the semifinal on Monday, which still resulted in a 28-6 victory. The Wolverines have been dominant all season and look to continue their prowess against Union. The Wolverines do much of their damage in the first half as they have outscored opponents 336-33. All the while, Union looks to stop the Wolverines’ wing-t offense behind the play of its superior defense. The Titans only gave up seven points to a powerful Lakes team last week and will seek to take down a perennial power this weekend for the state title.
Palo Verde Panthers (13-0) vs. McQueen Lancers (13-0), Dec. 6: Both teams enter the Class 4A championship with undefeated records but only one will go home with the hardware and a perfect season. McQueen will have to find a way to contain the explosive running backs of Palo Verde, most especially Torin Harris. The USC recruit has lightning speed and scored three touchdowns in last week’s 42-21 win over Las Vegas. Meanwhile, the Lancers have been dominating opponents all season. Case in point, they have defeated Northern Nevada opponents by an average of 40 points. The Lancers’ trademark style of football entails their massive linemen opening holes for RB Tyler York (1,130 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns). A championship trophy will be on the mind for all of the players on Saturday as an amazing feat is just one win away.
Lake Oswego Lakers (12-0) vs. Southridge Skyhawks (11-2): The 6A title game in Oregon pits two of the best teams in the state fighting for one glorious prize. The Skyhawks are making their second trip to the state championship in the past three years. In ’06, Southridge fell to Jesuit. The team’s offense has been dominant since the return of 6-6 wideout Mitch Matthews, who had three touchdown catches last week and 132 yards receiving. The Skyhawks rely on a balanced offense to wear down opposing defenses. The top-seeded Lakers came from behind to beat Jesuit last week, 32-28. The passing game is the strength for the Lakers, led by Oregon State recruit Jack Lomax. Last week, Lomax threw for 323 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Tensions will be high in Oregon for the biggest game of the year on Saturday night.
Thurston Colts (12-0) vs. West Albany Bulldogs (13-0), Dec. 6: It comes down to the No. 1 seed versus the No. 2 team for reign of 5A football in Oregon. West Albany has not been tested this season and has dominated opposing squads, winning 40 of its last 41 games. The Bulldogs have scored more than 41 points in 11 consecutive games, while the defense has not allowed more than 22 points in three years. RB Anthony Lacoste is a workhouse for the Bulldogs and can break for long runs on every touch. Meanwhile, the Colts have one the state’s most dynamic players in QB Tym Pearson. The athletic QB has thrown 44 touchdowns this year in addition to rushing for 18 touchdowns on 865 yards. The Colts’ dangerous passing attack and the Bulldogs’ tough running game makes this highly anticipated matchup well worth watching.
Marcos De Niza Padres (11-1) vs. Westview Knights (11-1), Dec. 5: The Division II Class 5A semifinal game features two teams determined to play in the state championship game next week. The Padres still remember when they were eliminated in last year’s state tournament to Westview, but a lot has changed since then. The Padres have outscored their opponents this season 404-117. The defense is led by outstanding linebackers. Arizona State recruit Anthony Rose leads the team in tackles and junior LB/RB Ramon Abreu is receiving PAC-10 interest and leads the team with six interceptions, returning five for touchdowns. The Knights’ only loss was to undefeated Centennial (14-0 overall). They rely heavily on their dominant running game and a strong and experienced defensive line. QB R.J. Robinson and RB Carlton Williams combine to make a dangerous running attack.
Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks (10-2) vs. Centennial Coyotes (12-0), Dec. 5: Ironwood Ridge hopes to knock the king off its throne in the other Division II 5A matchup. The Nighthawks have lost their two games by a combined seven points and rely on some hard-nosed football. WR Scott Campbell is their biggest threat with 50 catches for 889 yard receiving and eight touchdowns. On the other side, the Coyotes have relied on their dominant rushing game, which features one of the state’s best backs in John Hughes. The explosive tailback averages 9 yards a carry, 124 yards a game and has scored 27 touchdowns. Centennial will be tested in this game, which figures to come down to the wire.
Hamilton Huskies (11-1) vs. Red Mountain Lions (7-5), Dec. 5: Hamilton has played very well all season long and now goes up against a surging Red Mountain team looking to keep its hot streak alive. Red Mountain will try to avenge an earlier season loss to Hamilton, 30-14. The Lions advanced to the state semifinal a year ago and will need RB Derek Molina to carry the load on offense. Molina had his worst game of the season against Hamilton when he had nine carries for just 19 yards. The Huskies rely on their talented defense, which hasn’t yielded any points in their last two games. Hamilton is well coached and eyes the state championship.
Mountain View Toros (12-0) vs. Brophy Prep Broncos (10-3), Dec. 5: The undefeated Toros will rely on experienced QB Blake Decker to get them into the title game. Decker has completed 64 % of his passes this year and runs an efficient offense. RB Jacom Brimhall has over 1,500 yards rushing this season with 15 touchdowns and is a threat to score every time he has the ball. The Broncos have won every game since Sept. 26 and have elevated their play in the postseason. The defending state champs have shut out their last two opponents. RB Max Leonesio has been the focal points of the offense and has tallied 1,496 yards rushing with 19 touchdowns. Brophy looks to return to the promised land while Mountain View tries to back up its No. 1 seed.
San Diego Section
Carlsbad Lancers (7-5) vs. La Costa Canyon Mavericks (9-2), Dec. 5: The Lancers barely squeaked by Chula Vista last week and now have a date with top-seeded La Costa Canyon. The Lancers converted on a crucial 4th and 5 in the third quarter last week before going on to score on that drive. That would open the floodgates towards a 34-21 win. RB Michael Taele had a superb game with 98 yards rushing on only 16 carries. Keep in mind, though, the Mavericks defeated the Lancers earlier in the season, 52-3. RB Seth Hanson, who has been making defenders miss frequently, heads the Maverick offense. Meanwhile, led by North Country Times defensive player of the year Jacob Driver, the defense is just plain tough. The Division 1 semifinal will be a showcase of two teams loaded with talented players.
Mission Hills Grizzlies (8-3-1) vs. Escondido Cougars (9-2), Dec. 5: This San Diego Section Division 1 semifinal game will be one of the top games to watch in the San Diego area. Cougars RB Ricky Seale leads the San Diego area in rushing and accumulated 280 yards on 36 carries last week against Fallbrook. The Cougars’ strong running game has worn down opposing defenses all year. Meanwhile, Mission Hills is a team possessed after defeating defending San Diego Division 1 champs Poway last week, 20-14. Grizzlies QB D.J. Zapata threw for 224 yards despite leading rusher Eddy Shiavong being out of the lineup the past couple of weeks with an ankle injury. It’s win or go home time in San Diego.
Southern Section Semifinals
Orange Lutheran Lancers (10-2) vs. Tesoro Titans (12-0), Dec. 6: Orange Lutheran is playing great football lately and Tesoro has been unstoppable all season. The Lancers beat undefeated Sherman Oaks Notre Dame last week behind their ability to rush the quarterback. Led by an elite secondary, the Lancers’ defense is superb, as evidenced by the unit giving up just 14 points to Notre Dame. Tesoro looks to remain undefeated and QB Robbie Picazo has a plethora of weapons and has thrown only four interceptions all season. RB Preston King is an electrifying player who can torch defenses every time he has the ball. This potential classic will be the best game played in the Southern Section this weekend.
To contact correspondent Brett Manney, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.