SNOHOMISH — State tournament games don’t get any tougher than drawing the top-ranked team as your first-round opponent, and that’s what Glacier Peak, Cascade and Darrington face.
Cascade certainly has its work cut out for itself against top-ranked Camas in the Class 4A football tourney and Darrington is in for quite the challenge against No. 1 ranked Morton-White Pass. However, the biggest challenge of any area team certainly lies with Glacier Peak.
The No. 9 ranked Grizzlies take on Bellevue, not only the top-ranked 3A team in the state, but the No. 12 team in the country as ranked by CBS MaxPreps Xcellent 25. The Wolverines have won 10 of the past 12 3A state championships, including five straight, and haven’t tasted defeat in 50 games, the fourth-longest streak in the country.
Despite an impeccable resume, Glacier Peak head coach Rory Rosenbach is excited for the challenge.
“We expect that everybody outside of our locker room says that we have no chance,” he said. “You’ve still got to play the game. Somebody’s going to get them sometime.”
For Cascade players and coaches, who face the unbeaten and unchallenged Papermakers in a 4A state playoff game on Saturday, it comes down to a similar belief that they can win.
“We definitely talked about it,” said Cascade head coach Joe Cronin of the Bruins’ tough opponent. “The first thing, before we go over scouting report or film, we have to believe. We just have to believe. We went over some situations where teams that were underdogs beat teams they weren’t supposed to beat.”
Rosenbach is no stranger to winning, each of his six Glacier Peak teams has made the postseason and he won two Oregon state championships as head coach of Marist H.S. The Grizzlies also gave the Wolverines one of their toughest games in the past three seasons two years ago, falling 28-17 in a quad-district playoff game.
However cliché it may sound, Rosenbach said the Grizzlies are treating this game like any other.
“You do it just like you do every other week,” Rosenbach said. “You do it and you come in and you work your tail off. The kids have had a great week. The coaches have had a great preparation period.”
Sometimes playing the No. 1 team can have a silver lining. Darrington players and coaches, which lost its only two games against ranked opponents this season in Concrete and La Conner, are feeling more confident going into Saturday’s showdown with Morton-White Pass because the Timberwolves’ offense won’t force the Loggers to play a foreign defensive scheme.
“We can just play our normal attack defense,” said Darrington assistant coach Cory Ross. “When we played Concrete and La Conner those offenses really took us out of what we do and change isn’t something we handled well.”
Two emotions play large roles in playing a top-ranked team: pressure and excitement. For the underdog, pressure can be a real ally.
“We’ve talked all week about the pressure is not on us, it’s on them,” Ross said of Morton-White Pass. “We’re not expected to win, so the kids are pretty relaxed. The kids know that all they have to do is play football.”
The other side of that is the extra buzz that comes with playing what is considered the best team in thee state. Rather than see tonight’s game as a bad draw in the bracket, Grizzlies defensive back Kaianoa Wong sees it as a chance for him and his teammates to be the first team in 50 games to beat Bellevue.
“It’s always exciting to play one of the top teams in the country and show what you’ve got against them — and maybe pull of the upset,” Wong said. “It’s a great opportunity for us.”
Sometimes it takes thinking outside the box to beat a Goliath. Cronin watched tape of Camas’ 55-20 win over Monroe in last week’s quad-district game and remarked how the Bearcats started the game with an onside kick, which they recovered.
Might the Bruins try a similar play?
“You’ve got to pull out all the stops,” Cronin said. “Might as well. Do anything you can.
“Anything can happen in high school football,” Cronin continued. “The guys definitely feel like if we play together we have a shot.”
Herald prep editor Aaron Swaney contributed to this story.