How does an undefeated Freeman High School football team make it to a championship game and remain relatively obscure?
It starts with coming from a place like Rockford, a small farming town in Spokane County with a population of 500, where the only businesses reside on a two-block strip.
But on Saturday, the Scotties (13-0) can take a step toward prominence with a win over Mount Baker in the Class 1A state title game.
“We have something around 75 percent seniors on our team,” Scotties coach Jim Wood said. “We have a bunch of athletes that work real hard to get to where they are. They know the importance of their next game and will be ready.”
To get this far, the No. 5 Scotties went through some of the state’s top 1A teams – they steamrolled No. 8 River View (55-19) in the first round, outplayed powerhouse Royal (33-14) in the quarterfinals and overcame an early deficit to dust off No. 2 Cashmere (28-20) in the semifinals.
“We didn’t play well in the first half of the River View game or (Cashmere) game,” Wood said. “But the kids fought back.”
Freeman won’t stray far from what has been working for the Scotties, and that means keeping 1,000-yard rushers Max Laib and Markus Goldbach heavily involved in the game plan.
“We want to be physical up front and control the tempo of the game,” Wood said. “They have been big for us all season.”
A big game from either player could be the difference in vaulting Freeman from obscurity to state champion.
No. 4 Mount Baker (11-1) vs. No. 5 Freeman (13-0)
1 p.m. Saturday, Tacoma Dome
Coaches: Ron Lepper is in his 18th season at Mount Baker (127-61 record). Jim Wood is in his ninth season at Freeman (65-29).
Road to Gridiron Classic: Mount Baker defeated Woodland (42-7) in the first round, La Center (63-33) in the quarterfinals and Cascade Christian (31-28) in the semifinals. Freeman defeated River View (55-19) in the first round, Royal (33-14) in the quarterfinals and Cashmere (28-20) in the semifinals.
About the Mountaineers: The formula hasn’t changed much throughout the Lepper era – run the football out of the wing-T, led by RB Izaiha Schwinden (1,277 rushing yards, 22 TDs), and play sound, swarming defense. They’ve forced nine turnovers in the playoffs, too – and are led by LBs Cody Larsen (149 tackles) and Andrew Zender (124 tackles). Schwinden also is a playmaker in the back end of the defense with four interceptions and four fumble recoveries. This is Mount Baker’s first trip to the state finals.
About the Scotties: It’s all about power football at Freeman. Behind 6-foot-5, 305-pound senior left tackle Jordan Rose, RBs Max Laib (1,389 rushing yards, 23 TDs) and Markus Goldbach (2,107 total yards, 29 TDs) should see running lanes. QB Preston Hoppman (19 TD passes) will keep defenses honest by taking aim at WR Kian Genteman (43 catches, 630 yards, nine TDs) downfield. Freeman is back in the 1A title game for the first time since 2004 (29-7 loss to Royal).
TNT pick: Freeman, email@example.com