Riverhawks head east — again — to try to pull another upset


For once, the film was kind to Toledo.

On the field at Kelso on Saturday following his Riverhawks’ 21-12 win over Tri-Cities Prep, head coach Mike Christensen was blunt about his groups’ shortcomings and their inability to pull away in a game he felt they should have won by more.

By Tuesday, those feelings had lessened a bit.

“After watching film of last week, we actually blocked well, played well overall,” he said. “We’ve just got to finish drives, finish plays, do that little stuff, and for the most part we’ve done that all year, so I’m not too concerned about it.”

But that’s where the positive spin on things ends.

“If we play like we did last week, we’re not going to be making it past this game,” Christensen said. “I think that everybody understands that.”

In Toledo’s way stands No. 3 Northwest Christian (Colbert), for a 2B state quarterfinal a good six hours away, at Freeman High School on Saturday.

It’s a story that’s become common for the Riverhawks, who are making a long trip east for a State matchup for the fifth straight postseason. Toledo won the first four matchups in that run as underdogs — then coming back to Lewis County and losing in a later round to a Central 2B League opponent — before its streak was snapped last year in Moses Lake with a loss to Chewelah.

A small handful of Toledo’s starters played in that game; fewer still took part in the Riverhawks’ last win across the mountains, in a first-round matchup against Davenport in Moses Lake in 2021.

“I think that our young guys have responded well in big games so far, but it’s a whole different monster when you’re traveling east,” Christensen said. “You have to make sure you’re going to bed on time in a different bed, you’re not distracted by your friends, all that sort of thing and turning it into a business trip instead of a fun, end-of-the-year activity.”

When they get to the Spokane area, they’ll face an undefeated NWC squad who has only been held from the running clock four times this season. The Warriors have eclipsed 50 points in each of their past four matchups, hitting 76 twice.

Then again, watching their film from such blowouts — while knowing the style of play out east — can only go so far.

That’s the part that Christensen said was different about last year’s matchup with Chewelah; the Riverhawks got to Moses Lake and found an opponent that was just on another level in terms of size and athleticism, and could do more than hang with a C2BL team for power.

“That was the weird thing for us last year, is that we didn’t own them physically,” he said. “That was a frustration. I think that Northwest Christian has the ability to be a physical team, but it’s whether they’ve done it against a really physical opponent for multiple weeks in a row, for a full game, and that’s the part that it’s hard to see until you get there. It’s hard to see on film.”

They’ll see for sure Saturday on the field at in Rockford, while also trying to hone the rough spots that limited a 311-yard day for the run game to just three touchdowns, in many of their starters’ first experience in such a contest.

“Our seniors want to keep playing, and I think that’s going to help our younger guys focus,” Christensen said. “Because they do respect our seniors, and they want to make them proud at the end of the day.”