Toledo head coach Mike Christensen was more than happy to host the Riverhawks’ first-round win over Kittitas last Friday at Kelso High School, which he referred to as their second home.
But with that out of the way, Toledo gets to go to its actual postseason home away from home — 250 miles from Ted Hippi Field. The Riverhawks will return to Lions Field in Moses Lake for the second straight season Saturday, facing No. 4 Chewelah with a spot in the state semifinals on the line.
“Anytime you experience something, and then you can do it again the next year, that’s going to help for sure,” Christensen said. “And we do embrace it. We embrace the idea of travel, it’s something that our guys look forward to, kind of hoping that we’ll get to go east of the mountains. Really for the kids, it is a memorable experience, getting to play in a State game and stay in a hotel. As far as our kids go, and their experience, it is a pretty cool thing, for sure.”
The Riverhawks are looking for their first trip to the final four since 2016, which happens to be the last time they didn’t have to face a District 4 opponent in the quarterfinals. They’ll be taking on a Cougars side whose only losses came to No. 2 Okanogan and Lind/Ritzville-Sprague in a three-week span in October, and has been rolling since.
And looking at Chewelah, Christensen said he sees a side that reminds him of the squads the Riverhawks have gone up against week in and week out during the regular season.
“They’re really just bigger, athletic kids,” he said. “A whole bunch of kids that are fast, 6 foot, 190 pounds. Those are just athletes that we don’t really have. They’re very athletic.”
But while the Cougars may be physical and focused on running the ball, they’re going to look about as different from Toledo’s offense as possible. Running with four wide receivers more often than not, Chewelah’s attack tries to spread opponents out, before throwing in motion, sweeps, and screens, and the Cougars get creative in how they do it.
“When they have four guys on one side but only three of them are eligible because they have two guys on (the line), you have to identify which one is on and which one is off,” Christensen said. “They’re kind of playing games with the rules there to try to trick 15- and 16-year-old boys, which is a good strategy. They’ll make it look like one guy is on, and then he steps off at the last second.
“There are just a lot of things like that where you have to read your keys and know your keys. It takes a lot of film for us to look for patterns and things like that, with what they’re doing formation-wise.”