4A GSHL football comes down to final dramatic three weeks

Skyview, Union, and Camas, with three games in the final three weeks of football season, will determine the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League championship and playoff seeds, but this year, only two teams make the playoffs.

The league only gets two teams to the playoffs this season, which means Skyview, Union, or Camas will not make the postseason

Three weeks.

Three games.

Three teams.

Two playoff teams.

Something’s gotta give in the next three weeks, or, if nothing gives, a tiebreaker of some sort will have to be played.

But one team is not going to Week 10’s state preliminary round playoff games.

It’s Skyview vs. Union vs. Camas. For the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League.

Week 7 starts Thursday with Skyview hosting Union in the first of these three epic matchups. In Week 8, Skyview will head to Camas. And in Week 9, it’s Camas going to McKenzie Stadium to take on Union.

The math is simple: If one team wins both matchups, that team is the league champion. And the winner of the other game is the No. 2 team. The loser is out.

However, there is the possibility of a repeat of what occurred during the abbreviated spring season. That’s when Union beat Camas, Skyview beat Union, then Camas beat Skyview. There was no need for a tiebreaker in the spring. After all, there was no state tournament. This season, though? Two teams make the postseason. If there is a three-way tie, there will be a tiebreaker.

“It’s a little scary,” Union coach Rory Rosenbach said. “It means you’ve got to win. You’ve got to beat one of those guys. Play one at a time and see what happens.”

“Not everybody gets a trophy,” Skyview coach Steve Kizer said. “We understand that.”

Camas coach Jack Hathaway said his team is not yet concerned about Skyview and Union. The Papermakers play mighty Tumwater on Friday before they finish against the Storm and the Titans.

“I want to win them all. Tumwater is our opponent,” Hathaway said this week. “We understand that to beat Skyview and Union we’ve got to play our best game against Tumwater. Our focus is on that. If our focus is on Tumwater, and our focus is on us, that’s going to be our best route for beating those guys.”

Hathaway understands, of course, that the result of the Tumwater game, while important in the progression of his team, does not have a direct impact on whether his team makes the playoffs.

“We’ve got to win the last two to get in. We know that,” Hathaway said. “But right now, our focus is on Tumwater.”

Based on overall records, Union and Skyview have the upper hand. Both teams are 5-1. Camas is 2-4. But don’t be fooled. Rosenbach and Kizer both know that Camas has played, and continues to play, perhaps the toughest schedule in the Northwest. There is no way that the Titans and Storm will be overlooking Camas.

Still, it is Union, No. 7 in the latest Associated Press poll for Class 4A teams, and Skyview, No. 9, that get this three-way show going first with a 7 p.m. kickoff Thursday at Kiggins Bowl.

Union lost its first game of the season to O’Dea, then ranked No. 1 in 3A and now at No. 5. Since then, Union has won five in a row, averaging 47 points per game.

“You got a lot of time to figure out who you are as a team,” Rosenbach said of the schedule and of being in only a four-team league. 

With the two biggest games toward the end of the year, everything else is prologue.

Skyview’s lone loss came in Cheney against Coeur d’Alene, the fifth-ranked team in Idaho. 

“We’ve told the kids you can only play one team a week and each game is really important,” Kizer said. “The main thing is we kept getting better each week. For the most part, we’ve done that.”

Now, it is time to see if that improvement means success on the scoreboard. 

“It’s exciting, but a game is a game. Every game matters,” Kizer said before a pause.

Then a wave of honesty crashed over him.

“Without being Captain Obvious, these matter more,” he said with a grin.

All three teams vying for the two playoff spots are 1-0 in the 4A GSHL, all having beat Battle Ground.

The rest of their games, though, have been non-league matchups.

Camas, as noted, has played one of the toughest schedules on record. The Papermakers have had some close losses.

“I think we’ve been tested,” Hathaway said. “We know our strengths. We know our weaknesses. Sometimes you have to find that out in a tough loss or through some adversity. … We know who we are.”

Hathaway said his young team has gained experience.

“We’ve already played playoff football,” he said, referring to the talent of the opponents. “We know what to expect.

“I’m confident in our crew. We continue to grow as a team and get better. Our spirit is at an all-time high. We’re hungry. I think we’re prepared. We’re ready for the final games of the year, for sure.”

Week 7, Week 8, and Week 9. In a way, playoff football comes early for Camas, Skyview, and Union in the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League. And after these three weeks (or after a tiebreaker) only two will remain.

Week 10 dominance 

In the last two playoff years, 2019 and 2018, the 4A GSHL got three berths to the state preliminary round games in Week 10. In both years, all three teams won those games, advancing to state. 

That is what makes it even more difficult for the coaches, players, and athletic directors this season, knowing only two teams will advance to Week 10.

Camas, Skyview, and Union have been in the same league since 2012. Since then, Camas has made the playoffs all eight years and has gone 7-1 in the Week 10 games to advance to state.

Skyview has made the playoffs seven of the eight seasons and has gone 7-0 in Week 10, including four wins as the third-place team.

Union has reached Week 10 in six of the eight seasons and is 6-0 in Week 10.

Together, they are 20-1 since 2012. This year, one cannot even play in Week 10.

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