Vikings looking for better luck in Stone City this year


A perfect storm of circumstances made the Mossyrock football team’s first dip into the 8-man state tournament pool one to forget. A win Saturday, though, would go a long way to doing just that.

The Vikings, who will face No. 6 Almira-Coulee-Hartline on Saturday in Tenino, are in nearly the same place they were a year ago last fall, coming into the quarterfinals to host a lower-seeded squad after a first-round bye. But they came into that matchup well below 100 percent after just about the whole team caught the flu at the same time, and that lower-seeded squad turned out to be No. 5 Liberty Bell, which went on to win the whole tournament after pulling the quarterfinal upset.

Again, it was a perfect storm, with a limited Mossyrock team taking on a well-underseeded opponent. But after that, nothing is going to catch these Vikings by surprise.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can,” coach Eric Ollikainen said. “All you can do is prepare, and sometimes the football bounces in strange ways. There’s an element of luck to it with injuries and things like that. But we’re doing everything within our power to be successful.”

That starts with staying healthy, and Ollikainen said things have gone much better this year. 

For the second straight year, he gave his players the end of their bye week off to travel to Yakima and cheer on their counterparts on Mossyrock’s volleyball team.

“It’s nice to get away from the game for a little while and recharge, physically and emotionally,” he said. “Hopefully they come back to work ready to work harder than ever.”

But back on the field this week, the name of the game switches from rest to prep, for a Mossyrock squad that knows there aren’t any easy outs at this stage in the season. ACH comes into the matchup with a 9-2 record, their only losses coming to Liberty Bell and Wilbur-Creston-Keller, the top two seeds in this year’s bracket, and is just a year removed from winning the state title.

“You can’t look past this team, or any team in this top eight,” Ollikainen said. “No one got here by accident.”

Then again, the Vikings, who are looking for their first win in a state tournament since 2012, aren’t here by accident either. Since losing an 11-man game to Pe Ell-Willapa Valley in Week 1, Mossyrock has gone 9-0 in 8-man play, with all nine victories hitting the running clock. 

Ollikainen’s offense — which had seven starters make all-league — is averaging 53.6 points per game, while the defense — with six all-leaguers — has pitched four shutouts.

“We’ve gelled, and I feel like we’re getting more and more physical each week,” Ollikainen said.  “Our defense, I’m really happy with how they’re playing right now. We’re doing a lot of the little things right, and we’re starting to play to our potential, which is all you can ask for as a coach.”