CAMAS — Columbia River had practiced the Kansas-style playoff format before Monday night.
The Chieftains broke it out during their preseason team camp at George Fox, which played into their favor when the Chieftains won the 2A Greater St. Helens League round robin tiebreaker in that very format, defeating Woodland and Washougal at Doc Harris Stadium.
“It really served us well,” Columbia River coach Christian Swain said of the format that guarantees each team two possessions starting at the opposing 40-yard line.
And with it, the Chieftains earned the 2A GSHL 2-seed and will host Black Hills in the first round of the 2A state preliminary playoffs on Saturday.
Woodland went 1-1 on the night and secured the 3-seed meaning it will travel to play W.F. West. Washougal, which lost both games in the tiebreaker, will open the playoffs at Tumwater for the second season in a row.
“Tonight was our night,” Swain said, “and we had a lot of fun.”
After a 1-2 start to league play, River turned around and won three of its last four games, and is playing its best football of the season.
“I felt like we’ve really hit our stride here late in the year,” Swain said. “We had 10 new offensive starts and our kids have continually gotten better. As a coach, your goal is to have your team playing well at the end of the year and improving. I definitely see that.”
River’s 7-6 win over Woodland came after quarterback Matthew Asplund found Nathan Kunz for a 30-yard touchdown over the middle to go up a score.
Woodland responded quickly to River’s first strike when Wyatt Harsh hit Anthony Clifford for 24 yards to bring the Beavers to the four. Harsh scored on a quarterback sneak from a yard out, but his pass on a game-deciding two-point conversion was dropped in the endzone.
“We kept our head down,” Asplund said. “Our offensive line did a great job like they always do. They pushed, we were able to run the ball and it gave me plenty of time back there.”
Then Woodland played beat Washougal 8-6.
Harsh sliced the Washougal defense on the ground, but it was his touchdown pass to Tyler Flanagan from two yards out, then his pass to Alex Bishop for the conversion put the Beavers up 8-0 on their first possession.
But Washougal, backed up to the 48, got within striking distance when Ryan Stevens completed a 28-yard pass to Dalton Payne. Stevens snuck in from 11 yards to put the Panthers on the board, but he was sacked on the two-point conversion attempt.
Against Washougal, River turned to its defense to seal the win.
The Chieftains recovered a fumble on a fourth down, punched in a 20-yard field goal and stopped the Panthers on downs to win 3-0 and seal the tiebreaker win.
“We definitely worked hard (for) redemption against Washougal,” Asplund said. “We felt we didn’t play good against them the first time and we wanted that one back. Woodland’s a really good team, so they’re always tough to beat.”