After the Morton-White Pass football team came up short in the past two Class 2B state championship games, the reality of what it takes to win the title has finally sunk in for the Timberwolves.
“They have an understanding of how hard it is to win that final game,” coach Aaron Poquette said. “We have to be perfect.”
If the undefeated Timberwolves are to get that elusive title Saturday, they must win a rematch of last year’s championship game against Lind-Ritzville/Sprague — a 21-19 loss that went down to the wire.
In the final minutes, the Broncos converted a key fourth-and-long play on their way to scoring the winning touchdown.
“This is a game of big plays when you get to this (championship game) level,” said Poquette, whose team lost to Waitsburg-Prescott, 33-7, in the 2011 final. “The teams are so evenly matched. It’s going to come down to a turnover or a penalty or something like that.”
Also making a third consecutive title game appearance is Neah Bay, which faces Touchet on Friday. The Red Devils beat Almira/Coulee-Hartline for the 1B title two years ago but fell in last year’s championship game, 34-28, to Liberty Christian.
“They (players) were cut pretty deep (by the loss),” Neah Bay coach Tony McCaulley said.
Most of that squad is back for another shot at a second title, including senior QB Josiah Greene, who passed for 179 yards and three TDs against Lummi in last week’s semifinal win.
“(Last year’s loss) made me work a lot harder I don’t want my last season to end like last year,” Greene said. “We learned we can’t take anybody lightly. We have to take care of the ball and execute.”
2B FInal: No. 2 Lind-Ritzville/Sprague (13-0) vs. No. 1 Morton-White Pass (13-0)
4 p.m. Saturday, Tacoma Dome
Coaches: Greg Whitmore is in his ninth season at Lind-Ritzville/Sprague (75-22 record). Aaron Poquette is in his third season at Morton-White Pass (36-3 record).
Road to Gridiron Classic: Lind-Ritzville/Sprague defeated DeSales (41-14) in the state first round, Colfax (43-0) in the quarterfinals and Adna (56-13) in the semifinals. Morton-White Pass defeated Darrington (64-0) in the first round, La Conner (26-21) in the quarterfinals and Raymond (27-14) in the semifinals.
About the Broncos: How good was QB Dylan Hartz, the reigning 2B state player of the year, in last year’s 21-19 title game victory over Morton-White Pass? He converted a fourth-and-19 pass to set up the winning score and then made an interception to seal it. Hartz (92-136, 1,408 yards, 25 TDs, three INTs) has had another outstanding season leading an offense that also averaged 248.0 rushing yards per game. DL Jarradd Morley (seven sacks, 11 tackles for loss) is a beastly presence inside.
About the Timberwolves: Is the third time the charm? This senior group hopes it is. Last season, QB Rylon Kolb was a secondary option on offense. Now, Kolb (91-140, 1,717 yards, 22 TDs, three INT; 637 yards rushing, 14 TDs) is the engine driving it. Morton-White Pass also has two exceptional backfield threats in RBs Brian Reynolds (171 carries, 1,295 yards, 21 TDs) and Gianni Bertucci (397 yards rushing, eight TDs). Winning the line of scrimmage will be crucial.
TNT pick: Morton-White Pass, 26-23.
1B final: No. 1 Neah Bay (11-0) vs. No. 3 Touchet (12-1)
4 p.m. Friday, Tacoma Dome
Coaches: Tony McCaulley is in his sixth season at Neah Bay (75-10 record). Gary Dorman is in his fifth season at Touchet (46-13 record).
Road to Gridiron Classic: Neah Bay defeated Cusick (80-28) in the state quarterfinals and Lummi (46-14) in the semifinals. Touchet defeated Wilbur/Creston (36-14) in the quarterfinals and Rosalia (62-36) in the semifinals.
About the Red Devils: Had senior-dominated Liberty Christian not come in and won the 1B title last season, Neah Bay would be going for a three-peat Friday. QB Josiah Greene (88-143, 1,708 yards, 28 TDs; 1,327 yards rushing, 18 TDs) is a dynamic dual threat who will drive defenses batty with his elusiveness. RB Cody Cummins (74 carries, 781 yards, 15 TDs) will also get his touches.
About the Indians: The four-time 1B champions are back in the title game after a 10-year drought. The question is — who do defenses try and take away? QB Elias Martinez (43-78, 743 yards, 23 TDs; 707 yards rushing, 16 TDs) leads a balanced backfield, but RBs Edgar Rincon (754 yards rushing, 13 TDs), Colter McKeown (633 yards, 11 TDs), Colton Goble (618 yards, eight TDs) and Cesar Velasquez (598 yards, eight TDs) will be involved.
TNT pick: Neah Bay, 56-42.Tyler Hemstreet, contributing writer