A lot of high school coaches aren’t fans of bye weeks, especially late in the season and during the beginning of the postseason.
No. 4 Mossyrock’s Eric Ollikainen isn’t one of them — especially this year.
The Vikings earned the last bye in the field at the 1B state tournament, and found out they’d be playing No. 5 Liberty Bell after the Mountains routed No. 12 Muckleshoot Tribal 62-0 last Saturday in Wenatchee. But back home, Mossyrock was dealing with its own sort of struggle.
“To be honest, we really dodged a bullet with that bye week,” Ollikainen said. “We were really battling a bug last week, and we would’ve lost if we would have played Friday. Everyone had it, everyone was sick. It really worked out for us.”
So instead of doing what many highly-ranked teams do in their situation — holding a regular week of practice, just without a game at the end of it — the Ollikainen gave his Vikings a few real days off. Some went to Yakima to watch Mossyrock’s volleyball team at the 1B state tournament. Others stayed home, rested up, and did everything they could to make sure that when game week rolled back around, the flu was in the rearview mirror.
And at early returns, it looks like the plan worked.
We’re practicing hard this week, we’re kicking up the intensity level,” Ollikainen said. “They’re coming back, they’re refreshed, they’ve got fresh legs. We’ve just got a few coughs here and there as some people are finishing kicking this bug, but we’re moving around pretty good out there.”
Those fresh legs will be needed, particularly on defense, going up against a Mountain Lions’ offense that gets dangerous when quarterback Riley Lidey uses his legs.
“He’s got some speed,” Ollikainen said. “We’re going to have a hard time controlling him; we’ve got to cover for a long time, because he does a good job of extending plays.”
And when the Vikings do finally get to take the field Saturday, at 1 p.m. in Tenino, they’ll be making a bit of history with their first state tournament appearance in 8-man football. Regardless of classification, it’s their first State game since 2012.
With a win, the Vikings would return to the state semifinals for the first time since the turn of the century, long before any of their current players were born.
“We take pride in the history here, but it has been a minute,” Ollikainen said. “We’re trying to bring that tradition back, our old ways of constantly being a factor, and our ultimate goal is to win a state title, which hasn’t been done here.”