These rankings are a bit different.
Rather than rank the remaining teams 1-8 based on their season so far, these rankings reflect where each team stands based on the schedule ahead of them. This week’s quarterfinals are weighted the most, but for some teams, the teams they could face in the semifinals also matter.
In other words, these rankings are trying to sum up who has the best chance of winning the Class 4A and Class 3A titles.
1. Skyline (11-0)
The Spartans might be able to claim not only the best offense in the state, but also the best defense. They have yet to not look completely overprepared for what another team brings, and here’s the tough news for Auburn: only one runner has broken free for a big run against Skyline all season (Bothell’s Patrick Ottorbech scored a 25-yard TD, the only TD the first-team defense has allowed all season). Outside of Auburn, Skyline has the toughest road to the finals, going against the only other undefeated team and then facing a game most likely in Spokane. But by 7 p.m. on Dec 6., the Spartans should be the state champions.
2. Bothell (8-3)
The Cougars, like Issaquah, Rogers and Central Kitsap, have the fortune of avoiding the Skyline half of the bracket. And here’s my guess: the Cougars make it out of their half. No one has more playoff experience, and the Cougars are playing better than anyone outside the plateau right now. The Cougars went on the road against the SPSL South’s top seed, Curtis, and left with a 42-3 victory. That’s convincing enough for me to believe the Cougars will make a third consecutive state championship game. That is, unless they fall to…
The Eagles have a team that can get to the championship. They have the line and the skill players to possibly even play with Skyline (though it certainly didn’t happen the first time around). For Issaquah, it’s never been an issue of talent or size. But when the Eagles have played their best — at Bothell, at Inglemoor, at Marysville-Pilchuck — they don’t turn it over, and they don’t have coverage breakdowns. They played nearly mistake-free against Bothell in the opener, and won 24-13. Bothell’s much improved since then, so Issaquah will have to be just as perfect to win. If they do, they have a good shot of getting to the championship.
Probably the second-best team in the bracket, but it will take an upset of Skyline to get them anywhere. The Trojans fly offense won’t be easy for the Spartans to stop, and it will have to be moving well to keep Skyline’s offense off the field. But if Auburn can pull it off, they’ll move up into the top spot immediately.
Teams from the SPSL have a couple of great opportunities in the next couple weeks to show they belong with the KingCo teams that have dominated the 4A tournament recently. Auburn has that chance against Skyline this weekend, and then Rogers would face either Bothell or Issaquah in the semifinals. Neither Curtis, Federal Way nor Kentwood has had much luck so far, whether they hosted the games or traveled to the Eastside (It should be noted Auburn beat Woodinville last week). The Rams have gotten this far without playing a top-10 team in the postseason, and their showdown with No. 2 Olympia was canceled when Central Kitsap upset the Bears in Olympia. If they slow down CK’s running game, a KingCo team awaits.
The Saxons have a shot at hosting another semifinal game next week, especially if their defense continues to excel. They held Jackson’s duo of Taylor Cox and Riley Carr to fewer than 70 yards in their win, and they’ll go against Blake Bledsoe and Central Valley this week. Like Central Valley, the problem for Ferris is it would host one of the top two teams remaining next week, Auburn or Skyline. That doesn’t bode well for the GSL’s championship hopes.
7. Central Valley
The Bears get a chance to host Ferris on their field, where Ferris beat the Bears 27-23 on Oct. 17. There’s no reason to believe this won’t be another close game, and if Central Valley wins, it gets to host a home game next week. But the Bears face the dilemma of welcoming Skyline or Auburn, the two teams playing the best right now.
8. Central Kitsap
What to make of the Cougars, who ran all over Snohomish and ran just enough to upset Olympia? Central Kitsap has won six straight games, but it has had an interesting year. Its two in-state losses are understandable, against Gig Harbor. I wouldn’t count out the Cougars; last year a team with an unstoppable running game went on to win the whole thing. It’s high-school football. Crazier things have happened.
Getting healthy at just the right time. RB Peter Nguyen and DT Julius Moore are back in the fold, giving Bellevue its healthiest roster of the season. With an offense made for the postseason and a well-coached, disciplined defense, the Wolverines have a great shot at their fifth title in seven years.
The Golden Eagles have one certain advantage on the Wolverines: they won’t possibly have to go to Spokane. But they do face a four-hour trip to Vancouver and a pair of two-hour trips to Tacoma to win the title, and they’ll be facing the best teams the Eagles have seen all season. But put aside travle and schedule concerns, and Ferndale has played as well as any team in the state this season. Great coaching and great speed give them two great reasons they could win their second title this decade.
The Lancers have played like they belong, and they get an important home game this week against Eastside Catholic. But an experienced Ferndale team could test the discipline of a Lakes team that could be one year away from getting to the elite level in 3A. Getting past both of the top two teams won’t be easy.
The WIAA stayed consistent with how it has handled quarterfinal games in the past by allowing Union to host Ferndale this weekend (rather than play the game in a neutral site such as Tumwater). That gives the Titans a slight advantage in that game, which should be interesting because for both teams, they will be seeing the best team they have played all year.
The Patriots have the chance to give Bellevue a game. Just ask Kennedy, which led Liberty 17-0 at the half last week and then watched the Patriots roll up 21 points in the second half for the win. They’re on the right side of the bracket should they upset Bellevue, but the Patriots need to do that first before we get too far.
6. Eastside Catholic
Tough road for the Crusaders, who eeked out a winning TD against Mount SI: at Lakes, then a semifinal against either Ferndale or Union. Give this to Eastside Catholic, though: it just keeps winning. It beat O’Dea, beat West Seattle and beat Mount Si. With the area’s most dangerous returner, the Crusaders are never out of a game.
7. East Valley (Spokane)
The Knights get the nod above Capital because they play the Cougars at home this week, and East Valley had an impressive Greater Spokane League season with a win against last year’s 4A champ, Lewis & Clark. EV also avenged an earlier loss to Shadle Park and beat Mt. Spokane twice. But nobody likes to see Bellevue looming in the next round.
Capital has won its two playoff games by a combined 10 points, and it has scored just 21 in those two games, but give it credit for continuing to win. Capital has won five straight, but since its first two weeks, it hasn’t played any team close in competition to the teams it’s about to see. Its defense should keep it in this week’s game at Spokane, but Capital will be an underdog as long as it stays alive in this tournament.