The first impressions have been mostly good.
I say mostly because there’s no perfect bracket. You can pore over it, you can tinker with it, you can approach it from a dozen different angles, and someone’s still going to find something they don’t like. It’s like putting together a puzzle with 16 interchangeable pieces.
But, all in all, I’m happy with the WIAA’s State 2B football bracket. I had a chance to work with the seeding committee that set it up — a first this year — and I don’t see any significant flaws in the finished product.
I like that the top four teams (Adna, Kalama, Tri-Cities Prep and Napavine) have been sent to their own corners of the bracket.
I like that none of the eight first-round games are rematches from earlier this season, and unless there’s some serious upsets there’s only likely to be one in the quarterfinals.
I like that it’s unlikely any team is going to travel across the state on back-to-back weekends.
I like that District 4’s seven teams are split equally (well, four and three) between the top and bottom halves of the bracket.
Mostly, though, I like the matchups — six east-west games in the first round, and the likelihood of more in the quarterfinals.
And with all these unfamiliar opponents out there, it’s a great time to put my ranking cap back on and take a look at what makes the first-round games with local teams involved worth watching.
1. Reardan (8-2) at Toledo (6-4): The Indians opened eyes with a big win over Onalaska in the crossovers, so their stock is up. And a game with Reardan (Saturday in Kelso) presents an interesting gauge of how the east and west teams stack up. Reardan’s two losses came to Omak and Northwest Christian; they also beat Colfax by a slim 14-13 margin. They like to run the ball and sprinkle in home-run pass plays … which really isn’t all that far off from what Toledo likes to do. The winner gets either Wahkiakum or Tri-Cities Prep; for comparison’s sake, Wahkiakum beat Colfax 14-0 in the first game of the year, and Tri-Cities Prep is undefeated and, by all accounts, pretty good.
2. Pe Ell-Willapa Valley (8-2) at NW Christian (8-2): NWC was riding high until a blowout loss at the hands of Chewelah, and PWV’s been on an upward trajectory since its nonleague loss at Onalaska. The Crusaders have a solid quarterback in senior Jake Gray (1,387 passing yards, 15 touchdowns), but their BMOC is senior Silas Perreiah. Perreiah, a 5-foot-10, 210-pound running back, has run for 1,860 yards on 202 carries with 24 touchdowns and has a college offer from Eastern Washington University. He’s regarded as one of, if not the, best 2B running back in the state. That being said, if there’s one thing the folks on either side of Pluvius like it’s going to Spokane and beating a private school. The winner of this one moves on to play either Kalama or Liberty Christian, which could wind up being a rematch of last year’s quarterfinals — but an all-new game this year.
3. Onalaska (7-3) at Lake Roosevelt (9-0): The Loggers have been on a bit of a roller-coaster between the Toledo loss and then winning a three-way tiebreaker with Ilwaco and Raymond. Lake Roosevelt has a sterling 9-0 record and a Central Washington 2B League title in hand, and they’ve allowed just 47 points this season. They’ve also played exactly one state team this season, and it was 13-seed Brewster. Onalaska, on the other hand, has played five state teams, and three of them are top-6 seeds. Plus they’ve got an underdog tag now, and they strike me as the type of team that plays better with a chip on their shoulder — right next to that suspender strap.
4. Brewster (7-3) at Napavine (8-2): Can Napavine beat Brewster? Sure. Napavine’s good and they’ve been here plenty of times. They’ve gotten better throughout the year, they’re balanced, and their defense has really come along. Brewster’s coming out of Central Washington 2B League that hasn’t looked all that strong (only two of the eight teams have winning records) and have a balanced running attack with Ernie Nanamkin and basketball guy Joe Taylor (about 1,600 rushing yards between them), but the real intrigue here is that the winner gets to host the Chewelah-Columbia (Burbank) winner in the quarterfinals. Could we finally get to see a local team play Chewelah and bring estranged sports reporter Brandon Hansen back across the mountains? Perhaps!
5. Concrete (4-6) at Adna (10-0): Far more intriguing than this game was the lead-up to it. Concrete beat Friday Harbor in a short tiebreaker on Tuesday night, 7-6, in La Conner. This was necessitated by District 1 not having its state entry settled before Sunday like every other 11-man organization in the state, despite that entry coming from a three-team league. This was, understandably, a point of contention for Adna’s coaching staff, which then only had two practice days to game plan for its first-round opponent. And it’s also a pretty nice flex by Adna head coach K.C. Johnson to demand Adna athletic director K.C. Johnson stick to his guns and schedule the game on Friday night in Adna. If a three-team league can’t figure out its champion in 10 weeks it can just deal with a long drive to play the top team in the state on its home turf on a Friday night on two days’ preparation.
Also, consider Adna’s schedule this season. It was expected to be tough, but in retrospect it was a marvel of nonleague cajoling. Adna’s played 10 games this season, and none of those 10 opponents has a losing record (though Wahkiakum’s 5-5 right now). They ran the table in the toughest league in the state; they won nonleague games against both the Coastal Division (PWV) and River Division (Kalama) champions; they won their other two nonleague games against Toledo and Wahkiakum, which were both top-10 teams at the time. They’ve also played six of the other state qualifiers (more than anyone else), and they’ve beat them all.
It was a tough schedule back in August, but an impressive schedule now that the dust has all settled.
And, really, that’s the best time to evaluate a schedule — once it’s all played out.
I just hope the 2B bracket matures as well over the next month as Adna’s schedule did.