Class 1A State Football Semifinals La Center at Meridian
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Site: Civic Stadium, Bellingham
What’s at stake: Winner moves on to the 1A state championship game, where it will face Newport or Royal at 1 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Tacoma Dome. The loser is eliminated.
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Previous state playoff meetings: La Center won a 2012 first-round meeting in 29-13; Meridian won a 2006 first-round game 21-8 and a 2003 semifinal 28-26.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
Coach: John Lambert (19th season)
Seed: Southwest District No. 2
State appearances (last): 11 (2016)
State playoff record: 9-11
Semifinal appearances (last): Two (2016)
Semifinal record: 0-2
State titles: None
It took La Center three overtimes, but it managed to get past Cascade Christian 41-35 in the state quarterfinals Saturday. Tanner Dreyer, Evan Honore and Jackson Leslie stopped Cougars running back Madden Tobeck at the half-yard line on fourth-and-goal to prevent a potential game-tying TD. Wyatt Dodson rushed for 197 yards and three TDs on 36 carries, while Jackson Leslie had a season best 136 yards and a TD on six catches, while quarterback Hayden Williamson scored the eventual game-winner on a 5-yard run. Dodson leads the team with 1,475 yards and 16 TDs, though Colin Namanny has added 511 yards and seven TDs. Four other ball carriers, including Williamson (292 yards, 9 TDs), have at least 200 yards rushing. Williamson has added 1,266 yards and 15 TDs passing, with Evan Honore (42 catches, 620 yards, 6 TDs) and Leslie (28 catches, 451 yards, 4 TDs) his top targets. After losing the first two games of the year to 2A semifinalist Hockinson and Woodland, the Wildcats enter Saturday having won 10 straight.
at King’s Way Christian*
at Castle Rock*
at Cascade Christian
*1A Trico League game
SCOUTING THE TROJANS
Coach: Bob Ames (44th season)
Seed: Northwest District No. 1
State appearances (last): 24th (2016)
State playoff record: 32-20
Semifinal appearances (last): Nine (2010)
Semifinal record: 5-4
State titles: Three (1999, 2003, ’06)
Meridian earned its first trip to the state semifinals since 2010 with Saturday’s 28-7 victory over Montesano in the quarterfinals. Simon Burkett had his second 101-yard rushing performance in as many state playoff games this year, adding a pair of touchdowns. He had two others called back by penalty, but passed for 151 yards and two scores. Bryce Vandenhaak, who rushed for 52 yards, was his top target with four catches for 80 yards and a TD, while TJ Dykstra caught two passes for 16 yards and a score. Burkett, Vandenhaak and Cole Roberts each have rushed for more than 500 yards this season, while Vandenhaak has 53 receptions for 1,353 yards and 19 TDs. Burkett has passed for 3,293 yards and 40 scores. Lukas Hemenway (581 yards, 5 TDs) and Tony Schleimer (423 yards, 5 TDs) and Dawson Logan (266 yards, 5 TDs) give Burkett plenty of weapons. Defense has been key to the Trojans’ postseason run, as the unit has surrendered only 17 points in three games (two other TDs were scored with the offense on the field).
at Lynden Christian*
at Nooksack Valley*
at Mount Baker*
Bothell Cedar Park Christian
*1A NWC game
Key to the game: Stars carry you this time of year, which means Meridian will likely lean heavily on Burkett, who’s shown he’s plenty poised and capable of taking on that burden. With all the different ways Meridian can utilize its playmakers, look for the Trojans to find different ways for Burkett to exploit matchups and get Meridian in the end zone.
Prediction: Meridian 35-24