Tigers come out of bye ready for first State test


For the third straight fall, the Napavine football team found itself with a bye to open the 2B state tournament, and Josh Fay and his coaching staff needed to find a way to keep practice loose and engaging.

So they dipped into a coaching classic, and asked their offensive linemen to step up and try to field punts — with wind sprints on the line.

Safe to say, the Tigers don’t have any new returners racing up the depth chart, but everyone’s in slightly better shape.

“We definitely do not have anybody that’s going to slide into that spot,” Fay said. “But we had some pretty good efforts.”

It wasn’t all trench hogs trying to show off their hands, though. As much as Fay isn’t a fan of the 12-team setup for State and the first-round byes it leads to — and for the record, he still isn’t — the extra practices let the coaching staff pick up a few concepts that had been left on the backburner in the weekly grind of the season.

“We had a good week,” he said. “I thought our guys were pretty engaged. We worked on some things that I don’t know if we’d neglected, but things we certainly could spend some time on.”

Then on Friday, a pack of coaches went east to Richland, where they watched River View beat Asotin 47-20 (unlike in the NCAA, that’s allowed in high school) to earn the right to face the Tigers in the quarterfinals.

When the Panthers come west to Tenino on Saturday, it’ll be for their first action beyond the first round of State since 2012.

They’ll bring with them an offense that’s cracked 35 points eight times this season, led by quarterback Hyatt Clark, who threw for 212 yards and four touchdowns last week to eclipsed 2,000 yards on the year.

Like many teams from eastern Washington, River View runs a spread-out attack, with four receivers — at least — on the outside. Four Panthers had at least three catches last week, while sophomore Karson Rawlings ran for 136 yards on 10 carries.

Such an offense will provide a challenge for the back end of the Napavine defense — a back end that happens to be the Tigers’ strength, bolstered by all-leaguers Ashton Demarest and James Grose. 

In Napavine’s 48-0 crossover win over Adna, the Tigers held the Pirates to just 66 passing yards, and came away with three interceptions.

So far this season, Napavine has allowed 100 passing yards or more just three times: once against Carson-Graham (B.C.), which threw the ball 45 times; once in its loss to Lynden Christian, which is the No. 3 seed in the 1A tournament; and once to Kalama, who managed a paltry 105 and threw four picks.

“We feel good with the guys we're going to put back there,” Fay said. “We’re going to mix up some coverages, which we’ve done at earlier times in the year. And then we’re going to find some pressures with those down linemen and our linebackers. We certainly don’t want them to sit back there and be comfortable throwing the ball.”