Two nights, two games later this week.
Clark County high school football is still alive this Thanksgiving holiday. What more could I be thankful for, you might ask? How about two Clark County high school football teams playing in December?
That could happen.
But for today, allow me some of my favorite semifinal moments of the past 10 years.
Oh, by the way, had someone written about their favorite Clark County semifinal moments of the past decade, say, a decade ago, there would not have been much to write about. But now, we’re getting kind of used to this experience. And as I’m about to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there is one common denominator!
2001: Mountain View falls to Pasco 21-0 in Kennewick, ending the county’s first trip to the semifinals since 1995.
On a personal note, that was my first season as the high school sports reporter for The Columbian. So I just figured I brought the county good luck. And with what happened the next three seasons, well, maybe I really was the cat’s meow.
2002: Mountain View made it to the 4A semifinals again, and was also joined by Columbia River in the 3A ranks. That was the first time two big schools from Clark County made it to the semifinals in the same season.
Mountain View lost to the defending state champion, Kentwood. River lost to the defending state champion Bellevue. Back then, Bellevue was awesome, on a roll. Now, after eight state titles in the past 10 years, Bellevue is a sports dynasty.
2003: Evergreen makes it to the 4A final four, and La Center makes it to the 2A semis. Wait. What? La Center? The program that made headlines for years worth of losing? Yes, those Wildcats. Evergreen would end up losing to Pasco in Pasco. At the same time, on the other side of the state, La Center just missed a trip to the finals, falling to Meridian of Bellingham by two points. But at least the Wildcats got to go to the Tacoma Dome.
2004: In one of the most exciting games I’ve ever witnessed, on a cold day in Spokane, the Evergreen Plainsmen outlasted Gonzaga Prep 31-30. I can still see Lonnie Hosley returning that punt for a touchdown just before the half. Still cannot believe G-Prep didn’t run out the clock. Taylor Rank, THE Taylor Rank, scored three touchdowns. And Bryan DeAngelo and David Reinikka had fourth-quarter interceptions to preserve the lead. It would lead to, one week later, Vancouver’s only state championship in football.
(Hey, you notice a trend here? Four years of covering high school football in Clark County, four years we had a team in the semifinals. Darn, you all should ask me to buy your lottery tickets.)
Whoops, spoke too soon. The streak ended in 2005.
2008: Union, representing Southwest Washington, made it to the semifinals in the school’s second year of existence. Not a bad start for the program, huh? The Titans beat Lakes 28-7 to advance to the championship game. Union, a 3A team then, would have to face Belluvue. And you know all about Bellevue, right? So the Titans finished second in state. But it was a great ride.
2009: Union and Skyview, still in different classifications, both advance to Week 13. Fortunately for me, the games were on different days, so I was able to watch Union on Friday in Tacoma, and then Skyview on Saturday in Spokane. Union held the great Bellevue team to no offensive touchdowns. However, the great Bellevue defense was enough for a 19-13 Bellevue victory. The next day, Skyview lost a shootout to Ferris, 46-41.
Which leads us to our two games this year. Camas will take on O’Dea of Seattle on Friday in Camas’ first semifinals appearance. Skyview, back for a second time to the final four, plays Lake Stevens on Saturday.
So let’s count it all up, shall we? In the last 11 football seasons, from 2001 to 2011, we’ve had 11 Clark County football teams in the semifinals.
Hey, I’m averaging one a year. Pretty sure the area coaches will start paying the Secret Service to protect me. Obviously, I’m too valuable.
And you fans can call can thank me later.
Paul Valencia covers high school football for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/360paulv.