So in the Fifth Quarter this week, I put together quick looks at the 4A and 3A playoff teams in our area. A couple of the writers from around the state agreed to also do previews of teams from their area.
I’ve included the previews of Bellarmine Prep (from Todd Milles at the Tacoma News Tribune) and of Camas (from Paul Valencia of the Columbian) and of University (from Greg Lee of the Spokesman-Review). I hope these give you an idea of what to expect from all the playoff games this weekend.
– Sefo Liufau, QB, Senior: A Colorado commit, the three-year starter won’t dazzle you with his numbers (154-226, 2,020 yards, 19 TDs, two INTs), but all he does is win (33-4 in his two-plus seasons as a starter). A dual threat with extreme discipline, he rarely steps out of what the Lions’ one-back, pro-style calls for. Voted Narrows 4A most valuable player.
– Lou Millie, RB, Junior: First year in full duty, he became the starting running back when incumbent Isaiah Flynn decided not to turn out, instead focusing on basketball. More of an inside runner, Millie (236 carries, 1,369 yards, 13 TDs) has an underrated burst. Team purposely limited his work midseason so he could be fresh for the playoff run – and he has responded with 587 yards and four TDs in three postseason games.
– Garrett McKay, WR, Junior: Has really filled the void left by Michael Rector, who graduated last year and is now redshirting at Stanford. McKay transferred from Gig Harbor High School when his father, Shawn, was fired as the school’s offensive coordinator. A very dependable pass-catcher (60 receptions, 838 yards, six TDs) who creates separation with superb route-running, he can play slot or outside. Was voted to the Narrows 4A first team at receiver.
– Calvin Chandler, WR/LB, Senior: Been battling various injuries all season, he is finally rounding into form. A defensive leader, his rover instincts represent the Lions best chance for a big play. Led team with 73 tackles.
– Macartney McQuery, LG, Senior: Leader of the best unit on the team – a veteran offensive line with three all-Narrows 4A performers. McQuery is the one who brings the physicality and tempo up front. A three-year starter.
Strengths: Offense is both clean and efficient, and even though the Lions want to establish the run first, defenses have a difficult time getting a beat on Bellarmine Prep’s scheme. … When team needs a big play, Liufau can usually get it with his feet – and prefers running over defenders, not sliding. … Veteran offensive line does not get bullied. … Reliable placekicker in sophomore Matthew Philichi.
Weaknesses: No true home-run threat on offense. … Has been overwhelmed at times by faster, more athletic teams (Lakes, Bothell) on defense. … No real shutdown unit on defense (DL, LB, DB), and does not generate much of a pass rush (11 sacks total).
Wins in the playoffs:
– Defeated South Edmonds-Woodway, 45-6, at districts.
– Defeated Bothell, 35-30, in 4A first round.
– Defeated Gonzaga Prep, 32-29, in 4A quarterfinals.
– John Norcross, LB, TE, Wildcat QB: Class 4A Greater St. Helens League defensive player of the year. He also has 12 rushing touchdowns on 29 carries as the Wildcat QB. He has 15 receptions for 220 yards and three more scores.
– Nate Beasley, RB: Now has 1,303 yards on 174 carries (7.5 ypc) with 23 touchdowns in 12 games. In the past three weeks, he has 546 yards on 51 carries (10.7 ypc) with 9 touchdowns. Coming off a 249-yard, four-rushing TD performance against Federal Way. Also has six more receiving touchdowns this season, with 21 receptions for 384 yards.
– Reilly Hennessey, QB: In his first year as a starter, the junior has completed 61 percent of his passes (164-268) for 2,495 yards and 24 touchdowns. He is 40 of 52 in the three playoff games for 508 yards and 4 scores. Not much of a runner, but did gain 37 yards on six carries with a TD against Federal Way.
– Drew Clarkson, OL: Considered the best linemen in all of the 4A GSHL by several coaches, he leads a group of four juniors and one senior on the starting offensive line.
Strengths: A few weeks ago, we probably would have said defense leads this team. Now, both the offense and defense are peaking. The defense did give up 32 points to Federal way, but 29 of those game after Camas led by 30 or more points. Camas has given up 192 points this season, but 138 (72 percent) have come after the Papermakers have led by 30 or more points. On offense, Camas can run or throw and are second in points scored among all 4A teams.
Weaknesses: Camas has shown very few weaknesses this season. The team’s closest game was a 22-0 win over Union. Still, the Papermakers have not faced a passing attack as strong as Skyline’s, so that has to be question mark. No one knows how the Papermakers will respond to a great passing team, nor how they would respond to a close game.
Wins in the playoffs:
– Defeated South Kitsap 41-12
– Defeated Arlington 62-6
– Defeated Federal Way 65-32
– QB Max Browne: He’s a USC commit who is coming off a 310-yard, four-touchdown performance against Roosevelt. He’s also the No. 1 ranked quarterback in the country and has been nearly flawless this season.
– LB Peyton Pelluer: Pelluer is a Washington State commit who controls the middle of a stingy Skyline defense. The Spartans fly all over the field on defense and limit the running game, and most of that starts with Pelluer in the middle.
– RB Cedric Cooper: A transfer from Foster, Cooper doesn’t receive the attention of Browne or his receivers. But he has added another dimension to the Skyline offense this season. Against Roosevelt, he rushed for 195 yards and four touchdowns, avoiding and breaking tackles all night.
Strengths: Skyline is a veteran group that has been tested not only this year but last year as well. The defending 4A state champs have the best quarterback in the state, and that automatically gives them a potent offense. Throw in a handful of talented and speedy receivers, and it’s not hard to see how the Spartans have scored more than 50 points eight times this year.
Weaknesses: The Spartans have started slow in the first half of some games this year. They led just 28-21 against Newport at halftime before pulling away for a 56-28 win. They didn’t score in the first quarter against Lake Stevens before pulling away for a 42-0 win. And they were tied at 14 at halftime against Roosevelt before winning 54-21.
Wins in the playoffs: 59-17 vs. Puyallup; 42-0 vs. Lake Stevens; 54-21 vs. Roosevelt.
– DB Harold Lee: It’s not really fair to label Lee with any one position because he’s as versatile as they come. He has seven interceptions from his cornerback position, but he’s also scored on a touchdown run, on a receiving touchdown, on a kickoff return and on a punt return. He wears neon shoes and is simply dynamic.
– QB Brier Atkinson: Atkinson, a junior, is a capable passer and a tough runner. The Trojans get scoring from a number of players, but Atkinson is a big part of directing the offense. He scored all three touchdowns in Auburn’s 20-7 win against Eastmont two weeks ago.
– DE Kevin Shelton: Shelton is a solid player who also will get a few carries on offense. He even scored a rushing touchdown early in the playoffs. But he’s a big part of an Auburn defense that has only allowed 14 total points the last two games. He also had a sack last week.
Strengths: Auburn is a versatile offense that doesn’t rely on just one player. In a 41-38 win against Olympia in the round-of-32, the Trojans had five players score six touchdowns. That makes Auburn a tough offense to key on.
Weaknesses: The Trojans didn’t fare too well against the two best teams on their schedule this year, losing 31-7 to Kentwood and 43-0 to Federal Way during the regular season. Auburn responded well after both losses, but the Trojans struggled against better competition.
Wins in the playoffs: 41-38 vs. Olympia; 20-7 vs. Eastmont; 21-7 vs. Mead.
– QB Jeff Beaty, who finished ranked second in the GSL behind record-setting quarterback Brett Rypien of Shadle Park. Beaty wasn’t even in the picture as the starting QB as late as a week before fall practices began. Then first-year coach Rob Bartlett remembered that Beaty had a strong arm from baseball. Bartlett had Beaty and a sophomore split reps in camp, thinking the sophomore would win the job. But Beaty earned the starting position and just went over 2,000 yards for the season last Saturday.
– WR/DB Austin Flynn broke a hand midway in the season but continued to play on defense and had an interception in the first game with his hand taped up like a meat mallet. He returned to receiver in the postseason and had an immediate impact, hauling in the game-winning 38-yard TD pass with 3 seconds remaining against Kamiakin.
– Tight end/WR Nathan Hundeby ended up being the Titans’ leading receiver and go-to guy for advancing the first-down chains. He’s been an all-GSL pick the last two years.
Strengths: The Titans’ biggest strength has been defense. U-Hi was picked to finished 10th in a 10-team league, but they’ve made believers out of folks in the GSL. They’re the last GSL team standing in the playoffs and nobody would have thought that going into the playoffs. Defense was key to U-Hi’s win over athletically gifted O’Dea. Last week, the defense shut down an offense that was responsible in North Thurston’s come-from-behind win the week before over Kennewick.
Weaknesses: It’s hard to point out flaws in a team that’s surprised all season, especially in the playoffs. You could say offense hasn’t been consistent at times, yet the Titans put up 27 points on Kamiakin and 34 on O’Dea. The offense did struggle last week against North Thurston, but the punting game continually put North Thurston against its own end zone.
Wins in the playoffs: 27-22 over Kamiakin in play-in game; 34-6 over O’Dea; 23-13 against North Thurston.
– QB Trey Reynolds: Reynolds has eight touchdowns in Eastside Catholic’s three playoff wins and rushed for more than 100 yards and passed for more than 100 yards in the Crusaders’ 65-34 win against Marysville-Pilchuck on Saturday. Also named the Metro League’s offensive MVP for the second straight year.
– RB Henry Jarvis: A powerful back at 5-foot-10, 210 pounds, Jarvis is a solid and dependable runner. He was named first-team All-Metro and broke at least six tackles on an 80-yard run in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
– DT Deion Fetui: Only a sophomore, Fetui (6-foot-0, 300 pounds) is a load up front. He’s the anchor of an Eastside Catholic defense that has allowed more than 20 points just four times this year.
Strengths: The Crusaders are one of the Seattle area’s most sound and disciplined teams. Led by second year coach Jeremy Thielbahr, the Crusaders might lack true star power (especially with defensive back and WSU commit Markell Sanders out for most of the year with an injury). But they are a team with plenty of steady and reliable players, especially on defense where Fetui and Elijah Pa’aga lead an aggressive front.
Weaknesses: It’s hard to pick flaws for a team that hasn’t lost a game and whose closest game this season was a 14-point win. But, at times this year, Eastside Catholic’s offense has gone a little stale, particularly in a 27-13 win against Meadowdale and a 22-6 win against Seattle Prep.
Wins in the playoffs: 27-13 vs. Meadowdale; 69-13 vs. Kelso; 65-34 vs. Marysville-Pilchuck.
– LB Myles Jack: Jack is simply a monster on defense. He’s so good, in fact, that teams would often game plan to try to run away from him during the season. Against Lincoln in the round-of-32, Jack had six sacks — in the first half. In Week 1, he delivered a vicious hit that knocked the Trinity quarterback out of the game. He then did the same against Peninsula last week. Oh, and he’s also a big-play threat at running back.
– DB Budda Baker: Baker is a lightning-quick player who excels on both sides of the ball. In Bellevue’s 49-10 win against Mount Si earlier this year, Baker returned two interceptions for touchdowns. He doesn’t get many carries at running back, but when he does, many of them end in long gains or touchdowns.
– DT Darien Freeman: Freeman is the anchor of a stingy defense. He doesn’t pile up many stats, but he controls the line of scrimmage and lets talented linebackers Sean Constantine, Myles Jack and Michael Carlson run free.
Strengths: Where to start? The Wolverines have scored more than 40 points this season nine times while pulling their starters by halftime in many of those games. But the real strength of this Bellevue team is defensively, where the Wolverines return a number of two- and three-year starters. Bellevue has allowed 10 points or more just three times this season while racking up six shutouts.
Weaknesses: You’d be hard-pressed to find someone in the state who could pick out a true flaw. But the Wolverines can get complacent, piling up penalties or mental mistakes on the same drive. It’s been coach Butch Goncharoff’s biggest gripe all year, but those stretches usually go as quickly as they came.
Wins in the playoffs: 45-0 vs. Lincoln; 28-0 vs. Ferndale; 40-0 vs. Peninsula
– WR Trent Riley: Riley has hauled in a school-record 25 touchdowns this season. Riley is one of the area’s most explosive and consistent receivers and has six touchdowns in his last three games. He’s also a solid defensive back.
– QB Nick Mitchell: Mitchell, just a junior, has always had a big arm but in his last three games, Mitchell has also became more accurate and consistent. He has 14 touchdowns and more than 600 yards in that stretch, including five touchdowns in a 38-7 win against Kennedy Catholic on Saturday.
– DL/TE Griffin McLain: McLain is a weapon on both sides of the ball, but particularly on defense. He was a KingCo 3A first-team defensive end and also has touchdown catches in each of his last two games.
Strengths: Mount Si’s defense has been tenacious all year. The Wildcats have allowed more than 10 points just twice — once to Bellevue and once to Glacier Peak, which scored most of its points with the game already decided. The Wildcats have four shutouts.
Weaknesses: Mitchell is a viable option to throw the ball, and the defense has been above average all season. But while the Wildcats have solid options at running back, they lack a true big-play threat that can change a game with one run. That hasn’t really hurt them, though, to this point in the year.
Wins in the playoffs: 52-7 vs. Auburn Mountainview; 52-19 vs. Glacier Peak; 38-7 vs. Kennedy Catholic.