Camas to take on Kamiakin in Kennewick, while Ridgefield prepares for Squalicum in Bellingham
The Camas Papermakers and Ridgefield Spudders are at the center of it all in the WIAA state high school football playoffs, both teams with the No. 5 seed in their classifications, taking on the No. 4 seeds in their quarterfinals.
So let’s talk centers, shall we?
At Camas, it’s Tyson Jacobson, who is listed on the roster as 205 pounds. Listed and reality are not always the same.
“He might weigh 175 pounds,” Camas coach Jack Hathaway said.
At Ridgefield, it’s Wyatt Bartroff, a third-year starter at center. Oh, and he’s only a junior.
“He’s the rock on both sides of the ball,” Ridgefield coach Scott Rice said of Bartroff, who is also the team’s middle linebacker.
As both teams prepare to hit the road for the quarterfinals, here is what both coaches had to say about their guys in the middle of all the interior action. After all, no team’s offense can go anywhere without the ball being snapped.
“He’s physical. He doesn’t shy away from contact or the size of anybody else,” Hathaway said of Jacobson. “He’s going to give you all 175 pounds.”
Jacobson makes all the calls for the line pre-snap. His football IQ is top-notch. He also keeps the linemen “grounded,” Hathaway said.
“He’s just a lot of fun to coach.”
And tough, too. Of course, anyone who plays that position has to be tough. But Hathaway noted that Jacobson broke a bone in his hand — a boxer’s fracture — but did not miss a game.
Jacobson and the offensive line just got better and better as the year progressed, as well. That is not unusual at Camas.
“Our O-line coach is phenomenal,” Hathaway said, referring to Justen Wochnick. “We always have a lot of seniors who play for us. He normally has a newer crew, a new set of guys he’s working with. Sometimes it takes a little while for that crew to gel and start working well together. This year, for sure, that’s happened. We’re playing really well together.”
Camas has won seven in a row to reach the 4A quarterfinals. That includes wins over Skyview and Union when running back Jon Schultz rushed for more than 160 yards in each game. After a blowout win in Week 10’s state preliminary round game, the Papermakers took down Puyallup in the opening round at state. The Vikings keyed on the Camas rushing attack, but the line gave quarterback Taylor Ioane time to throw two touchdown passes in a 17-7 victory.
At Ridgefield, Bartroff is simply one of the best all-around players on his team.
“Every day he’s becoming a more knowledgeable football player,” Rice said. “He’s an unbelievably hard worker, and he wants to be great at it.”
Rice took over as head coach prior to the 2019 season.
“He’s one of the first kids I met, underclassmen-wise,” Rice recalled. “He was a big kid as a freshman. He is a little bit taller and a lot wider than he was back then.”
Even that first year, though, he excelled.
“He was very much in the conversation as an all-league center as a freshman,” Rice said. “Then he was all-league center last season.”
Bartroff plays center but dreams of catching touchdown passes.
“He’s always styling himself as a tight end,” Rice said. “He’s always trying to make overtures. ‘Maybe you let me catch a pass.’”
Maybe one day, Rice tells him.
“‘Right now I need you to be the best center in the league and keep our unit together,’” Rice tells him. “He’s done a great job of that. He really enjoys running the show and having it on his shoulders.”
The entire offensive line has been impressive for the undefeated Spudders. Including a surprise. Connor Bledsoe, who had never played a snap of varsity, earned all-league status as the right tackle.
“We preach all the time about rules and technique and trusting each other around you,” Rice said. “Offensive line play is built around trust. It’s a group of guys working hard to do a really difficult thing.”
Class 4A Football
No. 5 Camas vs. No. 4 Kamiakin
3 p.m. Saturday at Lampson Stadium in Kennewick
Class 2A Football
No. 5 Ridgefield vs. No. 4 Squalicum
3:30 p.m. Saturday at Civic Stadium in Bellingham