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HS football: Semifinal Saturday has arrived

Union, Mountain View, Hockinson looking to reach finals

Good morning?

Nah. It’s better than that.

Let’s go with Great morning instead.

Today is one of the greatest days in Clark County football history.

For the second time in three seasons, three Clark County football teams have reached the state semifinals.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Union will play at 1 p.m., Mountain View will play at 2 p.m., and Hockinson will play a game scheduled for 4 p.m. but don’t be surprised if it’s 4:30 or so.

By around 7 p.m., we will know if these teams will make more history. There has never been a season when two (or three) teams from the county have played in the finals in their classifications.

On Friday, we talked with each of the three coaches. Here are some notes on the Titans, Thunder, and Hawks.

Class 4A
No. 1 Union (12-0) vs. No. 5 Puyallup (11-1)
1 p.m., McKenzie Stadium

Union’s Alishawuan Taylor is a dual threat. He has skills as a wide receiver plus he leads the defense in sacks. Taylor and the Titans face Puyallup in a Class 4A state semifinal game Saturday at McKenzie Stadium. Photo by Mike Schultz
Union’s Alishawuan Taylor is a dual threat. He has skills as a wide receiver plus he leads the defense in sacks. Taylor and the Titans face Puyallup in a Class 4A state semifinal game Saturday at McKenzie Stadium. Photo by Mike Schultz

Need more proof that the football gods love us? How about a rematch of one of the best games in the state this season?

Puyallup led Union by 14 points with nine minutes to play back in Week 5, at McKenzie Stadium. As you can see, Union is undefeated and Puyallup has one loss.

Oh yes, the Titans, led by quarterback Lincoln Victor and an inspired defense, scored three consecutive touchdowns to win the game in regulation.

Here we go again.

“Two really good football teams that do everything really, really well. Sound on both sides of the ball” Union coach Rory Rosenbach said. “We’ve become very familiar with each other. That’s a push.”

The Titans are hoping McKenzie Stadium gives them an edge.

“Nice to have your routine,” Rosenbach said. “We don’t have to get on a bus and travel forever. We get to do our normal thing.”

The Titans earned that, by the way.

Here is what I wrote in the days following Union’s win over Puyallup in Week 5:

“This non-league game has more meaning now than it ever did previously in the state. For the first time, the WIAA is using a committee to seed the state playoffs. In the past, non-league games were for bragging rights but nothing more. Union still has to qualify for state through league and then the Week 10 preliminary round playoff. But should the Titans get there (as expected), the wins against Mountain View, El Cerrito, Calif., and now Puyallup will go a long way toward earning a top seed.”

If Puyallup had held on to that lead, and everything else stayed the same this season, this semifinal game would have been played in or near Puyallup.

Non-league games really do matter now. This semifinal is proof. Union’s win in September had a huge impact in this Thanksgiving Weekend matchup.

“It feels good to have so much exciting during the holiday season,” Rosenbach said.

Of note: This is Union’s third appearance in the semifinals in school history. The Titans lost in the championship game in 2008 and in the semifinals in 2009, back when they were in Class 3A.

Class 3A
No. 3 Mountain View (11-1) vs. No. 2 O’Dea (10-1)
2 p.m. at Skyline High School in Sammamish

It is a who’s who of Class 3A football in the final four.

There’s Eastside Catholic, everybody’s No. 1. There’s No. 4 Bellevue, the powerhouse of the century. There’s O’Dea, the defending state champion.

And Mountain View.

“We’re in some pretty good company,” Mountain View coach Adam Mathieson said.

True, the rest of the state does not know much about the Thunder. It’s been a long, long time since Mountain View has been in this position.

The Thunder are out to show they belong. OK, that’s really just “sports talk” there. Mountain View has nothing to prove. The only loss this season is a three-point defeat to the top-ranked 4A team in the state. No matter what happens this week (or next week if they win this week) the Thunder already know they belong.

“We’ve prepared as hard as we possibly could and we’re going to go out and play for 48 minutes like we do every week,” Mathieson said.

Mathieson has faced O’Dea in the playoffs twice as a coach. Once in 2003, before his Mountain View days, and then again in 2013.

“You kind of know what you’re getting into,” Mathieson said, adding that he pulled the scouting reports from 2003 and 2013.

“They look the same. About 90 percent of the same stuff, and they’re really, really good at it,” Mathieson said.

The school is plenty of excited. In all, there are eight buses scheduled to leave Saturday morning for Skyline High School. Two for the team, then six for the band, cheerleaders, and students.

Of note: Please notice the time. It is a 2 p.m. kickoff. This game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. … This is the third final four appearance for the program. The Thunder lost in the semifinals in 2001 and 2002.  

Class 2A
No. 1 Hockinson (11-0) vs. No. 4 Liberty (10-2)
4 p.m., McKenzie Stadium

The Hockinson Hawks are using last week’s win as fuel for this week.

“I’ve been waiting for a moment like this to happen, when something bad happens, to see how we would react,” Hockinson coach Rick Steele said.

The bad was watching a 35-7 lead in the fourth quarter last week turn into a 35-28 game and having to recover the opponent’s onside kick to secure the victory.

“We faced adversity. We didn’t handle it very well, but we still got the win,” Steele said.

Survive and advance.

And for the Hawks, it is survive, advance, get ticked off, and take it out on the next opponent. Or so they hope.

Don’t get them wrong. The Hawks know they are facing a quality opponent. They know they likely won’t be able to allow Liberty to score three touchdowns in four minutes.

They also are confident that is not going to happen. That confidence comes from winning 25 consecutive games.

The Hawks also have beat Liberty the past two seasons in the playoffs.

Then again, last year, the final score was 34-20. That was the second-closest game of that championship season for Hockinson.

After last week, and after Liberty getting their attention from last year, Steele said he hopes his Hawks come out with a bit of a chip on their shoulders Saturday.

They want to make it three years in a row over Liberty in the playoffs. They want to make it to the championship game for the second year in a row. And they want to win their 26th consecutive game.

Of note: Game time is 4 p.m. and fans should be ready for that. However, last week’s 1 p.m. game at McKenzie Stadium lasted beyond 4 p.m., and the 4 p.m. game started around 4:30 p.m. … This is Hockinson’s second trip to the final four.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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