State playoffs match up unfamiliar foes

  • John Sleeper / College Sports Writer
  • Thursday, November 8, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

Leaving your comfort zone can be scary.

Up until now, Western Conference playoff teams have competed against familiar opponents. A few players on either side might even know one another from previous encounters or other athletic ventures.

But once you reach the first round of the state playoffs, you find yourself facing teams from outside your home district. Teams try to gather as much intelligence about their foes as possible. But all fans have to go on is reputation.

Two Wesco teams face foes with pretty glossy reputations on Saturday. Lake Stevens hosts Bethel in a 7 p.m. contest at Everett Memorial Stadium and Arlington travels to French Field in Kent to play Kentwood.

The Bethel Braves have been ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press state poll all season, right behind Pasco, the team to which the Braves lost in last year’s state title contest.

The Kentwood Conquerers were ranked No. 1 in the state last season going into the playoffs and knocked off Wesco 4A champ Snohomish in the first round before losing to eventual champion Pasco in the semifinals.

Kamiak’s Saturday foe, Olympia, hasn’t been a playoff regular of late. But the Bears had a breakthrough victory this season over perennial contender Capital, effectively replacing their crosstown rival in the playoffs.

Meanwhile in the B-11 playoffs, Darrington travels to southwest Washington to play Mossyrock. There are few B teams west of the mountains and most of them are in the southwest corner of the state, so the Loggers are used to playing there.

Mossyrock isn’t the best team the region has to offer. That would be undefeated and No. 1-ranked Willapa Valley, the team most likely to face the Darrington-Mossyrock winner in the quarterfinals.

Here’s a closer look at all four playoff games:

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Saturday at Everett Memorial Stadium.

Records: Bethel 10-0 overall. Lake Stevens 8-1.

Last year: Did not play.

Players to watch: Bethel back Steve Dildine has been the dominant rusher in the South Puget Sound League this season, gaining 1,894 yards and scoring 36 touchdowns. He ran 28 times for 173 yards and four touchdowns in Tuesday’s 42-14 victory over Auburn.

Lake Stevens quarterback Mitch Canham completed nine of 11 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown in Tuesday’s 27-14 victory over Shorewood.

Breaking down the game: Bethel, ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press state poll, took advantage of four Auburn turnovers (two fumbles and two pass interceptions) to score on its first four possessions Tuesday. Lake Stevens can’t afford to let the Braves get off to a similar start.

Dildine is the main focus of the Bethel offense, but quarterback Johnny DuRocher is no slouch with more than 1,300 yards passing and 14 TDs. He threw for 223 yards against Auburn. Obviously, Lake Stevens faces its most severe defensive test to date.

Meanwhile, the Vikings’ offense will be facing a Bethel defense that allows an average of just 134 yards per game.

Lake Stevens hasn’t seemed to miss starting back Justin Balunsat (injured ankle). Nate Thomason, his replacement on offense, ran for 133 yards and two TDs against Shorewood. His defensive replacement, David Johnson, returned a pass interception 67 yards for a TD.

Little-known fact: Bethel reached the state finals last year before losing to Pasco.

Pick: Bethel 28-14.

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Saturday at Goddard Stadium, Mariner High School.

Records: Olympia 8-1 overall. Kamiak 9-1.

Last year: Did not play.

Players to watch: Sophomore back Luke Kravitz has emerged as Olympia’s main offensive weapon. He ran for 179 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the Bears’ key win over Capital and had Olympia’s only score in its only loss, to Wilson.

Kamiak back Justin Washington carried 18 times for 114 yards in Tuesday’s 28-21 victory over Mount Vernon.

Breaking down the game: Olympia, ranked No. 8 in the AP state poll, returned 35 lettermen and 11 starters from its 5-4 2000 team. While Kravitz has led the ground attack, quarterback Reid Hamblet is capable of carrying the team as well. He completed 14 of 29 passes for 196 yards against Wilson.

Lineman Zak DeBakker, who returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown against Capital, and linebacker Mark Simmonds, who missed the Wilson game with a knee injury, anchor the Bears’ defense.

No. 7 Kamiak recovered from losing to Jackson in its final regular season game and played a strong game offensively and defensively against Mount Vernon, highlighted by wide receiver/defensive back Whitney Wilson’s TD catch and TD interception return.

The Knights do have to cut down on the mistakes, though. Holding penalties kept them from putting Mount Vernon away early.

Little-known fact: Olympia turned the ball over on downs on the Wilson 4-yard line in the first quarter and had the ball on the Wilson 10 when the game ended in the Bears’ only loss (16-8).

Pick: Kamiak 28-7.

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Saturday at French Field, Kent.

Records: Arlington 8-2 overall. Kentwood 9-1.

Last year: Did not play.

Players to watch: Kentwood back Kevin Jones has rushed for 1,568 yards and scored 17 touchdowns this season. He carried 18 times for 130 yards and had a pass reception for a touchdown in Tuesday’s 42-7 victory over Spanaway Lake.

Arlington quarterback Kevin McCormack completed 18 of 23 passes for 240 yards and both touchdowns in Tuesday’s 14-7 victory over Mariner.

Breaking down the game: Arlington faces a juggernaut. Kentwood’s two-pronged attack has been too much for its last eight foes. Complementing Jones’ running game is Washington State-bound quarterback Carl Bonnell, who has passed for 1,224 yards and 16 TDs. He also ran for three touchdowns against Spanaway Lake. Most opponents have been able to stop one or the other, but not both. Spanaway Lake couldn’t stop either.

Little-known fact: Kentwood scores an average of 38.4 points per game.

Pick: Kentwood 35-21.

Kickoff: 1:30 Saturday at Mossyrock High School.

Records: Darrington 7-1 overall. Mossyrock 6-3.

Last year: Did not play.

Players to watch: Tailback Matt Riis and fullback Kevin Brophy do most of the work in Mossyrock’s option offense. But quarterback Willie Forrest will throw about a third of the time.

Darrington back D.J. Cochran ran for 167 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday’s 52-12 victory over Neah Bay. Back Ronnie McCoy had three TD runs. Quarterback Matt Reese had three TD passes.

Breaking down the game: Darrington, ranked No. 8 in the AP state poll, appears to have a lot more going for it offensively than does Mossyrock. McCoy has rushed for seven touchdowns in his last two games and 13 overall. The Reese-to-Bryce Boyd combination has produced six TDs, including a game-winner against Concrete. That would be enough for most teams, but the Loggers are also getting production out of Cochran and fellow back Quinn Padgett.

Little-known fact: Darrington lost 30-26 to Mossyrock in the 1997 state semifinals.

Pick: Darrington 26-14.

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