Let’s get right to the point this week. First, here are the brackets for all classifications.
In this week’s TFQ, I’ll take a look at the surprising season of undersized and outmanned Nathan Hale, Newport’s lopsided win against Skyview and one of the best season’s in recent Roosevelt memory.
Of course, big performances and the final rankings until the end of the playoffs can be found at the bottom of the blog.
But first, a look at a team that wins with a roster full of players smaller than 190 pounds.
A story worth watching
Nathan Hale: ‘The little team that could’
There’s a team in the Class 3A playoffs that’s worth keeping an eye on even though if you saw this team with your own eyes, you might not believe they were in the 3A playoffs.
That would be Nathan Hale, perhaps the smallest team still playing, especially in the 4A and 3A ranks where offensive linemen are usually well over 200 pounds. Hale plays three players who cross that threshold. The average weight of a Hale player is 176 pounds, and the average starter weighs even less. The Raiders also aren’t particularly fast.
Yet on Saturday night, against a Shelton team featuring 2,000-yard rusher Ralph Kinne, little Nathan Hale pulled out a surprising 19-6 win to advance to the first round of the state playoffs against Peninsula.
“Our team has overachieved all year,” Hale coach Hoover Hopkins said. “This is an amazing story.”
He’s right. It is.
One of Hale’s starters along the line is Mike Hodges, a 5-foot-11, 165-pounder who is smaller than many KingCo and Metro running backs. Another starting defensive tackle is senior Nomer Jocson, who is 5-foot-8 and 162 pounds. He’s also never played football before this season. The heart and soul of Hale, according to assistant coach Derek Grandbois, is Aaron Mandell, a 5-foot-9, 144-pounder who plays with oozing grit.
That group won the Metro League Sound Division and now sits at 8-2.
“We’re just a bunch of little mighty mites,” Hopkins said. “This sounds really corny, but we’re the little team that could. We’re outgunned. Teams are faster. They outweigh us by 100 pounds routinely. But these guys are just super relentless. No super stars at all. None. Just a bunch of overachievers.”
In many ways, Hale is a team stuck in black and white, a group that would fit better in the ’40s or ’50s. The Raiders run a Wing-T offense, including parts contained in an old book Hopkins found on a dusty shelf that details long-ago offensive schemes.
And get this: Hoover Hopkins, which sounds like the name of a ’50s football coach, doesn’t have a cell phone.
“Shoot, you walk in and look at us warming up compared to any team, even in our own division, and you think, ‘This looks like a JV team at best,'” Hopkins said. “But, boy, they just have an incredible will to win and they don’t back down to anybody.”
On Saturday, Hale took advantage of Shelton mistakes and took away the High Climbers’ ground game. Kinne, one of the leading rushers in the state, broke a couple tackles in the first quarter to score a 23-yard touchdown.
But after that Hale’s undersized defense held tough. Hopkins said senior Jasper Bourgette, the 149-pound nephew of Kennedy coach Bob Bourgette, played his best game of the year. He and Mandell helped cut off the right side.
Inside linebackers Danny Campbell (182 pounds) and Graham Harper (201 pounds) cut off the middle while defensive end Devon Tautolo (147 pounds) and linebacker Alex Miller (172 pounds) helped chock off the outside.
“Our game plan was just to take out their offensive line and have our linebackers come up and make tackles,” Grandbois said. “(Kinne) had a couple of big runs, but we were able to really control him, which helped us control the game.”
It was Hale’s first playoff win since 2007. Hopkins and his staff took over a long-struggling program in 2005. The league’s doormats, Grandbois said.
By 2007, Hopkins and his staff guided hale to the Metro League Sound Division title and a playoff win. Now they’re back and looking to pull another shocker against Peninsula this week.
“We’ve got to be the smallest high school football team out there still playing,” Hopkins said. “I’ve never seen a smaller team. I don’t think Hale’s ever had an eight-win season. It’s by far the best year we’ve had in years.”
Games to watch:
Best games in 4A:
Roosevelt (7-4) vs. Jackson (9-1): Jackson is a team that can put points on the board in a hurry. Roosevelt tends to rely on its rushing attack and defense to keep scores low and close. An interesting clash of styles.
Newport (7-3) vs. Mead (9-1): Newport quarterback Isaac Dotson and Co. delivered one of the shockers of the round of 32 by crushing No. 7 Skyview. Mead also has plenty of talent, including Notre Dame commit Danny Mattingly and running back Davian Barlow.
Bothell (6-4) vs. Bellarmine Prep (9-1): Running back Danny Wilson returned to rush for 85 yards and two touchdowns in Bothell’s 31-3 win against Curtis. Bellarmine Prep is led by quarterback and Colorado commit Sefo Liufau, and the Lions rolled Edmonds-Woodway 45-6 behind 208 rushing yards from Lou Millie in the round of 32.
Best games in 3A:
Mount Si (9-1) vs. Glacier Peak (9-1): Mount Si possesses one of the state’s best defenses; the Wildcats have allowed more than 10 points only once this season, and that came against No. 1 Bellevue. Glacier Peak has won in just about every way this season – an offensive shootout, a defensive battle – and the Grizzlies only loss came against 4A Bothell.
Marysville-Pilchuck (8-2) vs. Timberline (9-1): No. 10 Marysville-Pilchuck’s strength is on the ground, where running backs Austin Joyner and Kacey Walker have each rushed for more than 1,000 yards. No. 7 Timberline’s only loss came against ranked Tumwater, a 2A school.
Kelso (9-1) vs. Eastside Catholic (10-0): The Crusaders are led by senior quarterback Trey Reynolds, but they are a well-rounded group that simply plays solid football. Henry Jarvis is also a threat on the ground. Kelso knocked off Juanita 14-13 in the round of 32.
Best of the rest:
Lakewood (9-1) vs. Capital (8-2): Lakewood’s only loss came against King’s, the No. 1 team in 1A. Capital has beaten 4A Newport, which just crushed Skyview in the round of 32, and 4A Bothell, which just crushed Curtis. It seems almost wrong one of these 2A teams will end their season so early.
Mark Morris (9-1) vs. Lynden (9-1): No. 7 Mark Morris has been steady all season with the Monarchs’ only loss coming in Week 1 against Kelso. Since losing to King’s in Week 1, No. 2 Lynden has been on a roll, running through 3A Ferndale three weeks ago.
Hoquiam (10-0) vs. King’s (10-0): A great 1A matchup. King’s, led by quarterback and BYU commit Billy Green, has answered all challenges this season, including from ranked 2A schools Lynden, Archbishop Murphy and Lakewood. Hoquiam’s closest game was a 41-13 win against Montesano in Week 3.
Newport makes a statement against Skyview
One of the surprises of the weekend came on Saturday, when Newport handled Skyview 56-35. Yet the surprise wasn’t that the Knights won. It was the way Newport so thoroughly handled No. 7 Skyview in taking a 42-7 halftime lead.
In some ways, it’s been a strange year for Newport. The Knights opened the season with two losses, including to 2A Capital. Newport then responded with wins against then-ranked teams in Woodinville and Issaquah while also playing No. 1 Skyline close at halftime.
The Knights have, at times, been a tough commodity to get a handle on. They left no room for doubt on Saturday.
“If we would have lost that game, making it to state wouldn’t have been such an accomplishment,” Newport quarterback Isaac Dotson said. “We came out and said that Newport is legit and we’re ready to play any team that plays us.”
Dotson and running back Conner Baumann led the charge against a Skyview team that finished runner-up at state a year ago. Running the triple-option, Dotson and Baumann took their turns picking apart Skyview’s defense and led Newport to 566 rushing yards, according to the Columbian.
Dotson, who is committed to Nevada, and Baumann, who is only a junior, have combined for more than 2,000 rushing yards this season.
“In our offense,” Dotson said, “once we’re all on the same page we’re pretty hard to stop as you saw last night.”
Skyview could never get a handle on Newport’s tricky misdirection offense and were left guessing who was getting the ball. And once you start guessing, the triple option can make you pay.
Which is exactly what Newport did.
Dotson scored on a 35-yard touchdown in the first quarter and Baumann followed with a 75-yard run later. Brian Setijono also scored on a 5-yard in the first quarter to give Newport a 21-0 lead.
Dotson added a 17-yard touchdown run and a 42-yard pass to Drew Sample that helped put Newport up 42-7 at half.
“Jumping on them early, we knew that’s what we’d have to do to win,” Dotson said. “But we didn’t know it would come quite like that.”
Now the Knights get another good test: A Mead team that is 9-1 this season.
Roosevelt does it again
Another week, another big win for Roosevelt. By now the surprise factor is gone. The Roughriders are for real. They’ve proven that time and again this season.
And they proved it once again on Saturday in their first playoff appearance since 1995 by beating Central Kitsap 10-7 in the round of 32 and advancing to the first round of the playoffs against Jackson (9-1).
“I think we felt a little of the pressure in this game,” Roosevelt coach Matt Nelsen said. “My guys were just a little nervous in the beginning. But they worked through it and hung on in the end. I think they were just trying to give me a heart attack.”
The Roughriders (7-3) had played in four games this season decided by a touchdown or less before Saturday. They’d won two of them, but those games did something else. They hardened Roosevelt for situations just like Saturday against Central Kitsap.
Mitchell Bouldin’s 3-yard touchdown run and John Peterson’s 28-yard field goal gave
Roosevelt a 10-0 lead at halftime.
Roosevelt then had to deal with some uncharacteristic sloppiness. The Roughriders turned it over twice in the red zone in the fourth quarter, leaving the door open for a Central Kitsap comeback.
But a spectacular one-handed interception by Cameron Holand and another pick by Nick Zelle helped Roosevelt hang on for yet another close win.
Running back Taku Shiozaki led the charge, carrying the ball 30 times for 185 yards, according to the Kitsap Sun. He entered the game fourth in KingCo 4A with 984 rushing yards while averaging 109 yards per game.
“I was just thinking about how many tough games we’ve played and how close we’ve been in so many of them,” Nelsen said. “And that’s probably helped us be more prepared at this point in the season.”
Some stats from the Columbian, the Everett Herald and the Tacoma News Tribune
– Skyline’s Max Browne had seven touchdowns: five passing and two rushing. He threw all five touchdowns to different receivers. He became the stat’s career leading in pass completions.
– Bellevue’s Myles Jack had six first-half sacks. He had 10 in nine games coming into the game.
– Mount Si’s Trent Riley had three receiving touchdowns – all 13-yard touchdowns. He now has 15 receiving touchdowns this season.
– Federal Way’s Zeek McNeal carried 20 times for 291 yards and a touchdown.
– Arlington’s Skylor Elgarico had 313 total yards and three touchdown passes.
– Newport’s Conner Baumann rushed 22 times for 236 yards and two touchdowns.
– Newport’s Isaac Dotson rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns. He also passed for 74 yards and a touchdown.
– Marysville-Pilchuck’s Austin Joyner rushed for 210 yards on 10 carries in the first half.
– Clover Park’s Brandon Pritchett had 220 yards on 37 carries and three touchdowns.
– Bellevue’s John Nguyen carried 11 times for 202 yards and three TDs.
– Mount Si’s Nick Mitchell passed for 273 yards and five touchdowns and also ran for a score.
– Archbishop Murphy’s Alex Galgano had five rushing touchdowns in less than three quarters.
– King’s Billy Green passed for two touchdowns and ran for another.
– Lake Stevens’ Conner Coleman had 124 yards receiving and two touchdowns and returned an interception for a touchdown.
– Lake Stevens’ Austin Otis rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were on runs of at least 56 yards.
– Meadowdale’s Malik Braxton rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
– O’Dea Pierre LeDorze rushed for 184 yards, passed for 60 yards and had three touchdowns.
– Lakes’ Rhys Gervais passed for 270 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns.
– Eastside Catholic’s Trey Reynolds rushed for 73 yards, passed for 96 yards and accounted for two of Eastside Catholic’s three touchdowns.
Rankings preface: This will be the final rankings I put out until the end of the season. That’s the plan for now anyway.
1. Skyline (Sammamish) (10-0)
2. Federal Way (10-0)
3. Camas (10-0)
4. Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma) (9-1)
5. Mead (Spokane) (9-1)
6. Gonzaga Prep (Spokane) (9-1)
7. Newport (7-3)
8. Jackson (9-1)
9. Union (7-3)
10. Roosevelt (7-3)
Dropped out: Skyview (7-3), Kentwood (9-1), Graham-Kapowsin (8-2),
1. Bellevue (10-0)
2. Mount Si (Snoqualmie) (9-1)
3. Eastside Catholic (Sammamish) (10-0)
4. Kennedy Catholic (Burien) (8-1)
5. O’Dea (Seattle) (8-2)
6. Glacier Peak (Snohomish) (9-1)
7. Timberline (Lacey) (9-1)
8. Ferndale (9-1)
9. Peninsula (Gig Harbor) (8-2)
10. Marysville-Pilchuck (8-2)
Dropped out: None
1. Othello (10-0)
2. Lynden (9-1)
3. Capital (Olympia) (8-2)
4. Prosser (9-1)
5. Lakewood (9-1)
6. Tumwater (9-1)
7. Mark Morris (Longview) (9-1)
8. Archbishop Murphy (Everett) (8-2)
9. Bremerton (9-1)
10. Sumner (8-2)
Dropped out: W.F. West (6-4)