Prep Football Preview: League seasons start up with familiar opponents for everyone

League seasons start up with familiar opponents for everyone

Welcome to the league season, where the path to the postseason begins for nine of the 10 Twin Harbors schools on the gridiron.

The start of league play comes at the right time for many area teams and all four Harbor big schools will be at home on Friday to start.

On Homecoming Night, Aberdeen will return to the Evergreen 2A Conference when it hosts Chehalis at Stewart Field. In the Evergreen 1A League, Hoquiam has Tenino visiting Olympic Stadium and Montesano has Forks at Rottle Field.

Elma is the lone Evergreen 1A team not starting league play. The Eagles will host Rochester in their final non-league contest at Davis Field.

The Southwest Washington 2B Coastal Division will all be in action against each other, while Taholah will kick off Coastal 1B League play at home against rival Oakville.


The winding road back to the Evergreen 2A is over for the Bobcats (2-2), who spent time in the Greater St. Helens 2A and Evergreen 2A/1A leagues over the last four seasons. Now, Aberdeen will renew rivalries that have been etched into the history books for more than 50 years.

The first one is Chehalis (4-0), a familiar foe for Aberdeen, on Homecoming Friday. The Bearcats, ranked ninth in the state 2A media poll, run the same offense as the Bobcats. The teams aren’t identical twins, but there are more than enough similarities to make preparations for the game easier during the week.

“We’ve looked for (four) years to get back into this league and play these guys,” AHS head coach Kevin Ridout said. “We think we can compete. The kids have done their work. Everyone talks about how big their line is. (On Tuesday), I took our line and their line and matched them up. We match up pound-for-pound with them. Across the line, we’re equal. Now, we have to get our pad levels down, keep our feet going and make things happen.”

Last week, the Bearcats had their main running back return — Austin Emery. Emery and quarterback Nolan Wollan each ran for 77 yards against Class 3A Lake Washington in a 28-14 win. Chehalis ran for 173 yards as a team and Wollan threw just enough passes to keep Lake Washington’s defense honest.

“Chehalis is well coached,” Ridout said. “On film, you notice they don’t make a lot of mistakes. They’re not flashy. They love to grind the ball. They’re very good inside, so was Castle Rock. Our athletes in space are pretty good and that will pose some issues for them.”

Aberdeen’s rushing game set up its passing attack against Castle Rock. Quarterback Ben Dublanko threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns — one each to Kylan Touch and Braden Castleberry-Taylor. Castleberry-Taylor caught four passes for 91 yards and one score and Touch scored three total touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving and one interception returned for a score).

The Bobcats will be without junior nose tackle/offensive guard Skyler Murray, who was ejected in the final seconds of the first half against Castle Rock, for Friday. Juniors Ryan Curry and Sage Bridges are competing for the starting spot this week on the offensive line and junior Dan Hunt will take over at nose guard.

Ridout cited his entire team for their play against Castle Rock, but noted the contributions of Bridges and Benton Butcher as inside linebackers.


Hoquiam (2-2) had a bad night last week against La Center, falling away in the second half under the Wildcats’ rushing attack in a 30-6 loss at Olympic Stadium. This week, the Grizzlies will greet upstart Tenino (3-1), which suffered its first loss of the season at Stevenson, 21-13, last Friday.

So, there is some soul searching going on inside the corridors of Hoquiam High School as league play kicks off.

“We have to regroup as a team; we have to be unselfish,” HHS head coach Rick Moore said. “last week, we had open people and didn’t get the ball to them. We need better decision making on where to put the ball. Defensively, we played well in the first half. In the second half, La Center stepped up and we didn’t fill in gaps. Physically, they outplayed us.

“They got after us and controlled the line of scrimmage,” Moore added. “You are going to win football games if you do that.”

The Beavers will come into Olympic Stadium with a new crew of players. Most of their returning players can be found on the offensive and defensive lines, giving the skill positions a new look.

Just like Aberdeen, Hoquiam knows what Tenino runs on offense — the same spread, pass-first offense run in practice every day near Sea Breeze Oval.

Tenino’s defense is also a pass-stopping formation — a 4-2-5 with a roving secondary that uses the free safety to move the safeties and cornerbacks to cover receivers it deems more dangerous than others. Think of it as a swinging Cover 2 defense.

“We just have to play good football and redeem ourselves,” Moore said. “We want to get back out there and do what we need to be doing. It is important to get a good start in league. You get that first win and you aren’t behind the 8-ball.”

Other games

Montesano (2-2), ranked fourth in the state 1A media poll, will start league play against Forks (2-2). The Spartans suffered a 26-20 loss to Class 1B Neah Bay in an 11-man game last week. The Red Devils are ranked No. 3 in the state 1B (eight-man) medial poll this week. … Elma (0-4) will finish off its non-league schedule on Friday against winless Rochester at Davis Field. The Warriors were routed by Montesano at Rottle Field last week. … The Southwest Washington 2B Coastal Division is in full swing on Friday. All but one team in the division sit at 2-2 during the opening four weeks of the season, while Ocosta (2-1) used its bye week last week. The matchups are led by North Beach’s visit at Raymond, while Ocosta hosts Pe Ell-Willapa Valley and South Bend hosts Ilwaco.

Rob Burns: (360) 537-3926;; Twitter: @RobRVR