Gridiron Classic field blends 1st-timers and title veterans

Staff writerDecember 3, 2013 

Two remain for one purpose.

That is what Gridiron Classic week is – the two-school showdown for the right to be called state high school football champions.

This will be Tumwater’s seventh trip to a state title game in coach Sid Otton’s 40 seasons. The Thunderbirds are the lone South Sound school still alive in this postseason.

“Sometimes it is like a big rivalry game where kids don’t play their best,” Otton said. “I want them to just play – relax and play.”

The No. 1 Lynden-No. 2 Tumwater game will be a rematch of last season’s Class 2A state title game. The Lions won 41-7 to hand Otton his first loss in a state championship game after five championships in five appearances.

“Everyone is excited to have this opportunity,” Otton said. “The road has not been easy. The kids have overcome a lot of things. I am excited. But my job is not to be a cheerleader, but to be a coach. That is what I will strive to do.”

Here are some Gridiron Classic tidbits to chew on:

 • Camas might be No. 1 in 4A, but it stands fourth in the 4A Greater St. Helens League – as in chronology of league members reaching a state title game. In front of them are Evergreen of Vancouver (2004), Union (2008 in 3A) and Skyview (2011).

 • Chiawana’s Steve Graff is the first coach to lead a Mid-Columbia Conference school to the 4A title game since … Pasco’s Steve Graff in 2003.

That’s the same guy, of course. And it’s a bit surprising considering from 1994-2003, MCC schools played for a state championship eight times – with Richland winning in 1996, and Pasco winning in 1998 and 2000 and 2003.

 • You could say Bellevue’s dominance in state title games was “Hatch-ed” well before Butch Goncharoff arrived.

The Wolverines defeated Kennewick 17-14 in 1983 to win the 4A title under former coach Dwaine Hatch. It took 18 years for Bellevue to return to the title game in 3A, this time under Goncharoff, whose teams are 10-for-10 in title games.

 • The eternal optimist might consider Eastside Catholic’s chances as “50-50” to upset five-time defending 3A champion Bellevue on Friday night. And state tournament history would back that up, too – two-loss teams like the Crusaders (11-2) are 27-30 all-time in championship games at all classifications.

 • Nobody – and we mean nobody – can match Lynden’s knack of finding a way to state championship games at all levels. The Lions have been in three 1A title games (1980, 1987, 1991), five 2A title games (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012) and two 3A title games (2001, 2002).

Saturday will mark Lynden’s 11th trip to a state title game, tying DeSales for No. 2 all-time behind Bellevue’s 12.

 • Look what Mount Baker and Freeman did. By advancing to the 1A title game, the streak of Central Washington Athletic Conference schools playing for the state title is over at 11 consecutive games.

 • Don’t peek at WIAA state football history, Morton-White Pass fans. The last school to make it to three consecutive 2B title games was DeSales (2003-05). The Irish lost all three games, which is something the Timberwolves will look to avoid Saturday.

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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