When asked last summer if his team would be able to keep alive its quarterfinals streak, King’s head coach Jim Shapiro may have been a bit skeptical.
But after seeing his young team grow and improve throughout the season, Shapiro is not at all shocked to find his King’s team in the 1A state quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive season.
“My answer would have been, if you asked me in the preseason, ‘It’s probably a long shot,’” Shapiro said. “But these last three to four weeks — as we finished out the regular season — I’m not surprised now as the team’s elevated it’s playing level and is playing well.”
The Knights have yet to win in the quarterfinals. The past four seasons King’s has made it to the round of eight and the past four seasons the Knights have fallen short of the semifinals.
A few players on the team this year have playoff experience for King’s and those are the players — especially the seniors — that Shapiro will be leaning on this week.
“You look at this year’s seniors, every year they’ve been here,” Shapiro said. “They know the experience they know what it takes. They can definitely bring that to the table and help the younger kids understand what it takes for an experience like this.”
Shapiro said it is business as usual for the Knights. The coach said that he doesn’t “feel like there’s this huge monkey on our back,” and that the team is focused on its mantra of taking it one game at a time.
“If you ask the kids, we’ve been talking about how every week’s a championship week,” Shapiro said. “We’ve been saying that every week — from week one against Lynden to the league-championship week with Lakewood. We’re saying this is the week you have, this is the week we’re playing. Especially in the playoffs. This is the only game that’s guaranteed
“We’ll talk about semifinals if and when we get there.”
To get to the semifinals King’s will have to get past a tough Cascade Christian team. Ranked No. 2 in the state in 1A, the Cougars are a perfect 11-0 this season. They’re coached by Randy Davis, who has been at the school since 2001 and is a familiar face for Shapiro, who has been the head coach at King’s for 17 years.
Cascade Christian’s offensive coordinator and line coach, Brian Flattum, was the center on Pacific Lutheran University’s 1993 NAIA championship team that Shapiro was a member of.
King’s, the 10th-ranked team in 1A, faced Cascade Christian in the 1A Tri-District tournament last season and defeated the Cougars 28-7 on the road.
Fortunately for the Knights (9-2), this season they will also be in a familiar setting. King’s will host the quarterfinal game for the first time since 2010. After having to travel four hours to Centraila last week — and to Hoquiam and Aberdeen last year — the Knights will have a much shorter trip to their home stadium.
“That’s huge,” Shapiro said. “There’s a comfort level to being at home.”
With the recent contest, the two teams appear to know each other very well and are both eager to continue on in the 1A state playoffs.
“It’s a team you like and a team you respect,” Shapiro said. “I think they’d say the same for us. It’s two well-known, well-respected programs. I expect a competitive game because of that.”
Cascade Chr. vs. King’s
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Woolsey Stadium, Shoreline
How they got here: Cascade Christian beat Montesano 28-21; King’s beat Tenino 28-14
Winner receives: Spot in the 1A state semifinals against La Center/Mount Baker winner
Scoreczar pick: Two very evenly matched teams square off in this one. Each team has demonstrated the ability to seemingly score at will: King’s averages 31 points per game; Cascade Christian nearly 45. Both teams have also limited their opponents to under two touchdowns per game. What happens when a great offense faces a great defense on both sides of the ball? Special teams happens. Look for an abundance of action between the 20s for the most part, with a punt or kickoff return for a score as a contributing factor. The computer thinks Cascade Christian tacks on a late TD to make it a 28-18 victory for the visiting Cougars.
Swaney pick: Cascade Christian, 20-14
Lommers pick: King’s, 35-34
Krueger pick: King’s, 31-28