Curtis (6-1) at Rogers (4-3), 7 tonight at Sparks Stadium, Puyallup
About the Vikings: Led by inside linebacker Calvin McClain, the Curtis rushing defense continues to lead the SPSL (91.4 yards per game) – and will need to monitor Rogers QB Stefan Van Horn as a runner. Running back EJ Deveaux (140 carries, 865 yards, seven TDs) is expected to play despite a sore ankle.
About the Rams: Don’t let the record mislead – their losses are to top-10 teams Federal Way, Graham-Kapowsin and Kentwood. Loaded with experienced and fast skill-position players, they have held up great on the perimeter. Rogers’ challenge is plugging the middle to contain Deveaux. Division’s No. 3 spot up for grabs.
TNT pick: Curtis, 27-23.
No. 6 Timberline at No. 9 North Thurston, 7 tonight at South Sound Stadium, Lacey
About the Blazers: Timberline is smaller up front, but thanks to middle linebacker Brandon Wetzel (67 tackles, nine for loss) and defensive end Stone Hart the Blazers are rarely outflanked or out of position to defend the run. Sophomore QB Gabe Gutierrez (broken arm) is out, so the offense belongs to 2011 starter Chris MacNeil.
About the Rams: They will try to pound the middle of the Blazers’ defense with running backs Mo Manning (103 carries, 515 yards, 14 TDs) and Brandon Belisario (508 yards, three TDs). Yet, Timberline’s counter and trap runs have given North Thurston’s defense trouble in recent years. Winner is in driver’s seat for league title.
TNT pick: Timberline, 20-17.
Eatonville (6-1) at No. 4 Cascade Christian (6-1), 7 p.m. Saturday at Sunset Chev Stadium, Sumner
About the Cruisers: Winner is the Nisqually League Division I champion. Although they’ve lost past five in series, this team is confident, intelligent and versatile – led by QB Zach Fairhart (36 of 77, 740 yards, 15 TDs), who can get offense in myriad formations in the blink of an eye.
About the Cougars: Was last week’s 28-0 pasting of Cedar Park Christian a coming-of-age game? Coach Randy Davis and his staff simplified the defense to focus on the run. It worked for inside linebackers Mason Tobeck and Hunter Austin, and outside linebackers Riley Ramos and Alex Bostwick, who were lights-out tough.
TNT pick: Cascade Christian, 30-24.
*STATE GAME OF WEEK
3A No. 3 Ferndale (7-0) at 2A No. 3 Lynden (6-1), 7 tonight, Rollie DeKoster Field, Lynden
Skinny: It wasn’t long ago that Ferndale boasted a trigger man at quarterback with sprinter skills in Jake Locker. Now it is Lynden’s turn with QB Josh Kraight (81 of 139, 1,101 yards, 14 TDs; 549 rushing yards, seven TDs), a three-year starter for the defending 2A state champion. Last season’s 5-5 record was a real trial for coach Jamie Plenkovich – it was the first non-winning season in the coach’s eight years at Ferndale. Senior leadership has been behind the program’s recovery, and running backs Alex Conley (92 carries, 950 yards), Hank Hilts and Richmond Baardsen will test Lions’ defense. After losing four in a row in the series, Lynden is on a three-game winning streak, including a 27-7 victory in 2011.
TNT pick: Lynden, email@example.com