Are you ready for some football?
Here’s a look at Week 1 of the prep football season for teams on the Twin Harbor, led by none other than the grandaddy of them all: The Myrtle Street Rivalry.
ABERDEEN AT HOQUIAM
When and where: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2, at Olympic Stadium, Hoquiam
Players to watch: Aberdeen — Jeremy Sawyer RB/LB; Kale Goings QB/DB; Trey Anderson RB/LB. Hoquiam — Zander Jump QB; Owen McNeill WR/DB; Jalen Hobucket RB/LB.
The 2022 prep football season on the Harbor kicks off with its most storied and grandest of rivalries.
On Friday evening, the Aberdeen Bobcats and Hoquiam Grizzlies will meet for the 117th Myrtle Street Rivalry game at Olympic Stadium in Hoquiam.
Entering the latest installment of the historic contest, both teams appear to be improved when compared to last season.
Aberdeen, which has won the last two MSR meetings after losing five straight, is prepped for its best season in a decade. The Bobcats feature an abundance of talent and senior leadership at the skill positions, including arguably the best running back on the Twin Harbors in Jeremy Sawyer, and are big up front with junior linemen Jabron Brooks and Paul Baltazar each standing over 6 feet, 4 inches and weighing a combined 505 pounds.
Aberdeen finished with a winning record and berth in the 2A crossover playoff round, a highlight for Bobcats football fans having struggled to find the win column for several seasons until head coach Todd Bridge took over three seasons ago and turned the program around.
Hoquiam, on the other hand, has not been as fortunate during the COVID era.
The Grizzlies — a perenniel state-playoff contender under head coach Jeremy McMillan — were hit hard by COVID restrictions and administration-inflicted wounds, decimating a once proud program.
The Grizzlies were the only 1A Evergreen League team to self-cancel a large swath of its season, as Hoquiam administrators deleted three consecutive games in 2021. This led to a drop in players that saw Hoquiam’s roster size dip below 20 after the Grizzlies finally returned to the field.
But after getting through the adversity of a one-win season in 2021, the Grizzlies that remain are bigger, stronger, faster and most importantly, hungrier.
Hoquiam should be much-improved this season, with fleet-footed quarterback Zander Jump showing more comfort and confidence running the offense and the return of smash-mouth running back Jalen Hobucket for his senior season.
Plus the Grizzlies have depth, with more than double the numbers on the roster than what they ended with in 2021, leading prognosticators to believe there is a resurgence for Hoquiam on the horizon.
“I expect them to be feisty,” Aberdeen head coach Todd Bridge said of the Grizzlies. “I expect them to play their best game of the year. I expect them to hit hard and never surrender.”
Hoquiam will be facing a different animal in Aberdeen as the Bobcats, having won the last two MSR games by blowouts, possess talent, experience and the confidence to take three in a row over the Grizzlies.
Consider it a sizable upset if Hoquiam pulls off a win.
CENTRALIA AT ELMA
When and where: 7 p.m. Friday at Davis Field, Elma
Players to watch: Centralia — Landon Jenkins QB; Elma — Carter Studer QB/OLB; Austin Salazar RB/DE; Gibson Cain WR/LB.
There is no better time to beat a team than when it’s in its first game under a new head coach in the midst of a rebuild.
That is what the Elma Eagles are facing when they take on the Centralia Tigers on Friday.
Centralia hired new head coach Dustin McGee, who guided a team to an 8-man state championship in Tennessee, to take over the Tigers program this season.
Centralia went 1-8 in 2021 and will have quarterback Landon Jenkins return as the starter.
Elma will be led by junior quarterback Carter Studer, who returns for his second season as the starter and has shown an ability to complete a variety of passes during summer camp.
Clark and his staff plan to utilize the weapon that is Studer’s right arm, showing more shotgun-spread formations that the typical Wing-T offense Elma has run in the past.
Expect to see Studer get the ball in the hands of running back Austin Salazar and receivers Gibson Cain, Ethan Camus and Vince Pallett for some big plays from this potentially high-flying Eagles offense.
If Studer can get tuned in with his receivers quickly, Elma should find itself in the win column.
MONTESANO AT BLACK HILLS
When and where: 7 p.m. Friday at Tumwater Stadium, Tumwater
Players to watch: Montesano — Jayden McElravy QB/LB; Cole Ekerson RB/DB; Mateo Sanchez OL/LB. Black Hills — Tanner Parkinson WR/S/K; Johnnie Stallings RB/OLB; Jaxsen Beck WB.
Montesano’s season opener will be a road test against a Black Hills team coming off its worst season in two decades after going 1-8 in 2021.
The Wolves anticipate a regain to form under second-year head coach Garrett Baldwin and athletic returning seniors in receiver Tanner Parkinson and tailback Johnnie Stallings.
Jaxsen Beck, who started under center as a freshman last season, returns as starting quarterback for his sophomore year.
One of the questions surrounding the Bulldogs entering 2022 is which players will step into the roles left by all-league running back/linebacker Isaac Pierce and all-league receiver Caydon Lovell, both of whom graduated?
If its offensive performance at last Friday’s Jamboree is any indication, Montesano will be just fine.
Starting quarterback Jayden McElravy looked in mid-season form guiding the offense downfield, leading to multiple scores with both his feet and his arm.
But hang around the Monte program long enough and one will begin to understand the Bulldogs are as disciplined and fundamental as any team they face, and this year appears to be no exception.
If McElravy moves the offense like he did at the Jamboree and Monte’s defense — led by all-league linebacker Mateo Sanchez — can disrupt and pressure Beck, this should be another opening win for the Bulldogs.
Tenino at Pe Ell-Willapa Valley — The Titans are considered a potential dark-horse state playoff team and will face 1A Tenino, which is coming off its best season in recent memory but lost standout Takari Hickle to graduation, at 7 p.m. Friday at Pe Ell.
Raymond-South Bend at Toledo — Raymond-South Bend coaches believe this to be the season the Ravens will morph into a complete, cohesive combo-school unit. They’ll get their first test against Toledo at 7 p.m. Friday in South Bend.
Northwest Christian at Ocosta — New Ocosta head coach Keith Beck looks to get the program back on its feet after playing just one game in 2021 due to a cancellation of the season. The Wildcats will host Northwest Christian in an 8-man contest at 7 p.m. Friday in Westport.
North Beach forfeits — North Beach had to cancel its Week 1 game against Ilwaco due to “unforeseen circumstances,” according to Hyaks head coach Todd Gladsjo.