From this point on, each test the Montesano Bulldogs face on the field with be its toughest of the season.
On Saturday afternoon, No. 3 Montesano will face the 6th-seeded Deer Park Stags, a team similar to the Bulldogs in many respects.
Both teams ran through their regular-season schedules and the first two playoff rounds with sparkling undefeated records.
Both teams are loaded with league MVPs and All-League talent up and down the roster.
And both teams are built from the defense up.
Deer Park at Montesano
When and Where: 2 p.m. Saturday at Jack Rottle Field
Players to Watch: Montesano — Trace Ridgway QB/LB; Sam Winter WR/LB; Brent Hollatz RB/LB. Deer Park — Matthew Jorgensen RB/DB; Bennet Lim RB/LB; Andrew Olietti TE/DL
Monte (12-0 overall) blasted its way through the 1A Evergreen League and hasn’t slowed down in the playoffs, rolling over King’s Way Christian and Meridian by identical scores of 58-14 in a district crossover game and first-round state playoff matchup, respectively.
Deer Park (10-0) also had its way against its opponents this season, winning the Northeast League with spotless record that included a 21-20 victory over the reigning 1A State champion Colville back on Oct. 4.
The Stags earned a spot in the quarterfinal round with a 22-20 victory over No. 11 Zillah, holding on after the Leopards scored 13 straight points after falling behind 22-7 in the fourth quarter to the Stags.
The two teams are alike in personnel as well. Monte is led by co-Evergreen League MVP’s Trace Ridgway and Sam Winter on offense and the league’s Defensive MVP in linebacker Brent Hollatz.
Ridgway and Winter hooked up five times for four touchdowns in Saturday’s win over Meridian. Ridgway finished the game with 186 passing yards and ran for 160 with a 58-yard touchdown as Monte seemed to find another gear for its Lamborghini of an offense. Winter finished with 134 receiving yards as Monte’s offense looked as unstoppable last week as they have all season.
The Bulldogs have scored no less than 41 points in any game this season and have allowed no more than 14 points on the defensive end. That trend hasn’t changed in the playoffs, but the Bulldogs realize that blowing out every opponent on the way to a state title is highly unlikely, and they could find themselves in a close game this weekend.
“When it comes down to close games, you have to have energy and stamina,” Winter said after the victory over Meridian, well aware the games get harder in the deep waters of the state playoffs. “Just get more reps and come out to practice every day.”
“Stay humble, stay hungry,” said Ridgway, repeating what the coaches have been telling the Bulldogs.
And Montesano will have to continue to play with the same focused intensity they exhibited against Meridian to come away with a win on Saturday, as Deer Park is also loaded with talent.
A run-focused team, Deer Park is led by senior running back Matt Jorgensen, who ran for 1,020 yards this season and has breakaway speed, twice scoring on runs of 80-plus yards this season. For his efforts, Jorgensen was named the league’s Offensive MVP for 2019.
Stags linebacker Bennet Lim was named the Northeast League’s Defensive MVP with 34 tackles, 12 for a loss, to lead a Stags defense that allowed just 9.2 points per game in the regular season.
Montesano will also have a distinct home-field advantage as Deer Park will have a six-hour drive to Jack Rottle Field.
The winner will advance to face the winner of No. 7 Lynden Christian at No. 2 La Salle in the semifinals.