As big as the excitement level is around Tenino High School, where the possibility is brewing of the football team’s first league title since 1986, the excitement is equally frothy 11 miles west across Interstate 5 in Rochester, which hasn’t worn a league crown since 1999.
“These kids are entering a new realm they’ve never been in before,” first-year Rochester coach Eric Snelson said.
Added Tenino coach Jeff Zenisek: “It’s the first time since I’ve been here they’ve had this opportunity to control their own destiny.”
Never before has the 1A Southwest Washington Evergreen Division come down to two south Thurston County teams, but here are Rochester (6-2 overall, 4-1 league) and Tenino (4-4, 4-1), playing Friday night in front of what’s expected to be a capacity crowd at Tenino High.
The winner will get at least a share of the league title – both are in the playoffs – but the outcome of the Elma-Montesano game will dictate whether Rochester or Tenino clinch the title outright and where in the playoffs they’ll be seeded.
Rochester running back Tyler
Yarber leads South Sound in rushing with 1,664 yards on 224 carries with 18 touchdowns, including a career-best 369 yards on 43 carries and five touchdowns in last week’s 49-27 non-league win over Stevenson.
The Beavers counter with Zach Chamberlain, who is closing in on 1,000 yards after a 152-yard performance in last week’s 39-32 come-from-behind win over Hoquiam – a game in which Tenino scored 26 fourth-quarter points behind sophomore quarterback Calvin Guzman.
It’s the second time in five games Guzman has rallied Tenino; he had all three touchdowns in the team’s 21-20 triple-overtime win at Forks. After the Beavers’ 0-3 start, Zenisek said he likes the progress the 6-foot-2 Guzman has made, and complimented his decision-making abilities.
“That’s been a big plus for us,” Zenisek said “He’s become a true weapon on throwing and running, and that’s what you really want.”
MORE PLAYOFF DRAMA
There are more playoff spots on the line in other leagues, too.
The 2A Evergreen Conference’s third and final seed is up for grabs.
If Capital beats River Ridge on Friday, the Cougars are the No. 3 seed.
But things will get tricky if the Hawks top Capital. If River Ridge wins, and Black Hills beats top-ranked Tumwater in the Pioneer Bowl, the Wolves will get the No. 3 seed outright.
But a River Ridge win, plus a Black Hills loss means a mini-playoff will be held Tuesday between Black Hills, Capital and River Ridge at a time and location to be determined, said Scott Chamberlain, EvCo football commissioner and W.F. West athletic director.
In the 4A Narrows, Olympia’s playoff future hinges on a must-win against Yelm on Friday.
If the Bears win and if Gig Harbor beats Bellarmine Prep, Olympia will be the No. 2 seed. A win over Yelm, a Bellarmine Prep win over Gig Harbor and a South Kitsap win over Central Kitsap clinches the No. 3 seed for Olympia.
The 2A District IV girls soccer tournament kicks off Saturday with a doubleheader at Tumwater District Stadium. Black Hills, the 2A Evergreen Conference champ, plays host to W.F. West at 4:30 p.m.; Tumwater and Mark Morris play at 7 p.m. Capital, the No. 3 seed, travels to Hockinson for a 6 p.m. game. …
District cross-country is Saturday at American Lake (4A and 3A), Lewisville Park (2A), Lewis River Golf Course (1A) and Mossyrock Park (2B, 1B). … The 4A and 3A Narrows League volleyball tournament is Saturday at Mount Tahoma. The top six teams in each division advance to the one-day district tournament. In 4A, Olympia faces Stadium at 10 a.m. in a loser-out, winner-to-district match. In 3A, North Thurston plays Wilson in a loser-out, winner-to-district match, and Shelton and Timberline automatically advance to the 4 p.m. title match with the No. 1 seed to district at stake. …
At Capitol City Tennis and Athletic Center, the 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict boys tennis tournament starts at 8 a.m. both Friday and Saturday. Olympia’s Jamie Bautista (singles), and Kyle Wooten and Will Berghoff (doubles) are No. 1 seeds after winning 4A Narrows League titles. The 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament is Friday and Saturday at Spanaway’s Sprinker Recreation Center.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/ south-sound-sports-blog @megwochnick