A look ahead to the second half of the season in the 4A, 3A, 2A GSHLs as well as the Trico League
Here we go.
The second half of the 2019 high school football regular-season will get an early start with a couple of games Thursday before the rest of the schedule kicks off Friday.
Oh, and yes, five games is, officially, the half-way point of the regular season. Sure, most teams schedule nine games. And those who qualify for the playoffs use Week 10 as a playoff game. But did you know that all teams are allowed to schedule a Week 10 game?
Let’s get to what’s really important. Here is what to look for in the second half of the season, starting with two huge games this week.
The 3A Greater St. Helens League title just might be up for grabs Thursday when Prairie hosts Mountain View.
And in the 4A GSHL, the first of the “Big Three” battles will take place at McKenzie Stadium. Union is hosting Skyview at 7 p.m. Friday.
Here is what to look for this week, and beyond, in the 4A, 3A, and 2A GSHLs as well as the Trico League.
Let’s start with the 3A GSHL because of the big game Thursday night.
The Prairie Falcons are 5-0 overall for the first time since 1984. They have never been 6-0.
“We’re blessed with a great group of talented kids who have worked their butts off and have bought into the vision of what we want in the program,” Prairie coach Mike Peck said of his Falcons. “The reason we are successful is because of them. All the credit goes to them.”
The Mountain View Thunder are 4-1 overall, and they are the three-time defending league champions.
“It’s one game to us,” Mountain View coach Adam Mathieson said. “Previous league titles mean nothing. This team is in the process of Week 6.”
That can be true, plus it can be a big game. And yes, this is a big one at District Stadium.
Should Prairie win, the Falcons would remain undefeated with tiebreakers over Kelso and Mountain View. Don’t anyone dare overlook Evergreen, though. The Plainsmen can score in bunches. Still, if the Falcons get to 2-0 in league play with wins over the Hilanders and Thunder, it will certainly look like a league title is in their immediate future.
Should Mountain View win, that would put the Thunder in position to do the same thing it did last season: Lose the opener, a non-league game against Union, then run the table. But Mathieson pointed out, too, that a win Thursday only means a win Thursday. The Thunder still have Kelso and Evergreen on the schedule.
This league has become so much more competitive this year, and that’s a good thing, Mathieson said.
“It makes us better. Makes them better. Makes the sport better,” he said.
“You don’t play football games to win a lot to a little. You want to be in competitive games, and you want the games to matter,” Mathieson said.
Still, the coaches are trying to downplay the meaning of this week’s game.
“One of the things we talk about a lot is it’s a faceless opponent,” Peck said, sounding a lot like Mathieson, who has preached the same for years at Mountain View. “We need to prepare the same day, every week, no matter what. It’s all about the process. As long as we do that, the result will take care of itself.”
“It’s a process. We’re going to stick with our process. It’s irrelevant who we play Thursday night. We focus on us,” Mathieson said. “If we do things right, if we tackle, if we block for a full 48 minutes, we’ll see who wins.”
For Mountain View, these games are a tradition.
At Prairie, it is the start of something new.
“The vibe around school with teachers, admin, and other students and the community, they’re excited,” Peck said. “Everyone’s excited for the game on Thursday.”
Injury notes: Zeke Dixson of Prairie is out with an arm injury. Peck did not say if Dixson would miss the rest of the season, but he is out for this week. For Mountain View, Alec Cann is a game-time decision, according to Mathieson.
Scoring machine: The Evergreen Plainsmen have got to be feeling confident after combining to score 100 points the past two weeks. They also put up 61 points in Week 3. Yes, the competition is about to get tougher — the team plays at Kelso on Friday — but this offense is on fire.
Peace Pipe game: We know Fort Vancouver is playing an independent schedule this season and is not playing league games. City football fans should appreciate the fact that the Trappers and the Hudson’s Bay Eagles will continue their annual matchup, though. The Peace Pipe game is 7 p.m. Friday at Kiggins Bowl.
The Camas Papermakers will continue their Revenge Tour with a non-league home game Friday against Sumner, a team that beat the Papermakers a year ago.
For this week, though, the undefeated Papermakers are not the headline in the 4A GSHL.
With respect to Heritage and Battle Ground, this league will more than likely be represented in the playoffs by Camas, Skyview and Union. The first of those “Big Three” games is Friday night at McKenzie Stadium when Union hosts Skyview.
In Week 8, Skyview will host Camas.
And in Week 9, it will be Union at Camas.
Could this be an easy solution? Could one of these teams win two of these games to take the league title, and the victor in the other game gets second place?
Or, could we have a scenario in which they each go 1-1 and all three finish 3-1 in league play?
An argument certainly can be made that Camas is the class of the league right now.
Still, anyone want to count out the defending state champs from Union? The Titans were a 2-point conversion away from beating Puyallup on Saturday.
Anyone ready to say Skyview can’t be the league champion? That offense has weapons, and the Storm almost rallied against Union last year.
Union comes into this week with a 3-2 record after losing to Puyallup 42-41 on Saturday. The Titans scored 27 fourth-quarter points and missed on a 2-point conversion on the final play of the game.
“That was one of the cooler finishes I’ve been a part of,” Rosenbach said. “It didn’t go our way, but I was pretty proud of the way our kids battled.
“We proved some things to ourselves, which was good heading into league.”
With no school on Friday for many districts, this game was originally scheduled for Thursday night. But because Union’s game with Puyallup was Saturday, athletic administrators opted to move the game to Friday.
“There is a little more excitement around the school this week,” Kizer said of the Skyview faithful.
As a coach, he said he is trying to remind his players that it is just Week 6.
As a football fan, though, he understands the pre-game hype.
“We look forward to the rematch,” he said. “We know we can slug with them. Whatever team plays better that day will win the game. We know they’re talented. They’re the state champs.”
Union has a lot of respect for the Storm, too.
“They’re always well coached. Kize does an awesome job,” Rosenbach said. “He’s got them back where they need to be.”
Friday night, all of us will find out where these are in terms of head-to-head. But it will be a few weeks before everything is sorted out at the top of the 4A GSHL.
Revenge: Camas opened league play last week with a win over Heritage. The Papermakers are back to non-league this week, taking on Sumner at 7 p.m. Friday at Doc Harris Stadium. A year ago, Sumner topped Camas 14-7 in a game broadcast on statewide television.
The Papermakers are 5-0 and have avenged two of last year’s losses. They are hoping to make it three paybacks after this week.
Timberwolves and Tigers: Battle Ground and Heritage are still trying to build, gain some momentum. They both know how tough that can be in the 4A GSHL. So this is a big one for both programs. Of course, they will show, and they will compete in the other league games. But very few people believe they can win a game over Skyview, Union and/or Camas.
That makes this one special for the Tigers and Timberwolves.
The 2A Greater St. Helens League just got a little crazy.
No, not at the top. Hockinson is still Hockinson. The Hawks improved to 3-0 in league play last week with another dominating performance. No other team in the league has yet to play to that level that would suggest taking down Hockinson. Not saying it cannot happen. Just not much evidence yet.
So until proven otherwise, let’s pencil in Hockinson at No. 1
Now … try to pick the second-place team.
The Ridgefield Spudders changed the whole league last week, stunning Washougal 24-21.
“It was good for the kids. Those kids had never beaten Washougal,” Ridgefield coach Scott Rice said. “That felt really good for the kids. They were super fired up and excited. We had to bring them back down to earth on Saturday. We have more work to do still.”
Outside of Hockinson, Washougal had the most returning starters in the league. The Panthers were hoping to challenge the Hawks. Again, that can still happen, but for now, the Panthers will have to fight for second place.
But wait, there’s more. Columbia River beat Ridgefield, Ridgefield just beat Washougal, and Washougal and Columbia River play this week. If Washougal responds and tops the Chieftains, those three teams will have wins over each other.
Rice acknowledged that the Spudders are rooting for Washougal this week.
Oh, and Mark Morris came close against Ridgefield and River, so the Monarchs cannot be overlooked. And if Woodland can find its groove …
Back to Ridgefield, the Spudders aren’t thinking about just second place. Rice said if the team can take care of business in the next two league games, the Spudders would play Hockinson in Week 9 with only one league loss.
“That Week 9 game becomes a very interesting game,” Rice said. “Nobody outside of our program believes that.”
Then again, Rice said very few people expected Ridgefield to beat Washougal.
The La Center Wildcats are looking strong at 5-0 overall and 1-0 in league play after topping King’s Way Christian last week. La Center is home this week against Stevenson.
Seton Catholic, meanwhile, had a fine effort against last week in Stevenson, losing 21-14. It was Seton’s first loss of the season.
This is looking like it is La Center’s league to lose. The two other playoff berths seem to be up for grabs.