Blue’s really taking over tonight. Not only do two blue-clad state powers face off for the first time in 18 years, there will be blue flags — hopefully not too many — all over the field across the state tonight.
In honor of a late, great coach, Terry Ennis, the blue flags will replace the yellow penalty flags this weekend to raise awareness that September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
And among the notable teams playing tonight is Ennis’ former team, Archbishop Murphy, which has scheduled itself back-to-back toughies to open the season. The Wilcats are in one of four games I’d like to take a closer look at heading into tonight.
Eastside Catholic at Archbishop Murphy: I witnessed how much Vince Taylor mattered to Eastside Catholic last season. He absolutely terrified teams as a returner. He was a Division I recruit as a safety. “Chuck it deep to Vince” was a play that rarely failed. He was such a part of the fabric of Eastside Catholic and such a large part of its emergence in Metro that I had concerns how the team would move on with out him.
I was wrong.
Instead, Eastside Catholic beat 4A Eisenhower — a top 10 team in some preseason rankings — 16-8 last Saturday and ran the ball like crazy. And the Crusaders made Taylor Elmo, one of the better quarterback prospects in the state, make mistakes.
Now they go from a top 4A team to an elite 2A team, and the 2A team might be tougher. Archbishop Murphy knocked off Lynden in the opening week, and new coach Dave Ward’s hybrid of ATM’s wing-T and his passing offense moved the ball. The Wildcats held Lynden to only 19 rushing yards in the first half, so Eastside Catholic has its work cut out for it.
Kentwood at Auburn: Most teams are playing play games in these opening weeks, nonleague matchups that ultimately mean nothing when it comes time to make the playoffs. But not the SPSL. It gets down to business. In the SPSL North, two of the season’s biggest games will have come and gone after this weekend. Last week, Auburn beat Federal Way. And now the Trojans can take a huge lead in the division against the Conks, who impressed last week with a 28-14 win against Kennedy.
Both teams, we found out last week, can really run the ball. Auburn ran for 284 yards, and that’s without QB Carlo Lavoie, who should be back this weekend. Kentwood ran for 238 yards. Look out for Kentwood sophomore Joseph Banks, who had 91 yards on 11 carries.
Bothell at Bellevue: Get there early. Like hours early. Because this game will draw a crowd. These are two of the state’s top teams this decade, so even though Bothell lost last week, this is a marquee nonleague game.
As I wrote in the football notebook Thursday morning, Bellevue has played 19 games since 2003 against teams that had not previously seen the wing-T, and the Wolverines have lost only one. Bellevue has run for an average of 367 yards in those 19 games, not exactly a small sample size. The Wolverines run that offense so well, it’s so hard for teams to adjust to. By the time they do, they’re usually too far down to do anything about it.
But when I went to Bothell this week, I found that Bellevue wasn’t the most significant concern for the Cougars. They have themselves to worry about. They didn’t have a good week of practice last week, and it showed in the opening loss to Issaquah.
The Cougars want to run the ball with senior Patrick Ottorbech, so they couldn’t have been giddy watching Bellevue hold Portland’s Central Catholic to 5 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Bothell wil have to display more discipline and a stronger front line if it will have a chance against the top-ranked Wolverines.
Liberty at Woodinville: Don’t look too much into the 20 points Woodinville allowed last weekend, as they were all scored after the Falcons had a 27-0 lead. But do look at the 337 rushing yards Woodinville put up last weekend. The Falcons, with running backs Jordan Todesco and Matt Brumfield, can control the ball. But so can Liberty, which beat Ballard 43-7 last weekend in one of the first week’s more eye-opening results. Expect Steve Valach’s Patriots to be well-prepared tonight.
State-wide, I’m keeping an eye on these games:
Lewis & Clark vs. Mead and Ferris vs. Gonzaga Prep. Along with Central Valley, these are the four Spokane-area teams most likely to advance to the state tournament this year.
Olympia vs. Capital: After playing tough against O’Dea last weekend, expect Capital to give Olympia, ranked third in 4A, a tough game in the Spaghetti Bowl.
Union vs. Evergreen (Vancouver): This could be the best regular-season game of the year down in Vancouver.
1. Ava Ames, Holy Names, girls soccer. Scored three gols and added an assist in a 4-1 win against West Seattle.
2. Oscar Eason, Mt. Rainier, football. Had 165 yards on 13 carries in a 20-0 win against Evergreen.
3. Emily Liger, Everett, volleyball. Had 17 kills in a sweep against Everett.