Though it has become somewhat of a formality in the 2B ranks, two Southwest Washington squads will meet yet again in the state title game, which means both No. 2 Napavine and No. 1 Kalama are very familiar with one another. To get the inside scoop on the Chinooks, The Chronicle asked for some words from the Longview Daily News, while providing some words of its own about the Tigers ahead of the big game.
By Alec Dietz (The Chronicle)
The strength of Napavine’s offense all season has been its versatility and balance. The Tigers aren’t a one-man show, and though their best player is a lineman, they’ve been able to beat teams in numerous ways on the offensive side of the ball. If you load up to stop the run and all-state tailback Gavin Parker, Ashton Demarest will beat you with his arm, with a slew of targets like Lucas Dahl and Peyton League on the outside. If you’re worried about the deep threat of Dahl and Demarest’s arm, Parker will run behind Keith Olson for easy yardage. Napavine’s versatility gives coach Josh Fay the ability to make easy adjustments based on what the defense is doing.
X-Factor: Keith Olson
It’s unusual to say the x-factor for an offense is one singular offensive lineman, and one that doesn’t play in the middle, but it would be a disservice not to recognize the impact Olson leaves on the field. The USC commit is a massive — figuratively and literally — force at tackle, and has carved the way for tailbacks like Parker and Cael Stanley to put up big rushing totals. If Kalama wants to have success on defense, it will have to find a way to get around Olson to get rare pressure on Demarest and Napavine’s tailbacks.
Keys to Win
Strength: Front Seven
Perhaps no team in 2B football boasts as strong of a front seven as the Tigers, or as large. Teams have just not been able to run the ball against Napavine, which has led to crucial interceptions, fumble recoveries, and other chaos that the Tigers love to create for opposing offenses. Napavine has routinely held opponents to well below its average rushing totals, and forced offenses to do things they don’t want to, thanks to Olson, Parker, and Glade Shannon shutting down the run.
X-Factor: The Secondary
Esary and the Chinooks are easily the Tigers biggest challenge in the passing game this season, but if anyone has the athletes to keep up with Jack Doerty, Max Cox, and Nate Meyer, it’s Napavine. Boasting a 100-meter district champ in Lucas Dahl and other speedsters like Ashtin Landry, Cael Stanley, and safety Shannon, the Tigers certainly have the team speed to keep up with Kalama. The question is, can the second-level defenders stay focused when plays break down and Esary attempts to make plays on the move?
Keys to Win
Get pressure on Esary: this is easier said than done. Even Onalaska, which boasts one of the strongest defensive lines in the county, had a hard time getting to the all-state quarterback. Napavine will have to trust its secondary, with Dahl and Stanley on the outside, and make calculated risks for when to send Parker, Shannon, or extra help to get a hand in the QB’s face. To this point, no one has been able to do it enough to stop Kalama’s offense. The Jimmy Lake School of Defense (three-man rush, drop eight) will not work against Esary.
Bend, but don’t break: The Chinooks are going to get their yards. Napavine isn’t going to shut Kalama out. (Hot take.) But if the Tigers can hold in the red zone, like they did against Okanogan last week, that will be enough. Against Forks, Montesano, and Okanogan, the Tigers’ defense let teams drive down the field, but held them off the scoreboard or allowed just three points on crucial drives. Napavine’s safeties will need to keep everyone in front of them, and avoid letting Kalama score on explosives.
By Josh Kirshenbaum (The Daily News)
Kalama’s offense has scored 18 touchdowns in three playoff games, and seven of them came on plays of 40 yards or more. Last week against Onalaska, the Chinooks had five first-half drives; all of them ended in touchdowns, and just one needed more than five plays to reach the end zone. With the trio of Nate Meyer, Jack Doerty, and Max Cox at wideout — with Jaxxon Truesdell emerging as a solid fourth option, and Jackson Esary’s legs always a threat, the Chinooks come in betting that opponents simply don’t have enough athletes in the secondary to keep up with every single option on every single play.
X-Factor: The Short Passing Game
The main difference between this season’s Kalama offense and the winter’s has been the emergence of short, easy passing concepts — swing passes, tunnel screens, and quick curls. Instead of running the feast-or-famine attack that came out in big games in the winter — like Kalama’s loss to Napavine in February — the Chinooks have been able to get the ball out quickly against pressure, instead of asking Esary to make miracle plays with his feet over and over again.
Keys to Win
Strength: The Edge
Moving Esary and Doerty closer to the ball has worked beautifully for the Chinooks; against Onalaska, those two teamed up with Kalama’s cornerbacks to eliminate anything to the outside, leaving as many as nine defenders ready to take care of the middle of the field. That helped keep the Loggers from breaking off any big plays. In the first three quarters, Onalaska only had three runs go more than 12 yards.
X-Factor: The Secondary
Kalama’s secondary absolutely feasted on Onalaska last week, with the combination of the Loggers’ run-only style and their phone-booth formations letting the Chinooks swarm to the ball quickly on every play. Napavine provides a much different task, but Kalama is still probably going to try to throw numbers in the box, have Esary and Doerty focus on containing the run, and trust Meyer, Cox, and Jaxxon Truesdell to hold their own on the outside.
Keys to Win