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News / Sports / Prep Sports

Tim Martinez: There’s more than one way to break a tie in football

The Columbian
Published: October 31, 2023, 8:05pm
3 Photos
Kelso senior Hunter Williams (36) celebrates after forcing a fumble against Prairie that the Hilanders recovered during a 3A Greater St. Helens League tiebreaker at Doc Harris Stadium in Camas on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023.
Kelso senior Hunter Williams (36) celebrates after forcing a fumble against Prairie that the Hilanders recovered during a 3A Greater St. Helens League tiebreaker at Doc Harris Stadium in Camas on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023. (Tim Martinez/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

On Monday, there were two football tiebreakers — one in the 3A Greater St. Helens League and one in the 2A GSHL. And they were oddly played under different formats.

Past history played a role in that decision.

Most football tiebreakers are played in the format used by the 2A GSHL, which on Monday featured Ridgefield, Hudson’s Bay and Washougal at Battle Ground’s District Stadium.

The format follows overtime rules, in which each team receives an offensive possession from the 25-yard line. After each team has had one offensive possession, if one team has more points than the other, it’s over. If not, it continues until the tie is broken.

“More often than not, those tiebreakers are over very quickly,” Adam Mathieson pointed out. “Just like that, your season is over.”

Mathieson would know. In 2015, he was the head coach at Mountain View. His team’s season ended in a tiebreaker with Skyview when the Thunder threw an interception on their first play on offense.

“We charged admission to that tiebreaker that year,” said Mathieson, who is now the activities director at Camas High School, which hosted the 3A tiebreaker Monday between Kelso, Prairie and Evergreen. “And you had a lot of angry people because it ended so quickly.”

The 2A tiebreaker on Monday ended almost that quickly.

In the first tiebreaker, Hudson’s Bay scored a touchdown on its fourth play, with Rafael Bauman rushing 15 yards for a touchdown.

Ridgefield countered with a touchdown on its possession. But the Spudders’ potential tying point-after kick hit the upright, and the Spudders were done. Ridgefield heads to the district playoffs as the No. 4 seed and will travel to face Tumwater on Saturday.

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In the second tiebreaker, Bay again scored a touchdown. Then Washougal, on its second play, scored a 24-yard touchdown pass from Holden Bea to Sam Evers.

Wanting to get the tiebreaker over quickly to avoid the potential of injury, Washougal coach Dave Hajek opted to go for two. Bea ran it in for the score, and Washougal won 8-7, earning the No. 2 seed and a home playoff Saturday against Aberdeen. Bay will be the No. 3 seed and travel to play W.F. West on Saturday.

The tiebreaker that started at 7 p.m. was over by 7:27 p.m.

Meanwhile over at the 3A tiebreaker, Kelso and Prairie still hadn’t finished their first tiebreaker series.

That’s because last year, the 3A GSHL adopted a tiebreaker format in which each team would start from the 40-yard line. And both teams would received two offensive possessions, if necessary.

“We came together as a league and decided that just made more sense,” said Mathieson, who was still Mountain View’s coach last season when the Thunder faced off with Prairie and Evergreen in a 3A GSHL tiebreaker. “If you go to team camp in the summer, you start at the 40. That just felt better.”

In the first 3A tiebreaker series Monday between Kelso and Prairie, two possessions each were not enough to break the tie. It took a third possession — this one starting from the 25 — to decide things when Kelso got a defensive stop for a 14-7 win.

The different format also forced coaches to make different decisions. In the overtime format (i.e. from the 25), most coaches decide to go second, when given the choice. This way, teams know what they have to do to win or stay alive — kick a field goal or score a touchdown.

But the new 3A GSHL format, it may be better to go first.

“That’s the only way to guarantee that you get two offensive possessions,” Mathieson pointed out. “If you score, get a stop and score again, it’s over. The other team doesn’t get a second possession.”

That’s what happened to Evergreen last season in the deciding tiebreaker against Mountain View.

So given the same choice on Monday, Evergreen coach Christian Swain opted for the Plainsmen to get the ball first against Kelso. However, Evergreen’s first possession ended with a fumble.

When Kelso’s first possession ended at the 3-yard line, Kelso coach Steve Amrine said the decision to kick a field goal was easy.

“I’m an assistant baseball coach, too,” Amrine said. “It becomes like innings there. If you can score and get that (stop), you win. And you still have that hammer (of a second possession if necessary).”

Kelso got that stop on defense for a 3-0 win and now advances to the Week 10 playoffs against Garfield of Seattle on Saturday.

Amrine was pleased with the format. And this time, the league didn’t charge admission.

“That was a good job on the people who put this together,” he said. “I guess the people got their money’s worth. It was free.”

Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at tim.martinez@columbian.com, 360-735-4538 or follow @360TMart on Instagram and X (Twitter).