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Bracket Breakdown: WIAA 4A state football tournament first-round previews, stat leaders, game picks

Despite graduating every offensive starter from a year ago, Gonzaga Prep won the 4A Greater Spokane League title - and will enjoy a WIAA first-round home game against Chiawana

If you think David McKenna can get a little crazy ... well, his assistant coaches on the Gonzaga Prep football team think the same thing.

After last season's run to a 4A Greater Spokane League title, and fourth trip to the WIAA quarterfinals in its past five state appearances, Gonzaga Prep graduated its entire offense.

And the team's top returning offensive reserve - running back Nate Holmam - was lost for the season with a broken wrist.

Yet, when it came time to making preseason league predictions, McKenna didn't hesitate naming his GSL favorite.

He picked the Bullpups - which prompted a strong reaction from his staff.

"They were shocked," he said. "They asked, 'You really picked us (No. 1)?"

Well, McKenna was right.

"Why would I not?" said McKenna, conceding he understood why people expected a fall-off with so many starters lost to graduation. "I have this belief. But to go 9-1 at this point ... I knew that would be difficult to do."

The offense has a similar look with a few tweaks. Yes, the Bullpups want to get downhill quickly in their triple option rushing attack. But new starting quarterback Bodie Stafford - while not a great runner - is a better passer than when the team has had in recent years.

And with a talented sophomore class coming through, headlined by wide receiver Isaiah Docken, Gonzaga Prep has gone to the air a little bit more than usual.

"You could see it starting to define itself in the summer," McKenna said. "And going to Inglewood (Calif.) in Week 2 was huge for us. In the first half, we got physically dominated. But in the second half, we competed ... and outscored them.

"Our kids realized, 'We can be pretty 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 4A football first-round matchups.



2023 Washington high school football: Graham-Kapowsin at Emerald Ridge

1 p.m. Saturday at Art Crate Field, Spanaway

Statistical leaders: For Richland – QB Joshua Woodard (221-318, 3,487 yards yards, 42 TDs), RB Jake Brannon (78 carries, 451 yards, three TDs), WR Colson Mackey (56 catches, 996 yards, 12 TDs), WR Brody Bocek (54 catches, 840 yards, 11 TDs) and DL Zane Weikum (97 tackles). For Graham-Kapowsin – QB Daveon Superales (215-282, 2,510 yards, 35 TDs; 74 carries, 502 yards, six TDs), RB Alele Fa'apito-Leao (93 carries, 464 yards, six TDs), WR Jabez Woods (71 catches, 852 yards, eight TDs), WR Malachi Durant (50 catches, 692 yards, 15 TDs), WR Khris Norris (46 catches, 482 yards, six TDs) and LB/DL Levi Turner (63 tackles, 5.5 TFL).

What to watch for: Could this be the week two 400-yard passing performances happen in the same game of the WIAA playoffs? This projected high-scoring game should see plenty of pass-game fireworks from Woodard and Superales, co-MVPs of their respective leagues. Difference is the Eagles should get enough stops from their defense to prevail - and move on to the state quarterfinals.

Pick: Graham-Kapowsin, 60-37.



2022 Washington high school football: Richland at Chiawana MAIN

Noon Saturday at Gonzaga Prep, Spokane

Statistical leaders: For Chiawana – QB Julian Martinez (41-66, 559 yards, nine TDs), RB Hunter Taylor (182 carries, 921 yards, 11 TDs), WR WR Justin Webber (15 catches, 338 yards, five TDs), WR Rylen Blair (19 catches, 328 yards, four TDs) and LB XX ( XX tackles). For Gonzaga Prep – QB Bodie Stafford (44-91, 629 yards, 13 TDs), WR/ATH Jonah Keller (93 carries, 1,000 rushing yards, 12 TDs), RB Nate Moinette (194 carries, 793 yards, 10 TDs), WR Isaiah Docken (32 catches, 472 yards, five TDs) and DL Marion Rivera.

What to watch for: Key matchup here is easy to call - how will Chiawana's constantly-shifting, aggressive defense handle the Bullpups' triple-option offense? If the 4A Greater Spokane League champions can sustain long possession and find success with Moinette and Keller on the patented dive play, this game could be a nail-biter. Riverhawks have found ways to win tough road games all season.

Pick: Chiawana, 21-17.



Grady Woodward, Eastlake football, class of 2024

6 p.m. Saturday at Eastlake High School, Sammamish

Statistical leaders: For Sumner – QB Tristen Rebar (134-185, 1,919 yards, 23 TDs), RB Steele Isaacs (172 carries, 1,126 yards, 13 TDs), RB Matthew Spurbeck (77 carries, 615 yards, five TDs), WR Braylon Pope (33 catches, 603 yards, 11 TDs) and DB Cooper Miller. For Eastlake (thru nine games) – QB Landon Renfroe (128-246, 1,760 yards, 17 TDs), RB RJ Abedi (137 carries, 749 yards, seven TDs), WR Grady Woodward (39 catches, 657 yards, five TDs), WR Bryson Hodges (25 catches, 431 yards, five TDs) and DB Grady Woodward.

What to watch for: The bracket might denote it is a first-round 4A game ... but this grind-it-out physical encounter could be straight out of the halls of 4A KingCo. First-year coach Scott Hare's Eastlake group has shown a "level of calmness" in winning a lot of close games - and might need that resolve again. For Sumner to get a road win, it cannot give up big-chunk pass plays to Woodward and Hodges.

Pick: Eastlake, 23-20.



2023 Washington high school football: Skyline at Eastlake

2 p.m. Saturday at Kiggins Bowl, Vancouver

Statistical leaders: For Skyline – QB Michael Grimmer (147-240, 1,672 yards, 16 TDs), RB Josh Menold (227 carries, 1,459 yards, nine TDs), WR Cameron Weir (50 catches, 701 yards, seven TDs) and LB Agassi Owen (61 tackles). For Skyview – Jake Kennedy (110-162, 1,726 yards, 21 TDs; 431 rushing yards, six TDs), RB Trey Jacob (100 carries, 554 yards, 12 TDs), Gavin Packer (27 catches, 557 yards, seven TDs), WR Riley Artis (24 catches, 407 yards, 11 TDs).

What to watch for: The last time legendary coach Steve Gervais stood on the sidelines for a WIAA playoff game, it was in 2007 when his Skyline squad won the Class 3A title. Sixteen years later, his team will be an underdog against a balanced Storm squad. Menold will need to carry it 30-plus times to keep Skyview's skilled offense on the sideline - and also to protect his own defense with a depleted linebacking corps.

Pick: Skyview, 27-14.



West Linn vs Lake Stevens September 22, 2023 Photo-Glen Moffitt83

6 p.m. Friday at Lake Stevens High School

Statistical leaders: For Woodinville – QB Levi Grothen (128-221, 1,694 yards, 15 TDs), RB Chase Rudin (185 carries, 885 yards, seven TDs), WR Casey Larson (40 catches, 708 yards, seven TDs) and LB Dylan Jewell (66 tackles). For Lake Stevens – QB Kolton Matson (169-258, 2,455 yards, 35 TDs), RB Jayshon Limar (81 carries, 511 yards, six TDs), RB Talha Rai (66 carries, 476 yards, nine TDs), WR David Brown (37 catches, 623 yards, 14 TDs), WR Paul Varela (37 catches, 579 yards, four TDs) and LB Keagan Howard (95 tackles)

What to watch for: Rematch from 2018 state semifinals (won 28-14 by the Vikings) sees the defending 4A champions as heavy favorites, especially with their ability to put up points behind Matson and the passing attack. Can the Falcons keep up? Grothen will need to take advantage of sometimes-leaky Vikings' secondary and cash in on a few big plays - and defense will need to force a few turnovers.

Pick: Lake Stevens, 35-12.



2023 Washington high school football: Highline at Kennedy Catholic

7 p.m. Saturday at Viking Stadium, University Place

Statistical leaders: For Kennedy Catholic – QB Devon Forehand (120-194, 1,990 yards, 27 TDs), RB Indiana Jones (151 carries, 996 yards, 18 TDs; 28 catches, 407 yards, six TDs), WR Dante Saldino (30 catches, 443 yards, six TDs), WR Joey Thomas (23 catches,  and LB Thomas Bevilacqua (97 tackles). For Curtis – QB Rocco Koch (128-179, 2,100 yards, 28 TDs; 1,474 rushing yards, 23 TDs), WR Parker Mady (50 catches, 932 yards, 13 TDs), WR Xavier Ahrens (48 catches, 753 yards, nine TDs) and LB/DB Xavier Ahrens (60 tackles, seven TFL, four INTs).

What to watch for: Stylistically, the Lancers might own the biggest matchup advantage in this one with their Wing-T attack against a Curtis front seven that has struggled to stop the run. In recent weeks, the Vikings have moved Ahrens (LB/S) closer to the line of scrimmage for support. But Curtis might own the single-biggest advantage in Koch, who has rumbled through defenses his entire career.

Pick: Kennedy Catholic, 33-29.



2023 Washington high school football: Skyview at Camas

5 p.m. Saturday at Doc Harris Stadium, Camas

Statistical leaders: For Mount Si – QB Nate Donavan (87-151, 1,002 yards, seven TDs), RB Beau Phillips (162 carries, 938 yards, 10 TDs), WR Jack Taylor (24 catches, 363 yards, three TDs) and DL Brock Gates (60 tackles, 9.5 TFL). For Camas – QB Jake Davidson (158-248, 2,336 yards, 21 TDs), RB AJ Hroza (70 carries, 404 yards, three TDs), RB Beau Harlan (54 carries, 199 yards, 13 TDs), WR Trenton Swanson (60 catches, 791 yards, five TDs), WR Anthony Forner (32 catches, 541 yards, six TDs) and LB Nikko Speer.

What to watch for: Those who prefer steel-wall defensive fronts should tune into this matchup. Mount Si's unit has been best in 4A KingCo, led by DLs Jayden Wells and Logan Knaevelsrud, and MLB Brock Gates on the interior. And Camas - which did not have a good 2022 defensively - is asking its big offensive linemen to play both ways, flanked by LBs Beau Harlan, Alex Holley, Elliott Scott and Nikko Speer.

Pick: Camas, 19-16.



2023 Washington high school football: Kamiakin at Chiawana

6 p.m. Friday at Lampson Stadium, Kennewick

Statistical leaders: For Emerald Ridge – QB Jake Schakel (155-215, 2,649 yards, 37 TDs; 224 rushing yards, three TDs), RB Navarre Dixon (154 carries, 1,032 yards, 11 TDs), WR Tony Harste (55 catches, 1,150 yards, 16 TDs), WR Kajon Babock (29 catches, 394 yards, six TDs) and LB Maddox Zenner (53 tackles, nine TFL). For Kamiakin – QB Trent Woodhouse (126-205, 1,653, 22 TDs), RB Camden Schmidt (143 carries, 1,192 yards, 16 TDs), RB Makram Altahir (81 carries, 529 yards, eight TDs), WR Gavyn Buchanan (38 catches, 490 yards, five TDs), WR Kyler Rutz (24 catches, 331 yards, four TDs).

What to watch for: Haven't we made this trip before? Oh yeah, it was a different part of the Tri-Cities, but in last year's WIAA quarterfinals, Emerald Ridge posted an upset at No. 1 Chiawana. Jaguars likely will need to turn the jets on its high-octane passing attack, led by Schakel and Harste, to offset some of team's issues stopping the run on defense - which Schmidt and Altahir will test at will for the Braves.

Pick: Kamiakin, 33-30.