If Skyline beats Gonzaga Prep on Saturday, coach Mat Taylor will become the first coach in Washington history to win five 4A state titles.
But that topic isn’t much of a conversation starter for Taylor, who would rather talk about his teams — especially the current one, which will try to defeat the unbeaten Bullpups at the Tacoma Dome.
“This has been one of the most rewarding years in all of my coaching career,” Taylor said. “All the years I’ve been coaching is kind of like having 17 different kids: You don’t want to talk bad about one of the others. But this year’s group has had a tremendous amount of adversity and continually impressed not only myself but the fans up here with the heart and the grit these kids have. (They) just keep getting better and better each week, and I’m excited to see what they can do on Saturday.”
One way these Spartans are different is under center. Skyline and Taylor won their previous titles behind nationally top-rated quarterbacks Jake Heaps (2008, 2009) and Max Browne (2011, 2012).
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College recruiters aren’t as sold on current quarterback Blake Gregory, although Taylor disagrees.
“When colleges came around this past offseason, I told them I know he doesn’t have the national attention that some of the other quarterbacks at our school have before, but that he’s right up there with those kids,” Taylor said. “… He can really run. … We’re going to let him loose. I think he’s up to almost 3,000 yards passing now, 33 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He’s only thrown five intercepts in 23 games. Just makes great decisions.”
He’ll need to against Gonzaga Prep, which comes in with a 13-0 record. Skyline is 12-1, and if they get that 13th win, Taylor will move ahead of Chiawana coach Steve Graff and former Curtis coach Bob Lucey with four 4A titles each.
“This will be the best front seven that we’ve gone against this year,” Taylor said. “They’re very impressive. … It’s going to be a tremendous battle, and I think it’s going to be won in the trenches.”
Class 4A state final
No. 5 Gonzaga Prep (13-0) vs. No. 6 Skyline (12-1)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Tacoma Dome
Coaches: Dave McKenna is in his eighth season at Gonzaga Prep (68-19 record). Mat Taylor is in his eighth season at Skyline (91-14 record).
Road to Gridiron Classic: Gonzaga Prep beat Battle Ground in the first round (42-14), Woodinville in the quarterfinals (28-18), and Richland in the semifinals (31-17). Skyline beat Gig Harbor in the first round (17-15), Camas in the quarterfinals (35-10), and Lake Stevens in the semifinals (37-34).
About the Bullpups: Don’t expect Gonzaga Prep’s Liam Bell versus Skyline’s Blake Gregory to produce the gaudy passing stats like in last week’s semifinal between Gregory and Jacob Eason of Lake Stevens. Bell can make plays with his arm and legs, but Gonzaga Prep mostly needs him to play turnover-free. If running game breaks down, Bullpups will turn to Cal commit Evan Weaver (789 rushing yards, 15 TDs).
About the Spartans: A lot of balance in this offense. Colorado State commit Rashaad Boddie (243 carries, 1,716 yards, 19 TDs) can jump start the run game, but when Gregory (185 of 204 passing, 2,936 yards, 31 TDs) can throw for 436 yards like he did last week against Lake Stevens, this offense hits another level. Defensively, WR/DB Danny Sinatro (36 catches, 686 yards 11 TDs) has eight interceptions, including the game-clinching pick last week.
TNT pick: Skyline, 24-21