The way the calendar works this year blessed us with a fifth Friday of football in September, but it’s weird to think that we’ll cross over the halfway point in the regular season before October comes around. Nevertheless, it makes the shift from the ninth month of the year to the 10th a clear entry into put-up-or-shut-up time, which means this coming game week is the last to make a statement before we get there.
To the games:
Rochester at Centralia
This one will be Centralia’s homecoming game, but the story may well be on the other side of the field. This time last year, Rochester was 0-2 in league, en route to a sixth-place finish. This time around, the Warriors are 2-0 in EvCo play, and a 3-0 start would all but wrap up a crossover spot for them before October comes around. Nobody’s been able to stop Rochester’s misdirection-based Power T yet this fall, and while it’s probably not as polished as the Tumwater attack that hit the running clock on Centralia in the second quarter last week, the Tigers will have their work cut out for them on defense come Friday.
Tumwater at W.F. West
W.F. West’s two non-league losses to start the season might have taken a bit of the shine off this matchup and taken it out of state-wide game-of-the-week talk, but the Bearcats have done everything they’ve needed to do in league play, turning this once again into quite possibly an early-season EvCo championship. The main difference between this season and last year coming in has to be with Tumwater’s offense, though. The Thunderbirds averaged under 27 points per game in non-league play in 2022, before only scoring seven in their first loss to the Bearcats in 13 years. This year, the non-league average jumped up to over 45 points per game; the W.F. West defense is going to have its hands full.
Aberdeen at Black Hills
Black Hills may be in the complete opposite situation from Rochester. The Warriors are 2-0 with two wins over winless-in-league teams, while the Wolves are 0-2 with two losses to undefeated-in-league teams. But who would you rather be right now? Next up for Black Hills is a matchup against 3-1 Aberdeen, and while possibly easier matchups against Centralia and Shelton sit down the line, two wins may not be enough to get a team into the crossover. Black Hills’ offense has been the definition of “one step forward, two steps back,” with consistent big plays being canceled out by even more consistent penalties and mental mistakes. It’s time for the Wolves to clean things up, or it’ll be too late soon.
Toledo at Onalaska
We’ve made it, folks. Five weeks into the season, and we have a SWW 2B South matchup that actually counts. And it might be the most “2B football” game of fall. Toledo’s aced its first week of the season and is coming off three straight running-clock wins over lower-division teams. Onalaska’s lone blemish came in a loss to Napavine that was way closer — at least in the first half — than the final score suggests, and the Loggers just absolutely demolished Tenino. These could well be two top-five teams in the state, and they’ll run full-speed ahead into each other Friday in Grit Town. The X-factor, ironically enough, may be both team’s passing games. Onalaska has been good for two or three big plays over the top each week, and while Toledo has relied more on the run game recently, Eli Weeks has already won a game with his arm.
Morton-White Pass at Pe Ell-Willapa Valley
Round 1 of the Clash of the Hyphens will be in Pe Ell this week. PWV got its loss to Napavine out of the way early, and like Onalaska, was able to take some positives out of the ordeal instead of just stinging from a huge defeat. MWP is suffering the stinging itself, though, after losing by five to Rainier. The T-Wolves go back-to-back with the Titans and Napavine, and with just one win to their name through four weeks, could find themselves in some real trouble if this one goes poorly.
Ilwaco at Rainier
This matchup right here is exactly why the SWW 2B West division exists. The Mountaineers and Fishermen are a combined 1-4 against upper-division teams, with the lone win coming for Rainier against a struggling MWP side and the four losses all coming by running clocks. But this game is set to be a fun one, made even more fun by the fact that the lower division means it’s between two sides that a) have some momentum behind them and b) have something real to play for. With five straight games against West division teams coming up, we could see Rainier open some things up on offense and get on a real run, with a postseason spot up for grabs.
Mossyrock at Taholah
Last week saw Taholah win its first game since 2019, so props to the Chitwhins for that. A winning streak is probably not on their horizon. Mossyrock is doing the thing where it rolls against league opponents, pitching back-to-back shutouts in league matchups. The Vikings have scored 116 points in their past two games on just 42 offensive plays, reaching the end zone on over 30% of their snaps from scrimmage.
Naselle at Oakville
Winlock having to cancel its game against Naselle last week meant the Comets took on Ocosta for the second time this season and only put up 48 points. Through four games, they’re averaging 67.5 points per contest, and appear to be using their schedule as a runway to an Oct. 13 showdown at Mossyrock in the exact same way as the Vikings are. Oakville, meanwhile, is smarting after a running-clock loss to Chief Leschi.
Sound Christian at Winlock
Things went from bad to worse for the Cardinals, who followed back-to-back-to-back blowout losses with a cancellation against Naselle. The good news for Winlock is that with the possible exception of Mossyrock, all four of their final opponents clock in as very beatable. First up in that list is Sound Christian, itself 0-4 after an unfortunate back-to-back of Mossyrock and Naselle.
Tenino at Eatonville
If Tenino had put the finishing touches on any of its close non-league games, last week’s blowout loss at home to a 2B Onalaska team that’s sharply on the rise could be beared as a hiccup against a good team. But instead, the Beavers are plunging at 0-4 as they head into league play against a team it hasn’t beat in at least 20 years. The best thing for Tenino is that for all its losses, everyone goes into league action 0-0 where it matters, but that grace period ends Saturday. The Cruisers themselves have shown they’re not invincible this year, with losses to 2A Olympic and 1A Cascade Christian.
Napavine at Lynden Christian
A whole lot had to go right for this matchup to come to fruition, and major props are due to both athletic departments for making it work. On paper, Napavine has to bus 200 miles north to be an underdog, when it already rules its own classification. On paper, Lynden Christian gets a no-win situation, facing the prospect of losing to a 2B team — a week after losing to defending 1A champs Royal — instead of getting ready for their own rugged conference with a non-league cupcake . In practice, though, this is what we all have wanted. The Tigers have proved that their B-game — or just a half of their A-game — should be enough to dominate most 2B opponents. This, though, could be the true measuring stick for just how good Napavine actually is.