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Bracket Breakdown: WIAA 3A state football tournament first-round previews, stat leaders, game picks

While it's Mount Tahoma's first trip to the WIAA playoffs since 1984, one school is making its maiden voyage in the state bracket - Auburn Riverside

Greg Herd has seen the highlights. He’s heard the rave reviews. He believes it all and he understands the massive challenge.

But coach Herd and the Auburn Riverside High School football team are embracing the role of underdog as the school makes its first appearance in the state playoffs.

The Ravens (7-3), the No. 15 seed, travel to Seattle’s Memorial Stadium on Friday for a stern test from No. 2 seed O’Dea (9-0) in a 5 p.m. kickoff under the shadow of the Space Needle.


The odds don’t favor Auburn Riverside against a stacked Irish roster, filled with NCAA Division I talent. But the Ravens aren’t backing down.

“You learn to compete at the highest level and you’re not afraid to go play anyone,”said Herd of facing the tradition-rich O’Dea program, which has reached state 31 seasons in a row and 35 overall. “O’Dea has been a perennial program in this state for many years coach [Monte] Kohler has done a great job with those guys. For us, that’s what we’re seeking out to do here at Riverside.

“You can’t get there without playing those teams. We’re super fired-up for the opportunity this Friday.”

The joy preceding Friday’s state opener has filled the hallways of Auburn Riverside High School and reverberated. Congratulations have been the theme of the week.

“I think this is awesome for our guys,” said Herd, the fourth-year Ravens head coach. “We’ve talked about this since I’ve gotten this job here. My senior group has heard it every year, and [state] being a goal for us. It’s something we didn’t shy away from.

“We wanted to talk about it. When you have goals, you have to make sure you are often times talking about them, so you can remind yourself.”

The school’s first appearance in the state football playoffs in its 28-year history has been a cause for reflection, even down to the school staff.

“I think the coolest part is we’ve got a lot of long-term AR teachers that have been here since the school opened back in 1995, and getting their response,” Herd said. “So, they’ve seen a plethora of coaches come through there and they’ve obviously seen a lot teams fall short of that feat. A lot of kids were getting congratulations from staff members at school, and the staff was acknowledging the hard work those kids put in.”

When the bracket was revealed, the difference was O’Dea was No. 2 seed and Auburn Riverside a No. 15. That wasn’t the only difference.

“They’re massive,” Herd said after watching game film of O’Dea. “Exposing our guys to what good programs look like is what I want to do. We had a big tackle last year in Nate Pritchard, he’s about 6-5, 300 [pounds] and he’s playing at Wazzu right now, and their whole line looked like that guy. And, obviously you can’t ignore number 6 in the backfield, Jason Brown Jr. He’s just electric as can be.

“They are really a big in stature team and big in numbers.”

Everything would seem stacked against Auburn Riverside.

“We crossed a really, really big hurdle last week,” Herd said of winning a state-qualifying game. “The optimism is as high from our guys, probably as high, as it’s ever been. There’s no secrets about O’Dea. We could tell our guys, ‘Maybe these guys aren’t as good as everyone says.’ But it’s on tape. They’re good. They’re really good.”

Editor’s note: Here’s a game-by-game breakdown, including top individual performers, outlook and score predictions of this weekend’s 2023 WIAA Class 3A football first-round matchups.



2023 Washington high school football: Arlington-Monroe

1 p.m. Saturday at Bellevue High School

Statistical leaders: For Monroe – QB Blake Springer (158-217, 2,530 yards, 32 TDs), RB Gavin Ranz (95 carries, 643 yards, 12 TDs; 10 catches, 115 yards), RB Nicholas Mouser (40 carries, 278 yards, six TDs; eight catches, 189 yards, three TDs), WR Ryan Miller (43 catches, 715 yards, eight TDs), WR Mason Davis (34 catches, 485 yards, eight TDs) and LB Watson III (54 tackles, two TFL) and LB Mouser (49 tackles, nine TFL, three sacks, INT). For Bellevue – QB Lucas Razore (37-60, 785 yards, 14 TDs), RB Max Jones (94 carries, 808 yards, 12 TDs), RB Blake Teets (63 carries, 610 yards, eight TDs), RB Matthew Reed (33 carries, 383 yards, 4 TDs), RB Carson Rubin (46 carries, 349 yards, four TDs), RB Ryken Moon (30 carries, 244 yards, 2 TDs; five catches, 132 yards, two TDs), TE Hogan Hansen (10 catches, 215 yards, four TDs) and LB Leo Ryals (50.5 tackles, sack.

What to watch for: This contest is likely to be a chess match. Bellevue, with its ball-control Wing-T running game, will need to keep the ball out of the hands on the Bearcats’ high-octane passing game - and that could be tough. Springer is a big strong-armed quarterback and Bellevue must make things difficult on the Monroe signal caller because it will hard to match the Bearcats’ 43.9 scoring average if Springer gets comfortable. The Wolverines’ haven’t been healthy all season, but are slowly getting key performers back.

Pick: Bellevue, 28-27.



2023 Washington high school football: Seattle Prep at Ridgeline, Class 3A district playoffs

5 p.m. Friday at Arlington High School

Statistical leaders: For Ridgeline (league stats only) – QB Landon Garner (230-328, 2,198 yards, 28 TDs), RB Kole LeGrant (58 carries, 333 yards, three TDs; 36 catches, 264 yards, TD), RB Camden Haddad (33 carries, 298 yards, three TDs, WR Brayden Allen (90 catches, 878 yards, 12 TDs), WR Easton Amend (37 catches, 403 yards, six TDs) and DB Landen Quesnell (five INTs). For Arlington - QB Leyton Martin (168-251, 2,333 yards, 32 TDs; 40 carries, 143 yards, four TDs), RB Caleb Reed (136 carries, 1,020 yards, 10 TDs), WR Jake Willis (40 catches, 710 yards, 10 TDs), WR Kaid Hunter (27 catches, 437 yards, six TDs), WR Stephen Balderas (34 catches, 400 yards, two TDs),  and LB Kobi Spady (105 tackles, 15 TFL, 1.5 sacks, two INT, two fumble recoveries, three defensive scores).

What to watch for: Ridgeline, which made the state playoffs in its third year since opening, could pose a threat through the air to an Arlington defense that has been stout all season. The Eagles have given up just 10.1 points per game, but face the lethal Garner-to-Allen combination, which is dangerous. Arlington has its own playmaker in Martin, who is a master of distributing the football and then calling his own number in key spots. No opponent has really proven it can crack the Eagles' code - on either side of the ball.

Pick: Arlington, 28-14.



2022 Washington high school football: Eastside Catholic at Garfield

1 p.m. Saturday at Union Stadium, Spokane

Statistical leaders: For Garfield – QB EJ Caminong (94-140, 1,383 yards, 11 TDs), RB Reylen Witherspoon (100 carries, 770 yards, 10 TDs), WR Rahshawn Clark (30 catches, 508 yards, six TDs), WR Reggie Witherspoon III (25 catches, 352 yards, three TDs). For Mount Spokane – QB T.J. Haberman (130-216, 2,192 yards, 21 TDs), RB Matteo Saccomano (135 carries, 754 yards, nine TDs; 14 catches, 227 yards, TD), WR Bode Gardner (57 catches, 1,114 yards, 14 TDs) and DB Gardner (37 tackles, four INTs, three defensive scores) and LB Ben Joireman (88 tackles, INT).

What to watch for: This game has big-play potential written all over it - from both sides. The Wildcats get a lot of juice when Haberman connects with Gardner and Tristan Olson, who just returned to the lineup a few weeks ago. The Bulldogs feel they have the perimeter defenders to match up with them, notably Clark and Reggie Witherspoon III. Bulldogs are trending the right direction for their first state playoff game since 2021 with better health, and Caminong, a Cal commit, is capable of lighting up the scoreboard as well.

Pick: Garfield, 38-34.



2023 Washington high school football: Eastside Catholic at O'Dea

5 p.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium, Seattle

Statistical leaders: For Auburn Riverside – QB Andrew Wold (126-192, 1,514 yards, 18 TDs; 56 carries, 252 yards, three TDs), RB Thyrou Umi-Tuato’o (125 carries, 939 yards, 17 TDs), RB Jonathan Epperson (31 carries, 240 yards, two TDs), WR Andrew Shrader (45 catches, 565 yards, six TDs), WR Cole Svendsen (28 catches, 436 yards, eight TDs) and LB Umi-Tuato'o 48 tackles, 8.5 TFL, three sacks) and DL Diego Flores (31 tackles, 14 TFL, 7.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries). For O’Dea – QB Antone Araujo (26-44, 480 yards, four TDs; 22 carries, 115 yards, three TDs), RB Jason Brown Jr. (109 carries, 1,421 yards, 29 TDs), WR Kyan McDonald (eight catches, 190 yards, TD), TE Zander Turner (five catches, 78 yards, TD).

What to watch for: There will be plenty to celebrate for the 3A NPSL champion Ravens, who make the school’s first appearance at state in their 28-year history. But that feeling might not last too much past the first quarter as O’Dea’s size, speed and depth start to wear them down. The Metro League Mountain Division champions are no-nonsense on both sides of the ball, attacking on offense with the running of Brown Jr., who tops the school’s charts in rushing yards (5,943) and TDs (86). Don't forget the Irish pass rush, too, led by DE Paki Crawford.

Pick: O’Dea, 41-12.



2023 Washington high school football: Kennewick vs. Kamiakin

1 p.m. Saturday at Lampson Stadium, Kennewick

Statistical leaders: For Mountain View – QB Cash Cook (88-132, 1,848 yards, 20 TDs), RB Porter Drake (120 carries, 1,309 yards, 15 TDs), RB Jaden Brown (63 carries, 531 yards, six TDs), WR/TE Aiden Nicholson (24 catches, 621 yards, eight TDs), WR Akili Kamau (25 catches, 511 yards, four TDs) and LB Ayden Denbo (102 tackles, sack). For Kennewick – QB Ambrose Driver (114-193, 1,672 yards, 25 TDs), RB Alex Roberts (128 carries, 1,012 yards, 13 TDs), RB Canaan Hayes (76 carries, 470 yards, six TDs), WR David Wacenske (49 catches, 722 yards, 13 TDs), WR Kyler Witkowski (15 catches, 317 yards, four TDs) and DL Dylin McIntyre (13 TFL, 12 sacks).

What to watch for: This matchup is going to come down to what both teams do well and who wins that battle. Mountain View (2,426 yards rushing) runs the ball very well and Kennewick has been stout against the ground game all season. The Lions led the 4A/3A defensively overall, giving up just 216 yards per game (including just 39.2 rushing and 12.9 points per game). Pair that with their big-play potential, and they have been tough on everybody. Kennewick’s senior group of four-year players have nine state playoff games under their belts and that has to help.

Pick: Kennewick, 35-21.



Jamboree Puyallup Kennedy Bethel Lincoln August202310

1 p.m. Saturday at Eastside Catholic High School, Sammamish

Statistical leaders: For Lincoln of Tacoma – QB Sione Kaho (153-215, 2,113 yards, 17 TDs), RB Jadeon Scranton (96 carries, 455 yards, five TDs), RB Maurice Gosby Jr. (33 carries, 295 yards, six TDs; 20 catches, 324 yards), WR Jemani Teplasy (36 catches, 703 yards, eight TDs, WR Kanoa Teplasy (28 catches, 356 yards, two TDs), WR/TE Sebastian Esekielu (35 catches, 311 yards, 4 TDs) and LB Dre Sio-Fetaui (59 tackles, five TFL). For Eastside Catholic – QB Jake Tiryakioglu (76-112, 1,361 yards, 15 TDs), RB Jeremiah Burroughs (76 carries, 473 yards, six TDs), WR Asa Thompson (30 catches, 486 yards, eight TDs), WR Tyson Weaver (12 catches, 456 yards, four TDs), WR Jayden Reyes (19 catches, 190 yards, two TDs) and LB Cody Thumlert (48 tackles, three TFL, two sacks) and DL AJ Tanupo (37 tackles, 7.5 TFL, sack).

What to watch for: The biggest question is how will Kaho, in his first WIAA playoff game as a ninth grader, deal all the pressure Eastside Catholic's defense creates? The Crusaders limited 3A Metro League foes to just 5.7 points per game - and 7.4 points in all games. But it cannot be ignored that Kaho has guided the Abes to a six-game winning streak, including a win over Lakes that clinched a playoff spot - and that the Abes' young defense has been tough to move the ball against as well. Rematch of 2019 state semifinal game.

Pick: Eastside Catholic, 31-12.



2023 Washington high school football: North Kitsap at Mount Tahoma

7 p.m. Friday at Ferndale High School

Statistical leaders: For Mount Tahoma – QB Tre Walker (80-130, 1,030 yards, 12 TDs; 81 carries, 638 yards, eight TDs), RB Bryson Bailey (135 carries, 1,079 yards, 14 TDs), RB Flex Diaz (81 carries, 638 yards, eight TDs), WR DJ Ervin (26 catches, 405 yards, five TDs), WR Zane Cordero (15 catches, 247 yards, TD) and LB Dominique Ervin (67 tackles, 18 TFL) and LB Jeremiah Anderson (66 tackles, 12 TFL, seven sacks). For Ferndale – QB Bishop Ootsey (34-54, 618 yards, eight TDs), RB Talan Bungard (171 carries, 1,043 yards, 13 TDs), RB Phoenyx Finkbonner (105 carries, 662 yards, 11 TDs), ATH Conner Walcker (59 carries, 655 yards, nine TDs; 13 catches, 367 yards, four TDs) and DB Walcker (57 tackles, 4.5 TFL).

What to watch for: Mount Tahoma is making its first state appearance since 1984 and the 3A PCL champions hope to enjoy an extended stay. But it begins with a long road trip against a formidable state power to make a state run. Even though the host Golden Eagles aren’t quite as tough as the golden years of the mid-2000s, they still have plenty of offensive weapons and a healthy homefield advantage. Mount Tahoma, which won 4A state titles in 1979 and 1980, feature enough weapons to make it interesting. Should be a close game.

Pick: Ferndale, 28-20.



Landon Barger, Yelm football, class of 2024

1 p.m. Saturday at Yelm High School

Statistical leaders: For Yelm – QB Damian Aalona (119-167, 1,762 yards, 26 TDs), RB Brayden Platt (63 carries, 855 yards, 13 TDs; 66 tackles, 17 TFL, INT) on defense, RB Anthony Kiamco (58 carries, 796 yards, six TDs; 13 catches, 173 yards, TD; 11 special-teams returns, 361 yards, four TDs; two INTs for TDs on defense), WR Marius Aalona (42 catches, 725 yards, 13 TDs) and LB Isaiah Patterson (73 tackles, 14 TFL) and DL Jacob Tracy (70 tackles, seven TFL and LB Onyx Carter (60 tackles, 10 TFL, five sacks), For Marysville-Pilchuck - QB Luke Shoemaker (128-197, 1,656 yards, 10 TDs; 42 carries, 168 yards, three TDs), RB Joseph Davis (122 carries, 1,105 yards, 15 TDs), RB Kenai Sinaphet (109 carries, 795 yards, eight TDs), WR Marcus Gaffney (41 catches, 658 yards, three TDs) and LB Sinaphet (96 tackles, 15.5 TFL).

What to watch for: Led by a deep senior class from the 3A state defending state champion team in 2022, the Tornados have everything they need for a repeat title run. Will the Tomahawks have answers, especially early on? Some, but not enough. Yelm takes a 24-game winning streak into the state opener and ironically it was the Tomahawks who last handed the Tornados’ program their last loss in the 2021 state quarterfinals (39-21). Those key contributors from Yelm's senior class, especially Platt and lineman Landen Barger, will remember that gut-punch feeling.

Pick: Yelm, 45-15.