GSHL football teams are dreaming big

SW Washington football has grown a spotlight of its own

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Clark County has witnessed one of its big schools win a state football championship.

The region has seen two big schools reach the state semifinals in the same season — a couple of times, in fact.

But the county has not experienced what is about to happen Saturday — three big school teams playing in the state quarterfinals in the same season.

“It’s awesome,” Skyview coach Steve Kizer said. “Fear The Couv!”

Oh, and Camas, too.

While the rest of the state might be wondering what’s up down south, none of the coaches from Camas, Skyview, and Union are shocked at this development.

“I’m not really surprised,” said Camas coach Jon Eagle, who has led the Papermakers to the Class 3A quarterfinals for the second consecutive season. The Papermakers (10-1) will host Meadowdale of Lynnwood at 5 p.m. Saturday at Doc Harris Stadium, looking for the school’s first trip to the semifinals.

“You can see the talent. Southwest Washington had always been a little brother (to the Seattle-area schools). But that hasn’t been the case in a long time,” Eagle said.

He pointed out Skyview and Union’s victories in the first round of the 4A playoffs last week as evidence.

“Who would have thought, really, 10 years ago or 20 years ago that Kentlake and Kentwood would play Southwest Washington teams and both get beat? Things have changed,” Eagle said.

Skyview, the 4A Greater St. Helens League champion, beat Kentwood 34-7. The Storm (9-2) will host Bellarmine Prep of Tacoma at 4 p.m. Saturday at Kiggins Bowl.

Union, the 4A GSHL runner-up, topped Kentlake 31-7. The Titans travel to Bothell to face Woodinville at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Union coach Cale Piland has noticed a difference in attitudes, as well.

“When you travel the coaching circles around the state, a lot of the coaches, if they could get a Greater St. Helens League team in the playoffs, they would have been feeling good about that,” Piland said of the past.

Not so anymore.

Since 2001, Mountain View, Evergreen, Skyview, Union, and Columbia River have reached the semifinals. Evergreen won the 4A title in 2004. Union played for the 3A championship in 2008. But in all those solid years, not one of them had three Clark County 3A or 4A schools in the quarterfinals of their respective brackets.

Until now.

“We’re excited, obviously, and we’re rooting for the other two teams,” Kizer said. “We don’t get any kind of respect or publicity in the Tacoma or Seattle media. They already had Union losing twice (in the playoffs). They have no idea what we have down here. We have three pretty good teams down here who have a chance to beat anybody.”

Those three teams also have been beating up teams all season. Remember all those running-clock games in the regular season?

Some figured it was due to a lot of struggling teams. Piland believes it is because the best teams are just that strong.

“The teams at the top of the 3A and 4A have been that much better than they had been in the past, collectively,” Piland said. “It’s not like the three of us have been winning nail-biters in the playoffs. All three of us have been playing at a very high level.”

Including the Week 10 state preliminary games, Union has outscored its two postseason opponents 73-14. Skyview is up 81-24. And Camas has destroyed its challengers 106-14.

Eagle believes the talent pool is deeper now thanks to Clark County Youth Football and Pop Warner. Some of the best football players of today have been playing organized ball since they were in grade school. Eagle said none of this success would be possible without those organizations, those coaches at the youth level.

So forgive Clark County football fans — and media — for dreaming big this week. The county has had two teams in the semifinals in the same year, but not three.

The county has had teams play in the state finals, but not two teams in different classifications in the same year. Heck, it is still possible two teams from the county could play each other in the championship of the 4A bracket.

Not a single coach would even dare consider playing in December just yet. They are all focused on Saturday.

“It’s an exciting weekend of football for Southwest Washington,” Piland said.

But he did allow for the possibility of something a little bigger.

“If this weekend is fun, imagine how fun the next weekend could be.”