Though the No. 1 Napavine football team hasn’t seen No. 8 Liberty (Spangle) in the playoffs since defeating the Lancers in the 2B state championship in 2016, the Tigers are very familiar with the head of the Lancers’ snake.
A do-it-all quarterback and linebacker — and former Rainier Mountaineer — Jake Jeske has definitely caught the attention of a Tigers squad fresh off a bye week.
“They’re going to spread us out,” Tigers coach Josh Fay said. “Jeske is their guy. He’s a stud, he’s as good of an athlete as we’ve faced this year. They spread you out and throw and run on you. The key for us is stopping him.”
That will be a tall order, though one a Napavine defense is confident it can handle after a strong regular season.
Jeske is coming off a dominant showing in the first round of the 2B state playoffs last weekend, when he ran for two scores and threw for another in a 28-14 win over River View at Union Stadium.
Though Jeske was always a strong playmaker, even when Napavine played against him when he was at Rainier as a freshman and sophomore, Fay said that he’s only gotten better since switching schools east of the mountains.
“He’s bigger and faster and stronger, he’s a well put together kid,” Fay said. “I was really impressed last week with his burst. I knew he was fast but he accelerates really quickly and he’s a load to bring down.”
And perhaps a bigger challenge for the Tigers will be trying to slow down an opponent that got going while the Napavine was at rest last week. It felt like a bit of a reset for a Tigers team that had played 10 straight weeks to that point.
“Our guys felt like we were starting over with some two-a-day stuff,” Fay said. “We did tackling circuits and stuff we did during the start of the season. Our bye week was focusing on what we can do to get better, we have to get better each week.”
The Tigers will kick off the state playoffs at Tumwater District Stadium at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon against the Lancers, with a trip to the state semifinals as the stakes.
“We’re just excited to play,” Fay said. “Liberty’s is going to make us earn it or they’ll earn it themselves. There’s eight teams left, everybody’s good at this point.”