Have we mentioned how great this week will be? Kennedy and Lindbergh are only a few hours away from their big Seamount game, and we have Metro, WesCo and KingCo showdowns coming on Friday. Here’s a look at three of the big games:
No. 1 Skyline at No. 3 Issaquah, 7 p.m.: The most anticipated regular season game of the season. Issaquah has been so impressive through the first six games of the season, leaving opposing coaches exasperated at how well the Eagles pushed their teams around. But this week, the Eagles face a team that is having one of the best starts in recent state history. 258-8. That’s the combined score of Skyline’s first six games. The Spartans have so many quality players as so many positions; they’re the most complete team in the state. They’re probably one of the best teams on the West Coast.
The Eagles didn’t get much good news this week. Their two starting receivers are out, and so is a starting guard. Issaquah’s going to have to play some pretty green receivers, so it will have to be able to run well with running back Grant Gellatly. “I’m sure we’ll get a steady diet of Grant,” Skyline coach Mat Taylor said. Gellatly has 14 touchdowns in five games, and he’s played well even with a large cast on his hand that is protected a broken bone in his thumb.
Even if Issaquah becomes the first team to score on Skyline’s first-team defense this season, the Eagles will need to limit Skyline’s offense. And that will take extraordinary efforts on many fronts. They will have to do well in coverage because Skyline has two of the state’s best receivers — Gino Simone and Kasen Williams — along with third and fourth receivers that could start for just about any other team. But Issaquah will still have to get pressure, both to disturb quarterback Jake Heaps and stop Skyline’s run. The Spartans have shown that if teams drop six or seven guys into coverage, they won’t force the pass. And they’ve run it well. If there’s a defense in the state that has a shot at doing all of this against Skyline, it’s Issaquah because of the strength of the Eagles’ line. But it’s still a tall order. The Eagles can win, but our pick is the Spartans.
THE TIMES’ PICK: Skyline 24, Issaquah 13
Mariner at Jackson, 8 p.m. at Everett Memorial Stadium: What did Mariner do to the WesCo schedulers? The Marauders finish the season with five road games — including last weekend’s loss to Edmonds-Woodway — and now they need to win this one to remain in contention for the division title. The Marauders, led by running back Adrien Black on offense, can’t afford to get held out of the end zone again this week.
Jackson will be sitting pretty with a win in this game. It should be interesting to see if the T-Wolves have Taylor Cox, whose ankle injury has become a week to week call. Backup Riley Carr has made the best of every opportunity he’s had. And don’t forget that even though Jackson’s a running team, quarterback Andy Gay will make a team pay for loading up on the run.
THE TIMES’ PICK: Jackson 27, Mariner 17
No. 8 Eastside Catholic at No. 7 O’Dea, 7 p.m. at West Seattle Stadium: Every year this decade, O’Dea has won its division title. And every year, it has gone through Eastside Catholic to get there. But this season has a different feel. O’Dea has already lost to West Seattle, and the Irish are hurting just about everywhere. As we reported today, running back Zach Fogerson and linebacker Allen Mooney are out this week. That’s a UW prospect and a Boise State prospect out of the lineup. O’Dea will always be able to move the ball with a strong line, but the Irish are playing without two of the state’s better players.
Eastside Catholic’s only loss this season came at Archbishop Murphy, on an emotional night for ATM, and just about everything was going against the Crusaders that night. Otherwise, Eastside Catholic has been the strongest team in this division so far. Michael Bush is a powerful runner, and Marion Bactol’s speed is hard to catch up with (though O’Dea’s Chandler Gayton is no treat to track down, either). Is this the year the Crusaders take the division? They have gotten closer every year, and we’re going with the upset this week. Crusaders take the game and the Metro Mountain.
THE TIMES’ PICK: Eastside Catholic 28, O’Dea 20