Mike Christensen’s football toolbox is unfortunately missing a measuring stick, which makes this coming week a bit of a challenge.
Drawing the No. 6 seed in the 2B state tournament, Christensen’s Toledo Riverhawks drew a home matchup with No. 11 Tri-Cities Prep. The Jaguars finished second in the EWAC East Division with a 7-3 overall record, and ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak before beating Cle Elum 28-0 in the crossover.
Which means … something.
“If we’re playing a team we haven’t played from the west side, there’s somebody else that’s played them that we can compare,” Christensen said. “That’s not the case with the east side. It’s really, really hard to gauge that talent that’s on the field you’re seeing. Are they dominating because they’re really good, or because the team they’re playing is really bad? That’s hard to see sometimes.”
This fall, there was only one non-league 2B matchup between a team from District 4 and a team from east of the Cascades: Morton-White Pass versus Asotin. Asotin, which is the No. 10 seed in the tournament, won that matchup (against the team that finished winless in the C2BL North) 42-8, and also beat TCP 16-6.
Again, that most definitely means, well, something.
Then again, to a certain extent, it doesn’t matter.
“You have to take any team that's in this tournament like they are a good football team, and they have the potential to beat you,” Christensen said. “We treat every kid like he’s one of the best that we’ve seen, and that’s the way we have to approach it.
“And I think for the most part in 2B football, your focus is on yourself and executing, and that also helps to not worry so much about who you’re playing. Look at their base stuff, and then just understand that you have to execute or else you’re going to go home.”
Toledo neary learned that lesson the hard way last week, putting up a dud of a second quarter at Raymond-South Bend on Friday and going into halftime down 14-7, before turning it on to come back and beat the Ravens.
Now, those in the Toledo starting lineup who just got their first taste of a crossover can move on to get their first experience at the state level.
“The other team, they’re there to play for a whole game, and you’ve got to get your kids to understand that,” Christensen said. “I think we finally did, we felt the urgency in that loser-out game, and that was what was important for us.”
With the lesson in mind, the Riverhawks will head south to a friendly haunt in Kelso’s Schroeder Field. Toledo has played three State matchups on Kelso’s turf in the past four state tournaments — for the record, Kelso hasn’t hosted a playoff game there of its own since 2004 — as well as a couple crossover games, and won them all.
They’ll hope the luck continues at 1 p.m., Saturday, with plenty of rain in the forecast.
“We love it down there,” Christensen said. “We kind of think of it as a home away from home.”