The game for the 3A GSHL title did not disappoint, in terms of drama.

The game for the Trico League title was a bit surprising. Not the winning team, but the margin of victory.

The game for second place in the 4A GSHL lived up to its billing.

And a game that meant nothing in the 4A GSHL but featured the top-ranked team in the state, well, that was one for the ages.

Oh, and because there is a three-way tie for a playoff berth in the 2A GSHL, there will be a Week 9.5 in Southwest Washington.

That was one wild finish to the regular season.


The 3A GSHL title goes to the Thunder

Stats galore:
So many big numbers from so many players. And a big number for a team, too. Columbia River had 79 offensive snaps that were recorded in the stat book. (Not including plays nullified by penalties). The two teams combined for 1,009 yards of offense.

Four players hit the century mark in rushing, including one who picked up two C-notes. Nicholas Wright of Mountain View carried the ball 15 times for 269 yards. His teammate, Preston Jones had 107 yards on 13 carries. Columbia River’s Jonathan Branson ended up with 110 yards on 18 carries and his brother Jayson Branson had 105 yards on 20 carries.

The Thunder ended up with 460 yards rushing, 19 through the air.

River was a bit more balanced. Actually, River was perfectly balanced with 265 on the ground, 265 through the air.

Nathan Hawthorne had a big night receiving, catching 11 balls for 128 yards and two touchdowns. For the most part, he caught shorter, safer passes and picked up 7 yards here, 15 yards there. Then he got behind the Mountain View defense for a 43-yard touchdown reception in the closing minutes of the game to make it a six-point contest.

My favorite play that no boxscore will ever notice:
It came early in the game, in the first quarter, and this play featured three players, two from River and one from Mountain View, that showcased their abilities and commitment to the game and their teams.

River quarterback Jonathan Branson faked the handoff on the read-option to his brother Jayson. Jonathan moved forward, then broke to the outside, toward Jayson. Mountain View’s Nicholas Wright, playing defensive back, was there, waiting to make a play.

Jayson went from running back without the ball to downfield blocker and got a solid block on Wright, springing Jonathan for at least five more yards. But then who got the tackle on Jonathan? It was Nicholas Wright, circling back to chase down Jonathan.

It is very rare when a player is blocked soundly and then comes back to make the defensive play. Jayson and Jonathan looked good on this play, and so did Nicholas. All three were playing for a title, and it showed.

Too many mistakes for River:
The Chieftains will not like what they see when they watch video of this game. They know they were right there. They also know they hurt themselves so much in this contest.

The mistakes started early, too. The Chieftains got a first down on the first play of the game. But 17 yards in penalties stalled that drive. River had a 5-yard penalty on its next drive, too, a 3-and-out.

Then there were back-to-back interceptions that led to Mountain View touchdowns.

River’s first non-penalty, non-turnover drive ended up being an 80-yard touchdown drive to make it 20-7 at the half.

Then there were more miscues in the third quarter. The Chieftains were a yard from scoring a touchdown when the ball carrier fumbled out of the end zone for a Mountain View touchback.

On the next River drive, a holding penalty nullified a first-down run in the red zone. That made it third-and-11. After an incomplete pass, the Chieftains went for it at the MV 30-yard line. A bad snap led to a pass so far behind the line of scrimmage that it ended up being a 6-yard loss and a loss of downs.

There is some good news for River. All of those things happened and the Chieftains were still in the game.

Coach John O’Rourke said if the Chieftains can clean up those miscues, they will have a good chance to win in the state preliminary playoff and advance to the Class 3A state playoffs.

About that fumble out of the end zone:
We football fans are so spoiled nowadays. Every NFL game and every big-school college football game has replay available to help the officials. No such help is allowed in high school ball. (Duh. Most games aren’t televised!)

So when Nathan Hawthorne was trying to get in the end zone for the Chieftains and the ball came loose and rolled into the end zone and then out of bounds, it was up to the officials to determine if it was a fumble or not. The crew got together and ruled fumble and a touchback for Mountain View.

This game was televised, though, by Fort Sports. A camera operator near me said he saw the replay and he thought Hawthorne was down.

I am not writing this to criticize the officials. In fact, just the opposite.

Because coaches, players, reporters, and educated fans know that there is no such thing as video review in high school football, all we can ask is the officials get together and discuss the play and do the best they can without any assistance. This crew did this. I have no idea if this was the “right” call, but the crew used the proper procedure. The officials asked one another if they saw the ball carrier down. No one definitively said the ball carrier was down, so it was ruled a fumble.

I have not seen the replay, but I have heard enough feedback from those who have that my guess is Hawthorne was down. Trust me, if this is true, the officials feel bad about it, too. They do not want to make a mistake any more than a player wants to throw an interception or drop a ball.

Mountain View oddities:
I was a guest on Fort Sports TV after the game, explaining to people that I’m a fan of the game as well as a journalist. One of the things I love about the game is the action and then the pause in action between plays that allows us, the observer, to consider what we would do in a certain situation. I have no problem saying that I am a clock-management expert, and that I should be hired by an NFL team one day. Oh, but to dream.

Anyway, I saw a couple of odd things with Mountain View in the fourth quarter. Now, keep in mind, the Thunder have not played a close game in more than a month, so they could be a little rusty at this. But they might want to work on clock management, as well as a two-point conversion.

(Mountain View coach Adam Mathieson always jokes with me, saying he never reads my work, so I don’t mind critiquing his team here. After all, he’ll never see it!)

For the first situation, Mountain View has started a possession with 7:35 to play, holding a 13-point lead after River scored to make it 27-14. At this stage, the clock is the Thunder’s best friend. They should appreciate the clock. Maybe even stare at its beauty. There is no reason to rush a play.

But on a third-down play, the Thunder snapped the ball with 15 or 16 seconds left on the “play clock.” (There is no play clock, but teams have 25 seconds to snap after the whistle, and the Thunder snapped the ball just 10 seconds after that whistle.)

My guess is Mathieson and the Thunder wanted to keep their rhythm going, not worrying about killing an extra 10 or 12 seconds per play. But in this case, Mountain View had six plays on the drive. Those seconds add up.

I noticed a few years ago that Skyview, for example, is excellent with the fourth-quarter clock game. Skyview would often wait to even get set for a play until the five-second warning the official gave before a delay-of-game penalty. Then the snap would come with about two seconds left before the penalty.

Skyview normally is a hurry-up offense. But in a close game, with the lead in the fourth quarter, slowing things down to stare at the clock is good move.

Anyway, Mountain View punted and River scored again to make it 27-21 with 3:31 left in the game.

No problem for the Thunder because they had Nicholas Wright. He scored another long touchdown run to put Mountain View up 33-21.

And then Mountain View kicked the extra point.


OK, now I must come clean here and say that just about everything I see on the football field I can relate to a Raider memory. Yeah, in recent years, that would probably mean a really bad Raider memory. You see, I don’t miss Raider games. And I remember just about all of them. Including the losses. All the losses.

I’m still haunted by the 2011 loss to the Lions. The Raiders got a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter to go up 12 points and were so excited they just sent out the kicker for the extra point. I still remember screaming, wondering what they were thinking. What good is a 13-point lead? It’s as good as a 12-point lead at that point. The Lions had to score two touchdowns. If the Raiders go for two and make the two, and the Lions were to score two touchdowns, at least the game would be tied.

Yep, you guessed it, the Lions scored two touchdowns. The Raiders lost by a point. The Raiders, my Raiders who have done nothing since 2002, lost the division title by a game that year.

So the Thunder kicked an extra point to go up 13 late Friday night. Probably no chance that River scores two touchdowns. However, if River had, ouch!

River did score one touchdown with just more than 2 minutes left. So this little nightmare scenario that happened to my Raiders could have happened to Mountain View.

Food for thought going into the playoffs.

Go linemen:
Mountain View running backs Nicholas Wright and Preston Jones gave credit to the big guys up front. As noted in my game story, the big guys gave credit to the running backs. All one big happy family at Mountain View.

Here is what the backs had to say.

“They did what we expected them to do,” Jones said. “They stepped up and did their job like they have every other game.”

Yes, the Thunder expect to control the line of scrimmage in every game they play.

“They did their job, and they did it so well,” Wright said. “There were a bunch of snaps, some of us backs didn’t get touched.”

Mountain View way:
The Thunder got out of Kiggins Bowl around 8 p.m., which gave them about four hours to celebrate the league title.

“This just means I’m going to have a good time with my offensive linemen friends,” offensive lineman Phillip Rudolph said. “Maybe go see a movie.”

At midnight, though, the Thunder are supposed to forget about the win and focus on the next challenge.

As far as the movie, Rudolph said he wanted to see “Bad Grandpa.”

Now as a high school sports reporter, I cannot say I approve of an R-rated movie.

But as the dude who thinks “Hangover” is the greatest movie of this and any other century, I’d just tell Rudolph and his friends to have a blast. They earned a fun night out.

What a performance:
Gabe Evenson, you sir, deserve some recognition.

Columbia River starting quarterback Jonathan Branson played his heart out, rushing for 110 yards and throwing for 194 more. He got injured trying to score a touchdown, getting stopped at the 1-yard line. That set up fourth-and-goal from the 1, with River trailing 27-7 with less than 8 minutes in the game.

Evenson time!

A junior, the back-up quarterback found Nathan Hawthorne for a 1-yard TD pass. Talk about a moment. His first play behind center all game, it’s fourth down, and oh yeah, if he messes this up, no chance at a comeback.


He then went 2 for 3 for 27 yards on River’s next possession and scored on an 8-yard run to make it 27-20.

Mountain View would score another touchdown, but Evenson helped River get within six again with his legs and his arm. On a third-and-10 play, he scrambled for a 35-yard run. Later, on a fourth-down play, he found Hawthorne for a 43-yard touchdown pass.

In the chaos of the end of this game and the warm-up period for the next game, it was difficult for me to get to both teams. Sorry I missed talking to you, Gabe.

As far as Branson, I do not want to speculate on the injury. I hope to talk to River coaches over the weekend. Regardless, if Branson cannot play in Week 10, Evenson showed he can lead the offense, too.

I’m still not convinced this was not an 8-man football game.

OK, I loved being at the Mountain View-Columbia River game. League title on the line. Ended up being a close game. But I also must admit I would have loved to stat this game. I’m just sick like that. We’re not sure what happened before 1960, but according to research, this is the most points Camas has scored since 1960. The Papermakers got 77 in a game last year. … Speaking of records, it is believed that Colston Vukanovich’s 448 yards passing is a Battle Ground school record.

Instead of me at this game, the older Paul in the Sports Department, Paul Danzer, drew this assignment. He and Bryan Levesque of the Battle Ground coaching staff combined efforts to try to figure out all the numbers. The boxscore online has been updated.

Now, here are the notes from Paul Danzer …

A blueprint to play Camas?
When you beat opponents as handily as Camas does, any sign of weakness is going to be talked about.

After Battle Ground quarterback Colston Vukanovich torched the Papermakers to the tune of 448 yards and six touchdowns, it’s easy to pick on the Papermaker pass defense. While we don’t doubt they will be doing some extra work in practice, it is important to note that most of those yards, and at least five of those touchdowns, were produced by on-target throws and determined receivers. There were no receivers running wide open behind the defense (well, once on a trick play that fell incomplete).

Camas coach Jon Eagle called it the best game he’s seen a Clark County quarterback play in three decades of coaching. This is my 15th season covering high school football in Clark County and I cannot remember a better one. Vukanovich was quick with his release to frustrate the Camas pass rush, and was perfect with his touch on TD passes that were all shots to the end zone where receivers Parker Randle and Colby Cahoon won individual battles with defensive backs.

Beasley is busy:
Battle Ground tried an onside kick to open the second half. A Camas upback – I didn’t get the number because, well, the numbers on the Papermakers away jerseys are invisible – cleanly fielded the kick. Nate Beasley ran 34 yards on the first play from scrimmage, 15 on the next to reach the end zone. Battle Ground went three-and-out. Beasley carried four more times to cover 46 yards to reach the end zone.

Beasley said the Camas running game found what works against Union a couple of weeks ago, and the third quarter was an extension of that.

“I’m following my blockers. The linemen are running in front of me, and it’s working out great most of the time,” Beasley said.

Coach Eagle for King of the (Journalist’s) World:
Kudos to Camas coach Jon Eagle for calling a timeout, then going for a two-point conversion to put the Papermakers up 40 late in the third quarter (78-38). The running clock from there saved this reporter from having to send the story to the office by carrier pigeon or police escort. By the way, it was a 2-point conversion. Came to my attention later that I tweeted 3-point conversion. I’ll blame the rain … at least for not seeing the responding tweets until I was dry.

No knock on Battle Ground. If I didn’t need to be in Seattle on Saturday, and to make deadline on Friday, I would have been perfectly happy watching these teams score a touchdown every 30 seconds until 1 a.m. … or Tuesday as Tim Martinez speculated on the Twitter Machine.

The Wildcats take the Trico League title.

Congrats to the Wildcats for their championship. Also, don’t be surprised to see both of these teams make extended runs into the playoffs. It could be one fun November for Class 1A football from Southwest Washington.

Here are notes from Rene Ferran, who covered this title tilt for us.

No mystery with the Wildcats:
It really was no secret what La Center’s offensive game plan would be.

Just pound the middle of the line with tailback Connor Fulton or quarterback Wyatt Aguirre, then after softening up the Beavers, run a double-handoff misdirection with either Connor Wonderly or Max Hiller.

Fulton (189 yards on 33 carries) and Aguirre (95 yards on 12 carries) did all the dirty work, while Wonderly (two TD runs) and Hiller (a 57-yard fourth-quarter burst) got the flash and dash.

“We definitely have that ability,” Wonderly said. “We pound it down the middle, but we also can explode with a big play at any time.”

By controlling clock (almost a 2-to-1 edge in time of possession, owning the ball for 31 minutes, 23 seconds) and grinding out 400 yards on the ground, the Wildcats also limited Woodland’s big-play capability.

“We just didn’t want them to have quick scores,” said LC coach John Lambert. “They had three good drives, but we were able to slow them down enough, and we were able to keep the ball out of their hands, which was key.”

Another key was maintaining at least a two-score lead since the midway point of the second quarter.

“When they get up, they’re hard to stop and hard to beat,” said Woodland quarterback Hunter Huddleston. “Their offense is a bulldozer.”

And while there wasn’t much suspense to La Center’s attack, Lambert isn’t overly concerned if an opponent gambles everything on shutting down Fulton, who now has 1,192 yards and 18 rushing TDs.

“I think we’re versatile enough to do other stuff if people stop him,” Lambert said. “But we’re running the ball really well right now. Our O-line played really well tonight, and having a battering ram like Conner Fulton really helps.”

Next for these teams:
Woodland didn’t know where its district playoff game with Rochester would be played, only that it would be on a turf field.

That suited Huddleston just fine.

“I am just ready to play on turf,” he said after finishing 12 of 18 for 162 yards, one touchdown and his first three interceptions of the season. “I am tired of this grass.”

If these teams can survive their district playoffs – La Center hosts Elma in a rematch of their 2012 game, won 48-14 by the Wildcats – and first-round playoff games against Northwest Tri-District foes, they’d meet again in the state quarterfinals.

“They’re a great football team, but our miscues didn’t help us any tonight,” said Woodland coach Mark Greenleaf. “It’s a brand new season starting next week. Hopefully, we’ll meet again, and it’ll be a different game next time.”

More playoff info:
When Tenino rallied past Rochester 37-27 in their Evergreen 1A finale, it not only gave Tenino its first league title since 1986, but it also cleared up the district playoff picture.

Tenino, as the No. 1 seed, hosts White Salmon, and with a win would earn the district’s top state seed. The Elma-La Center winner gets the district’s No. 2 seed, with Kalama-Montesano playing for third and Rochester-Woodland fourth.

Up north in the Tri-District, Mount Baker has clinched its No. 1 state seed and will play the Woodland-Rochester winner in the first round. Cascade Christian and Charles Wright play for the Nisqually League championship tonight – the winner is the No. 2 state seed and gets the Kalama-Montesano winner.

The Nisqually runner-up will play the winner of Monday’s three-team Northwest Conference tiebreaker for the No. 3 seed (the first-round opponent for the Elma-La Center winner), while Blaine hosts the Nisqually’s third-place team, Eatonville, for the No. 4 seed, which plays the White Salmon-Tenino winner.

A third straight Trico 1A league championship, and beating one of your biggest rivals to boot? It doesn’t get much sweeter for the Wildcats.

“I was especially excited for the seniors,” Lambert said. “This meant a lot to them.”

Trevor Roberson led the La Center defense with seven tackles and 1½ sacks, combining with Hiller on a second-quarter sack of Huddleston for a safety.

Kyle Hendrix led Woodland with 10 tackles, while Troy Flanagan added eight, and Huddleston and Ryan Wheeler had six apiece.

Union takes the No. 2 seed from the 4A GSHL.

The Titans evened the all-time series with the Storm at three wins apiece. … Leon Siofele went into beast mode again with 245 yards rushing and a touchdown. He also had 66 yards receiving. Yeah, just a 311-yard game. … I favorited a tweet from Skyview athlete Emily Dobbin on Friday night, giving respect to the Storm football players for their battle. I always appreciate athletes  in other sports showing their respect for their peers. After all, it’s the athletes who understand more than anyone how much work it takes to compete. When two teams play, only one can win. But both can battle, and athletes such as Dobbin understand this.

The rest of the notes are from Tim Martinez, who covered this game.

Injury report:
Skyview’s postseason hope may have taken a big hit early in the third quarter on Friday.

Running back Nate Arriola, who had missed the Storm’s previous two games with a hamstring injury, left after a 13-yard run on the first play of the third quarter. He did not return to the game and was not spotted on the Skyview sideline in the second half.

Arriola had 111 yards rushing when he left.

Sophomore Josh Seyneave took over the bulk of the rushing duties after Arriloa left. He finished with 29 yards on eight carries and one touchdown.

Injury report Part II:
The officiating crew also needed to call in the second string.

Late in the first quarter, Union’s Leon Siofele intercepted a pass and returned it 53 yards for an apparent touchdown.

On the play, the referee was trailing the offense. When the Titans defense got the ball and headed the other way, one of the Titans collided with the referee.

The referee remained down on the turf for several minutes. He was helped up and walked off the field under his own power, but was clearly shaken up.

The officiating crew went on with one man down for a couple of plays before the referee from the Heritage-Evergreen game came back to help out.


That’s it for now. Keep checking Twitter and the blog for more information about the upcoming playoffs.




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