So here we go. The state semifinals are only two days away, and we’ve got a frantic weekend ahead of us. Personally, I’ll cover both sides of the state for two games in a span of two days. The plan right now is for me to be at Bellevue-O’Dea at 9 a.m. Friday morning and then be in Spokane on Saturday for Ferris and Bothell.
As of right now, you can expect “Live from…” blogs from both games, as long as the conditions at both stadiums allow it. I’ll let you know if that changes.
We’ll have a team ready to cover the other games at the T-Dome, and we have some good ones. And today, I’m going to try and break them down. And I’ll even make a pick in each game, but let me say off the bat that I think any of the four teams in both Class 4A and Class 3A can win. But I have been pretty much dead-on this season picking one game per week in our “Top tickets,” with only one wrong pick all season (Lakes 28, Skyline 27). We’ll see how I do now that the games get even more difficult to decipher.
Bellevue vs. O’Dea, 9 a.m. Friday, Tacoma Dome
Why Bellevue can win: Let’s start with the past. The Wolverines have won five of the last six Class 3A titles, and they’ve done it with great defense and a stable running game, two hallmarks of this team, too. They have their starting backfield back together after Ladell Carroll and Eric Nelson missed much of the season. They’ve already been tested with a championship-caliber team in Skyline, and came close. O’Dea hasn’t had that kind of test this season.
Why O’Dea can win: They’ve shown no reason why they would lose. Going by the numbers, the Irish running game is even more powerful than Bellevue’s with 321 rushing yards per game to the Wolverine’s 304. But given Bellevue plays in a tougher conference, I’ll call that a wash. But no one has stopped Johri Fogerson this season. No one. He’s gaining 13 yards per carry. That’s spectacular, no matter who you’re playing. And no team in state has scored more than 14 points on the Irish this season.
The thoughts running through my head: I’m talking to Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff on Monday and he says, “We’re probably the surprise pick of the four,” and my first response was “Are you kidding? You’ve won five of the last six titles.” I’ve thought about it since, and he’s right. This has been a difficult year for Bellevue. The other three teams are undefeated and haven’t been through half the injury problems that the Wolverines have survived. Yet right now, I can’t pick against the Irish until someone at least gets within a touchdown of them. But I won’t be the least bit surprised if Bellevue is playing in the championship game once again.
The pick: O’Dea 28-24.
Skyline vs. Franklin Pierce, 9 a.m. Saturday, Tacoma Dome
Why Skyline can win: Right now, the Spartans look like the best team in the state. Not in Class 3A, the entire state (my apologies to Bothell). The offense has been clicking, and the defense has been stingy. Only Bellevue has been within a touchdown of them. Skyline has won each of its playoff games by at least 19 points, including its no-doubter against Lakes, which finished the season ranked No. 1.
Why Franklin Pierce can win: Erich Armstrong is the quickest quarterback Skyline has seen this season (Steve Gervais’ words, not mine). He’s kind of a big deal. People know him. The Cardinals swept through the SPSL and scored 35 at Ferndale, and who has been able to do that in November? And the underdog role works for a lot of teams.
The thoughts running through my head: Skyline 39, Lakes 20. Skyline 39, Lakes 20. Skyline 39, Lakes 20. Skyline 39, Lakes 20. Skyline 39, Lakes 20. Skyline 39, Lakes 20. Skyline 39, Lakes 20. Skyline 39, Lakes 20. I’m not picking against the Spartans again. It’s that simple.
The pick: Skyline 35, Franklin Pierce 21
Bothell vs. Ferris, 1 p.m. Saturday, Albi Stadium in Spokane
Why Bothell can win: In the playoffs, the Cougars have been almost untouchable. Each victory has been more impressive than the last, leading up to last week’s 48-14 victory against defending champ Oak Harbor. It wasn’t even that close, either. The offense has shown terrific balance, and the defense has been more relentless than Charles Barkley at a blackjack table.
Why Ferris can win: They have talent, but what scares Bothell coach Tom Bainter is the Saxons’ speed. And that’s usually Bothell’s greatest advantage. The Saxons will play on their home field with their home crowd.
The thoughts running through my head: Having watched Bothell twice this postseason, I’m simply having troube conjuring a team that can beat them right now (other than Skyline). But that said, I haven’t seen Ferris, so this isn’t an easy pick. It’s a great advantage to sleep in your own bed, and Bothell will be in hotel beds. But in the end, I see Bothell returning to the Dome.
The pick: Bothell 24, Ferris 21
Lewis and Clark vs. Edmonds-Woodway, 8 p.m. Saturday, Tacoma Dome
Why Lewis and Clark can win: Nobody beats Inglemoor 35-0 without being pretty good. Alex Shaw, who went for 260 yards against the Vikings, is on a roll. And Lewis and Clark hasn’t allowed more than 19 points in a game all season (19 to Ferris).
Why Edmonds-Woodway can win: QB Kyle McCartney, RB Tony Heard and WR Antoinne Wafer make up one of the most talented big threes in the state. They beat Eastlake, which in my opinion was the best team with a loss entering the postseason. Other than that game, they have convincingly beaten everyone else.
The thoughts running through my head: The Warriors played their first truly close game of the season Saturday against Eastlake, and they made the plays they needed to win. I really needed to see the Warriors make a play in the fourth quarter. I’m sure some will read this with skepticism because I’ll be going with four local teams this weekend. But remember this: I grew up 3,000 miles away, and the only team I care about this weekend is the Missouri Tigers, who play their biggest game of my lifetime Saturday evening. I’m just going with my gut on these picks, and it has worked out pretty well so far this season.
14-1. Just sayin’ (Or just pointin’ out how little you need to know to pick these games).
The pick: Edmonds Woodway 17, Lewis & Clark 14
Feel free to make your own picks in the comments section.
I’m taking tomorrow off. I’m going to eat some turkey and watch Brett Favre carve up the Lions. I’ll be back Friday morning with a blog from the Bellevue-O’Dea game. Have a great Thanksgiving and a spectacular weekend of football.