GRIDIRON GO TIME Some good looking area teams enter state

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Sophomore quarterback Caden Filer will need every bit of protection he can get from the likes of stud junior tackle Jaden Simon (75), if the Lincoln Ages hope to make it to their first state semifinals. Photo by Rocky Ross

Once the state football tournaments begin, wading through the various brackets and getting a feel for the matchups can lead to bigger question marks than when you started. While the Tacoma area is a little less-represented in the postseason than in recent years, there are several teams that have legitimate shots at creating some havoc, and even notching their own place in the history books.

Puyallup junior Kyle Cramer in for the touchdown. Photo by rocky ross

While it’s a bit odd not seeing the Bellarmine Prep Lions in the postseason mix, it’s bound to happen sooner or later. Frankly, the competition within the top half of the 4A South Puget Sound League was one of the best fights in years, and the Lions still held their playoff hopes in their hands going into the final game of the season.

Puyallup’s physical defense gave Auburn Mountainview very few scoring opportunities. Photo by Rocky Ross

That particular game was against a Puyallup Vikings team that had already wrapped up the 4A SPSL title the week prior. While it’s common to see the top dog in this situation kick it into cruise control for their last game, it didn’t happen with the Vikings, and Bellarmine was unable to get the win and advance.

Puyalup senior Landen Neff breaks away from the pack. Photo by Rocky Ross

Meanwhile, the Vikings were stepping on the accelerator. The following week, they plowed through Auburn Mountainview by a score of 42-13 to advance to the round of 16. Now begins the actual 4A state tournament. Sure, Bellarmine was a very tough team and liable to pull off an upset, but the Monroe Bearcats team that will roll into Sparks Stadium on Friday, Nov. 10, looks downright scary.

Junior Ben Rodriguez (60 and sophomore Kyler Johnson (42) try to put on the squeeze. Photo by Rocky Ross

On the season, the Bearcats are 9-1 and are averaging nearly 47 points per game, while giving up 16.8. They have shutout, or held their opponent to a single touchdown, in four of their 10 games, while notching more than 50 points on the scoreboard six times. On the flip side, the Vikings roll out a solid 37.7 points per game, while giving up 18.

Puyallup junior Cohen Cleek upends a Lion. The Lincoln Abes (9-1) will host the Garfield Bulldogs (4-5) on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Lincoln Bowl at 1 p.m. The Puyallup Vikings will host the Monroe Bearcats (9-1) on Friday, Nov. 10 at Sparks Stadium at 7 p.m. Photo by Rocky Ross

Something’s got to give in this matchup, and we’ve got the feeling that this could be another game of the year candidate. If Puyallup advances to the quarterfinals, they will either pay a visit to powerhouse Union Titans (9-1), or a familiar foe in the form of the Sumner Spartans (9-2). Should Puyallup somehow roll through this lineup of juggernauts, the Vikings would host a local semifinal on Nov. 24 or Nov. 25. If you’re planning on attending any of these games, plan on bringing some rainwear, because the nasty stuff is probably here to stay for several months.

Once the round of 16 arrives, there are definitely no walkovers in the field. The Lincoln Abes will face a Garfield Bulldog squad in the 3A first round that is long on talent. While they boast a meager 4-5 record, the Bulldogs have plenty of bite. To get to the first round, Garfield trounced a solid Everett squad in a 41-0 runaway. Remember, teams tend to rack up losses when they play in the same league as Eastside Catholic, O’Dea and Rainier Beach.

On the other side of the ball, the Lincoln Abes seem to be clicking on all cylinders. When the Lakeside Lions rolled into Lincoln Bowl on Friday, Nov. 3, they boasted an 8-2 record, but had not really faced the sort of caliber team that Lincoln brought to bear on them. The final score of 62-6 marked the most points the Lions had given up on the season, as well as the fewest points they had scored in a contest.

Should the Abes get by the Bulldogs at 1 p.m. in the first round, the quarterfinals could usher in a rematch several years in the making. Three seasons ago, the eventual 3A champion Eastside Catholic Crusaders were behind and on the ropes against the Lincoln Abes late in the game. An unwise fourth-down play, followed by a late interception, sent the Crusaders into the semifinals and onto their upset of Bellevue in the state championship.

The two teams look to be on a collision course again, and should the game go down, it will happen at historic Lincoln Bowl. Mark your calendars, because it will happen either Friday, Nov. 17 or Saturday, Nov. 18.

We’re not here to make predictions, because we see that it is a kiss of death when the other local guys do it. Let’s just say that we’ve got a pretty decent feeling about all this. As a matter of fact, this may be the best team that Lincoln has brought to the field during their four-year run as the Narrows or Pierce County League champions.

The Bethel Braves (9-1) will bring their hardnose game north to powerhouse Ferndale (10-0) on Friday, Nov. 10. Flying under the radar all season, the Braves have done nothing but surprise teams week after week. Needless to say, they’re not surprising anyone anymore. Still, it will take a herculean effort to get by Ferndale, who looks to be at the top of the heap.

In the 2A field, the Steilacoom Sentinels (8-2) will host the Othello Huskies (5-4) on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood. The Sentinels look like the area’s best hope in the 2A field to do some serious damage. The Fife Trojans (9-1) rebounded in a big way following their 2A SPSL championship game defeat against Steilacoom with a 62-26 thumping of Sequim in the opening round of the playoffs. Now, the Trojans will face a true test in Liberty (8-1), when they square off at Sunset Stadium in Sumner on Friday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. Liberty plays in the KingCo 2A/3A league and has honed their edge against bigger schools.

Franklin Pierce received the toughest draw of the 2A bunch. The Cardinals will travel to Spokane to face West Valley (11-0) on Saturday, at 2 p.m. Don’t be surprised to see an upset, those birds are still tough.

In the 1A field, the Charles Wright Tarriers (8-2) will face one of the state’s favorites on the road against Montesano (10-0) on Friday, Nov. 10. The Tarriers have overachieved all season, perhaps they still have some of that left in the tank. Cascade Christian (9-1) looks like a serious contender for the big trophy. They will host Nooksack Valley (6-4) on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. at Sunset Stadium.

To round out the local field, the Tacoma Baptist Crusaders (7-3) will face long odds against when they travel to North Kitsap High School on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 6 p.m. to face the Sea-Tac League champion Quilcene Rangers (8-0). Almost anything is possible in the wild and woolly game of eight-man football, but the Crusaders will have to figure out a way to outscore a Ranger team that dropped 66 points on them just a month ago.

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