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Bracket Breakdown: WIAA 4A state football tournament quarterfinal previews, stat leaders, game picks

As Class 4A playoffs shift to final eight, only one league has multiple teams still alive - the 4A KingCo with Eastlake, Mount Si

The constant debate reached another chapter last summer - and spilled into the fall season.

Which league has dibs as the best conference in Class 4A football?

Many looked to the quarterback-savvy 4A SPSL and its explosive offenses as king. But how could you not include the 4A Mid-Columbia Conference with Kamiakin, Chiawana and Richland - all state-playoff hopefuls?

And, of course, Skyview and Camas were ready to return the WIAA title to southwest Washington.

Well, after one round of the state playoffs, only one league has multiple teams still alive - the 4A KingCo (Eastlake, Mount Si).

Any questions?

"I don't understand (why the 4A KingCo was discredited)," Mount Si football coach Steve Botulinski said. "There are a good group of coaches here that prepare their teams. We know if we perform well in our conference, we will be ready for the playoffs."

Perhaps the biggest miscalculation about the 4A KingCo heading into the season was that many thought it would be suffer a downturn with no front-line presence at the quarterback position.

That is somewhat reflected in the regular-season offensive numbers: No 4A KingCo team averaged 30.0 points per game (Eastlake was tops at 27.6 ppg) or at least 350.0 yards of offense (Eastlake No. 1 at 344.2 ypg).

Contrast that to what was going on with playoff-bound programs in other leagues: Emerald Ridge (38.6 ppg, 444.1 ypg) and Graham-Kapowsin (37.2 ppg, 420.8 ypg) ripped up the 4A SPSL; Lake Stevens (45.4 ppg, 424.4 ypg) dominated the 4A Wesco; and Richland (36.3 ppg, 419.7 ypg in 4A MCC) and Eastmont (34.4 ppg, 404.4 ypg in 4A CBBN) moved the ball at will in eastern Washington.

What 4A KingCo programs showed, across the board, is the ability to win with ball control on offense and physical defense.

"People get enamored with all the yards being thrown for, and how many times you score from 50 or 60 yards out," Bothell coach Tom Bainter said. "We all play an open-style offense, too. But if you can't get big at times and get a little more physical, it is a detriment to your chances winning those (playoff) games."

Needless to say, it's not surprising to Botulinski, Bainter and other 4A KingCo coaches that their league has shown well at the state level - again.

"It is difficult to predict leagues, but the KingCo Conference, in my 24 years, has been in the final four, the final eight for a number of years.

"For the longevity of it, the KingCo has been tough."

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 quarterfinal matchups.



2023 Washington high school football: Gonzaga Prep at Mount Spokane

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

Statistical leaders: For Gonzaga Prep – QB Bodie Stafford (48-98, 686 yards, 13 TDs), WR/ATH Jonah Keller (107 carries, 1,100 rushing yards, 12 TDs), RB Nate Moinette (216 carries, 865 yards, 11 TDs), WR Isaiah Docken (35 catches, 520 yards, five TDs) and DL Marion Rivera. For Graham-Kapowsin – QB Daveon Superales (245-319, 2,992 yards, 41 TDs; 82 carries, 572 yards, six TDs), RB Alele Fa'apito-Leao (99 carries, 499 yards, six TDs), WR Jabez Woods (84 catches, 1,056 yards, nine TDs), WR Malachi Durant (56 catches, 890 yards, 18 TDs), WR Khris Norris (48 catches, 505 yards, seven TDs) and LB/DL Levi Turner (69 tackles, 5.5 TFL, INT, three fumble recoveries).

What to watch for: Since the Bullpups' state title-winning 2015 season, the only time they haven't won at least one game in the WIAA playoffs was 2019 - a first-round exit at the hands of Graham-Kapowsin (41-17). They meet on the same field Saturday. This matchup will be all about number of possessions (and time of possession) - and Gonzaga Prep will want to control that behind its game-shortening triple-option offense, led by Keller and Moinette. The Eagles' decimated linebacking corps will need to find ways to get enough stops to give the ball back to their high-powered passing attack, paced by Superales, the unstoppable dual threat.

Pick: Graham-Kapowsin, 31-20.



2023 Washington high school football: Skyview at Camas

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

Statistical leaders: For Skyview – QB Jake Kennedy (122-179, 1,926 yards, 25 TDs; 501 rushing yards, six TDs), RB Trey Jacob (111 carries, 632 yards, 12 TDs), WR Gavin Packer (33 catches, 688 yards, 10 TDs), WR Riley Artis (26 catches, 428 yards, 12 TDs). For Eastlake – QB Landon Renfroe (145-275, 2,000 yards, 20 TDs), RB RJ Abedi (152 carries, 903 yards, 10 TDs), WR Grady Woodward (43 catches, 697 yards, five TDs; 53 carries, 496 yards, six TDs), WR Bryson Hodges (26 catches, 464 yards, six TDs), WR Marcus Angiuli (39 catches, 453 yards, six TDs) and DB Grady Woodward.

What to watch for: As physical as these teams are inside the box, the fun part of this game is what could happen on the perimeter. Both offenses showcase two of the best pass-catching (and run-after-the-catch) duos in the state. And yet, there is a stark contrast in their styles - Packer and Artis are shorter, shiftier route-runners while Woodward and Angiuli are big, fast-moving targets on the outside. What might be the difference is that the Wolves have the ultimate versatile chess piece in Woodward, a University of Washington baseball signee who started the season playing quarterback, but has now seen more work at tailback late in the season.

Pick: Eastlake, 34-31.



2023 Washington high school football playoffs: Kennedy Catholic at Curtis

7 p.m. Friday at Viking Field, Lake Stevens

Statistical leaders: For Kennedy Catholic – QB Devon Forehand (126-201, 2,063 yards, 27 TDs), RB Indiana Jones (170 carries, 1,090 yards, 21 TDs; 32 catches, 447 yards, six TDs), ATH Mason Moriarty (24 carries, 404 yards, seven TDs), WR Dante Saldino (31 catches, 464 yards, six TDs), WR Joey Thomas (23 catches, 433 yards, six TDs), and LB Thomas Bevilacqua (110 tackles). For Lake Stevens – QB Kolton Matson (178-274, 2,565 yards, 37 TDs; 198 rushing yards, five TDs), RB Jayshon Limar (99 carries, 778 yards, nine TDs), RB Talha Rai (82 carries, 569 yards, 10 TDs), WR David Brown (41 catches, 676 yards, 14 TDs), WR Paul Varela (40 catches, 408 yards, four TDs), WR Jesse Lewis (19 catches, 336 yards, six TDs) and LB Keagan Howard (114 tackles, 22 TFL) and LB Mason Turner (93 tackles, 19 TFL).

What to watch for: A second date? Yes, this is a rematch from last year's WIAA title game - won 24-22 by the Vikings for their first state championship. What is different a year later? Kennedy Catholic graduated two-way leaders at every level in OL/DL Micah Banuelos, LB/RB Xe'ree Alexander and WR/DB Mason Hayes. And the Vikings lost state MVP Jayden Limar, who is now at the University of Oregon. But both teams did return their fearless, strong-armed starting quarterbacks - Forehand of the Lancers, and Matson with Lake Stevens. Whichever signal caller plays more efficiently could be the swing factor in this game. Neither team has lost to an in-state opponent in 2023.

Pick: Lake Stevens, 49-38.



Scott Biglin, Kamiakin football coach, 2023 game vs. Chiawana

3 p.m. Saturday at Mount Si High School, Snoqualmie

Statistical leaders: For Kamiakin – QB Trent Woodhouse (137-223, 1,790, 23 TDs), RB Camden Schmidt (166 carries, 1,369 yards, 19 TDs), RB Makram Altahir (86 carries, 568 yards, eight TDs), WR Gavyn Buchanan (41 catches, 531 yards, five TDs), WR Kyler Rutz (25 catches, 345 yards, four TDs) and LB Mason Grigg (43.5, 10 TFL) and LB Dom Powell (41.5 tackles, seven TFL, six sacks). For Mount Si – QB Nate Donavan (95-164, 1,101 yards, nine TDs), RB Beau Phillips (162 carries, 938 yards, 10 TDs), RB CJ Rose (112 carries, 580 yards, five TDs), WR Jack Taylor (26 catches, 381 yards, four TDs) and DL Brock Gates (65.5 tackles, 10.5 TFL).

What to watch for: Mount Si pulled off the WIAA playoffs biggest upset (at least by seeding) when it knocked off No. 3 seed Camas in the first round (31-14). It will see a similarly-built opponent come to its home stadium Saturday in the Braves, who feature the physical rushing duo of Schmidt and Altahir, and will take play-action deep shots with Woodhouse. But, in reality, this is a matchup about the physical, aggressive fronts on defense, who don't give up much in the trenches. Whoever can win that battle - and force timely turnovers - should come out of an expected low-scoring encounter on top and with a booked trip to the state semifinals.

Pick: Kamiakin, 19-16.