State football: Eight Clark County teams prepare for first round

Notes, comments, computer rankings from all matchups involving local teams

Here are the matchups that involve the Clark County teams for the first round of the WIAA state football playoffs.

Let’s start with Friday’s action. The rankings to introduce each game are the seedings from the WIAA. The computer rankings used in the notes are from ScoreCzar and Evans Rankings, and those are their rankings for all teams in each classification. 

Class 3A

No. 11 Prairie (9-1) vs. No. 6 Marysville-Pilchuck (10-0)

6 p.m. Friday at Marysville-Pilchuck High School

Notes, comments: The Falcons are making their first appearance in the state football playoffs since 1992. Prairie has scored more points than any other team in Class 3A, an average 45.4 per game.

A.J. Dixson can use his legs or his arm to lead Prairie to points. The quarterback was named the 3A GSHL player of the year on offense and has led the Falcons to the state playoffs. Photo by Mike Schultz
A.J. Dixson can use his legs or his arm to lead Prairie to points. The quarterback was named the 3A GSHL player of the year on offense and has led the Falcons to the state playoffs. Photo by Mike Schultz

The Falcons were hoping to get a top-eight seed for a home game, but the non-league schedule was not exaclty a murder’s row and the lone loss came against a team that did not make the playoffs. That had to play a factor. 

Marysville-Pilchuck is making its first appearance at state since 2013. 

For those who like the computer rankings, ScoreCzar has Prairie at No. 7 and Marysville-Pilchuck at No. 2. Evans Rankings has Prairie at No. 4 and Marysville-Pilchuck at No. 2. (This is where the eyeballs emoji would be appropriate. The computer loves these teams more than the seeding committee.) 

A.J. Dixson, the dual-threat quarterback for the Falcons, was recently voted the 3A Greater St. Helens League player of the year on offense. He has thrown for more than 1,700 yards with 20 touchdown passes, plus he has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and has 15 rushing TDs.

If Prairie wins, the Falcons will be on the road for the quarterfinals against the winner of the Seattle Prep-Lincoln game. 

Travel: Last decade, I traveled to Marysville-Pilchuck to cover a regular-season game featuring Skyview on a Friday. It took forever, and I left early. In fact, I got there well before the team did. In fact, if I recall correctly, the Skyview football team showed up less than an hour before kickoff. The Storm got stuck going 5 mph on I-5. So please, leave early. In fact, just go in the morning. Plan on having lunch near the game. Trust me, you do not want to be driving through Fort Lewis, Tacoma, and Seattle on a Friday afternoon. (By the way, I know it is not called Fort Lewis anymore, but this old soldier never wants to call it by whatever it is called now. Go Army!)

Class 2A 

No. 15 Ridgefield (6-4) vs. No. 2 Steilacoom (8-2)

7 p.m. Friday at Mt. Tahoma HS in Tacoma

Notes/Comments: The Spudders did not love the 15-seed. After all, they beat Washougal, had the same record, and Washougal got an 11-seed. Still, the team probably just did not pass the eyeball test for the WIAA seeding committee. Regardless, this is a time for celebration for the Spudders. They are, after all, in the final 16 teams, in the state playoffs. This from a program that had won four games total the past two seasons. Congratulations to new coach Scott Rice, the staff, and, most importantly, the players for making this happen. The Spudders were rewarded with a home playoff game in Week 10. Then the Spudders cruised in that game to qualify for state. That’s a great story, regardless of what happens Friday night. This is Ridgefield’s first appearance in state since 2005.

Steilacoom’s two losses have come against Union, a Class 4A team in the state playoffs, and Lynden in a wild one. Lynden is No. 3 seed in the 2A bracket. This is the fourth consecutive state appearance for Steilacoom. The Sentinels lost to Hockinson in the quarterfinals last year. 

The ScoreCzar has Steilacoom at No. 4 and Ridgefield at No. 24 in Class 2A. Evans Rankings has those teams at No. 4 and No. 23. 

Should Ridgefield shock the Sentinels, the Spudders would host a quarterfinal game against the winner of Eatonville-Prosser. 

Travel: It is 122 miles from Ridgefield to Mount Tahoma. Still, it’s a Friday. Please plan on leaving early. There is no such thing as a two-hour trip to Tacoma on a Friday late afternoon. 

Saturday

Class 4A

No. 14 Union (6-4) at No. 3 Lake Stevens (10-0)

1 p.m. Saturday at Lake Stevens High School

Notes, comments: Hey, don’t you look familiar! It is a rematch of the state championship game. That was wild one early, with five lead changes in the first half. Then it was all Union in the second half for a 52-20 victory.

Since then, Lake Stevens has not lost. Hasn’t come close to losing, averaging 57 points per game. In fact, the only “loss” of the season for the Vikings might have been in the seeding. They wanted a No. 1 or a No. 2. Clearly, the schedule did not do them any favors. Still, this is a team on a mission. Second in state last year, with a chance to beat the defending state champions. The Vikings will be ready.

Oh, but don’t think the Titans are just willing to give up that title. A completely new team on offense this year, and an injury to the quarterback position has meant another change. But even without four starters on defense last week, the Titans went on the road and rolled to a 42-6 win over Mount Rainier. Yes, the No. 3 team from the 4A GSHL had no problem in the Week 10 qualifying game. 

Union’s best win this season came against Chiawana, a team that is seeded No. 4. 

Interestingly, if Union can pull off the win over Lake Stevens, the Titans would get a home game in the quarterfinals against the winner of the Chiawana-Mount Si game.

The ScoreCzar has Lake Stevens at No. 1 and Union at No. 11. Evans has Lake Stevens at No. 2 and Union at No. 17.

Travel: It is 208 miles from Union to Lake Stevens. Saturday morning traffic, clearly, is lighter than a Friday game. Still, gotta go through the Seattle area. Never, ever know when or where something will slow you down. But you have to know it likely will be slow somewhere along the route. Act accordingly. 

No. 15 Eastmont (9-1) at No. 2 Camas (10-0)

2 p.m. Saturday at Doc Harris Stadium

Notes, comments: Sure, the Papermakers have their share of injuries, but that 10-0 record impressed the seeding committee. Oh, and that playoff pedigree helped, no doubt. Everyone knows Camas football. Everyone. A No. 2 seed means Camas will play in Clark County through the semifinals, provided Camas keeps winning. 

Jackson Clemmer of Camas went from a reserve role last year to a starring role this season for the undefeated Papermakers. He has 12 touchdown receptions. Photo by Mike Schultz
Jackson Clemmer of Camas went from a reserve role last year to a starring role this season for the undefeated Papermakers. He has 12 touchdown receptions. Photo by Mike Schultz

This is Camas’ first appearance at state since 2017. OK, OK, that sounds strange. It’s only been two years. But missing out on state last year is one of the driving forces of this squad. The Revenge Tour is real. The Papermakers avenged four of their losses last year, head’s up, and then pulled away to win the Week 10 state qualifier. Until last year, Camas had made it to state eight consecutive seasons. The Papermakers are always a threat to make a long playoff run. The committee recognized that and acted accordingly. 

The ScoreCzar and Evans Rankings each have Camas at No. 3 and Eastmont at No. 12.

Eastmont needed overtime to beat West Valley of Yakima earlier this season. Camas beat West Valley 45-14. 

If Camas wins this game, the Papermakers will host the quarterfinals against the winner of Eastlake and Puyallup.

Welcome Eastmont: Eastmont fans should know to get to Doc Harris Stadium early. The only negative thing associated with the stadium is parking. Plus, Camas fans routinely show up early. There is usually a line prior to the gates opening. Oh, and Eastmont fans will enjoy a great Camas tradition: The Camas band will welcome you with your fight song. 

No. 9 Skyview (8-2) at No. 8 Woodinville (9-1)

5 p.m. Saturday at Pop Keeney Stadium in Bothell

Notes, comments: The Storm lost to No. 2 Camas and No. 11 Mount Si by a combined nine points. Flip any one of those results and the Storm would have a home game this week. In fact, the Storm were still hoping for a top-8 seed after beating Federal Way last week in the state qualifier 49-0. Still, if you look at the teams ahead of the Storm, it is difficult to find anyone not worthy of being in the top eight. 

Class 4A football is loaded. Of course, it would be a surprise to see an 8-, 9-, 10-, or 11-seed win a state championship but a shock? Nope. Not this year. This playoff bracket is wide open. Again, the Storm are nine points away from an undefeated season. The Storm believe they can go on a long playoff run, regardless of the seed.

Woodinville’s only loss was against Bothell, the No. 5 seed. Can’t hold that against the Falcons. Woodinville has a better record, so Woodinville got the home game. 

I am confident, though, that whichever team wins this game will have a chance in the quarterfinals. The winner of this game plays the winner of No. 1 Kennedy Catholic vs. No. 16 Wenatchee. 

For what it’s worth, the ScoreCzar has Skyview No. 6 and Woodinville No. 7. Evans Rankings has Woodinville at No. 4 and Skyview at No. 8.

This is as good a place as any to say, God I love football. 

Seriously, this 4A bracket is going to be a blast to watch unfold. 

Travel: It is 174 miles from Skyview to Pop Keeney. Plus you’ve got all day to get there on a Saturday. Still, it’s the Puget Sound area. It’s never too early to leave early for a football game. 

Class 2A

No. 11 Washougal (6-4) at No. 6 Clarkston (9-1)

2 p.m. Saturday at Adams Field in Clarkston 

Notes, comments: The Panthers figured they were the second-best team in the Class 2A Greater St. Helens League all year. They did not prove that, tough, falling to Ridgefield. That meant the Spudders got the No. 2 seed and Washougal ended up at No. 3. Still, the Panthers believed that result was a fluke. And an earlier loss to W.F. West came when Washougal’s starting quarterback was injured. Well, in Week 10, it was shut-up-and-play mode. No more excuses. The Panthers got to play W.F. West again. Win or go home. Well, the Panthers are not going home. Instead, they are headed to Clarkston for an opening round game at state.

This is the first state appearance for Washougal since 1999. 

Clarkston played four games against Idaho teams. The team’s only loss was to Lewiston. Clarkston beat Columbia River in a non-league game, too, 35-20. Washougal beat Columbia River 47-6. 

ScoreCzar has Clarkston at No. 8 and Washougal at No. 15. Evans Rankings has Clarkston at No. 7 and Washougal at No. 21. 

Travel: Not sure what would be easier. A Clark County team going to the Puget Sound area and that traffic or pretty much going to Idaho. Clarkston High School is 321 miles away from Washougal. My advice: A lot of Prince music on the drive. Party like it’s 1999! (Of course that’s my advice for all road trips.) Best part is for a 2 p.m. game, most fans should leave really early on Saturday. And at that time, there will be little traffic heading east on I-84 in Oregon.

No. 13 Ellensburg (4-5) vs. No. 4 Hockinson (9-1)

3 p.m. Saturday at Battle Ground’s District Stadium

Notes, comments: Seems strange to see Hockinson at No. 4. Seems strange to see a No. 4 team getting to play a team with a losing record in the first round. 

For Hockinson, it is a matter of injuries. The Hawks are the two-time defending state champions. They have won 36 of their past 37 games. The committee knows this, of course. The committee also knows that any team, let alone a 2A team, that loses two Pac-12 recruits might have a tough time rolling through another playoff bracket. Last year, in fact, Hockinson trailed at halftime in the semifinals and finals. 

Liam Mallory has made plays for Hockinson all season on offense, defense, and special teams. Photo by Mike Schultz
Liam Mallory has made plays for Hockinson all season on offense, defense, and special teams. Photo by Mike Schultz

Of course, the Hawks will use this as fuel. They know they are missing some key players. But they also understand they are more than any one or two individuals. If all goes to plan, the Hawks will play in Clark County two times at state, then focus on another final four appearance.

Ellensburg is better than its record. Its five losses came against teams that are in the state playoffs, including a 4A program. 

The winner of this game takes on the winner of Sequim vs. Lakewood. 

ScoreCzar has Hockinson at No. 2 and Ellensburg at No. 11 in the state. Evans Rankings has Hockinson at No. 2 with Ellenburg at No. 28. 

Welcome Ellensburg: Battle Ground’s District Stadium has been home to several Hockinson playoff games through the years. Ellensburg will appreciate playing on turf. Not that Hockinson’s grass field is bad right now. In fact, the Hawks played a Week 10 playoff game at home last week. Still, this is state. Any bit of rain could have turned Hockinson’s field into a mud bowl. Administrators figured, better safe than sorry. Battle Ground, here we come.

Class 1A

No. 13 Connell (7-3) at No. 4 La Center (9-0)

1 p.m. Saturday at La Center High School

Notes, comments: The La Center Wildcats are back where they feel they belong: the state playoffs. A year ago, a very young team was one win away from making it to state. This year, the Wildcats are taking no prisoners in an undefeated season and a Trico League title. Still, the Wildcats were not sure they would get a top-4 seed. They knew they would get in the top eight, host at least one playoff game. Now, though, as a No. 4, if La Center wins this week, the Wildcats will get another game in Southwest Washington.

Bryten Schmitz earned first-team, all-league status at running back for the La Center Wildcats. Photo by Mike Schultz
Bryten Schmitz earned first-team, all-league status at running back for the La Center Wildcats. Photo by Mike Schultz

Quarterback Tom Lambert was named the offensive player of the year for the Trico League. He rushed for 14 touchdowns and threw 11. 

The Wildcats are going to the state playoffs for the 13th time since 2001. 

Two of Connell’s losses have come against a Class 2A team in the state playoffs and the No. 1 seed in the 1A bracket. The other loss was to an Idaho squad.

ScoreCzar has La Center at No. 10 and Connell at No. 12. See what I mean about the high seed? La Center is good, but not everyone, or every computer, believed the Wildcats deserved a 4-seed. Evans Rankings believes in La Center, tough. Evans has La Center at No. 2 and Connell at No. 15.

Welcome Connell: For a long time, La Center played its home games at the middle school. Connell fans should know that when they come to the new stadium at La Center, it was built by volunteers in the community. Oh, and Connell fans need to realize that at the bottom of the big hill as you come into town, the speed limit goes all the way down to 25 mph. Stand on those brakes. Avoid a ticket. And once you are in town, Wildcat pawprints will guide you to the high school.

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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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