This is a keynote matchup for the River Ridge High School football program every time, coach Steve Schultz said.
It certainly was the first time.
In the first game River Ridge ever played as a member of the Class 2A South Puget Sound League, on Sept. 19, 2014, the Hawks lost to Franklin Pierce, 16-14.
More than two years later — after the third-ranked Hawks (7-0, 6-0 2A SPSL Sound Division) have won 19 straight league games — Schultz still remembers that loss.
“Our first and only league loss was to Franklin Pierce at Franklin Pierce,” he said. “They beat us up there, and I’m still fired up about it.”
There was a questionable call at the end of the game, which resulted in time expiring. Franklin Pierce went on to edge River Ridge out of an outright 2A SPSL title — the two shared it, both finishing 7-1, but the Cardinals held the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“That’s probably the best thing that could have happened to us,” Schultz said. “After that, we walked out of there, and we said no more.”
But really, no more — the Hawks haven’t lost a league game since, and went undefeated to seal their first outright 2A SPSL title last year.
They’ll play for another one at 7 p.m. Friday night at South Sound Stadium. Against, who else, but Franklin Pierce.
“It’s going to be a show,” Schultz said. “Our guys know it, their guys know it, and both teams respond to that kind of hype. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be electric.”
The winner clinches the No. 1 seed out of the 2A SPSL, and will host the 2A Olympic League’s No. 4 — Bremerton (4-4) or Kingston (2-6) — in the district playoffs next week.
The loser is the No. 2, and will play the winner of this week’s game between Lindbergh (5-3) and Orting (4-4).
River Ridge is one of three local football programs playing for a league title this week — Timberline (3A South Sound Conference) and Tumwater (2A Evergreen Conference) are the other two.
Timberline (6-2, 5-1 3A SSC) hosts fifth-ranked Peninsula (8-0, 6-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday at South Sound Stadium for the league’s inaugural title.
“It’s a lot like looking in the mirror,” Timberline coach Mike Spears said. “Two teams with good defenses that rely on the run quite a bit.”
That’s what the Blazers — who last won a league title in 2013, when they beat Lincoln for the 3A Narrows League crown — are focused on this week.
“We really haven’t thought much past this week,” Spears said. “Anybody you play, if you really want to get where you want to get, you have to play them eventually anyway.”
Well, here’s who that could be.
The winner clinches the 3A SSC’s No. 1 seed and will move on to host the 3A Wesco’s No. 6 seed — either Oak Harbor (6-2) or Marysville-Pilchuck (2-6).
The loser is the No. 2 seed, and will host the No. 4 seed out of the Pierce County League, which will be Lakes (4-4) or Stadium (5-3).
Farther south, second-ranked Tumwater (7-1, 3-0 2A EvCo) is vying for its seventh consecutive undefeated league title.
The T-Birds travel to Chehalis to meet unbeaten, ninth-ranked W.F. West (8-0, 4-0) at 7 p.m. on Friday.
That will decide the No. 1 and 2 seeds out of the 2A EvCo. No. 1 hosts the No. 3 seed out of the 2A Greater St. Helens League — which has four teams in Hockinson (6-2), Columbia River (5-3), Washougal (4-4) and Woodland (4-4) competing for playoff spots.
The No. 2 seed out of the 2A EvCo travels to the 2A GSHL No. 2 seed. If Tumwater beats W.F. West, it ensures coach Sid Otton, who will retire at the end of this season, another home game.
Some playoff games in the area are already set. Other programs will wait for an opponent.
Olympia (6-2), which locked up the 4A SPSL No. 3 seed with a win over Puyallup last week, will host Skyview (5-3), the 4A GSHL No. 2, in the first round.
Capital (5-3) is the 3A SSC No. 3 after routing Gig Harbor. It will travel north to Ferndale (7-1), the Wesco’s No. 4.
Black Hills (4-4) will be the No. 3 seed out of the 2A EvCo, regardless of whether it beats Rochester this week. It will travel to the 2A GSHL’s No. 1 seed, which will likely be Hockinson, but could be Columbia River.
Rainier (6-2) doesn’t control its own fate. It could be the 2B Pacific Mountain Division’s No. 3 seed or No. 4 seed. If Adna beats Onalaska this week, Rainier is No. 3. If the opposite happens, Rainier is No. 4.
The Mountaineers would host third-ranked Toledo (8-0) as the No. 4 seed. As the No. 3, they’d host the winner of Kalama (5-3) and Mossyrock (3-5) on Friday.
Seven teams in the area — North Thurston, Shelton, Yelm, Centralia, Rochester, Elma and Tenino — are out.
Olympia’s nonleague football game against Stanwood (3-5), which was originally scheduled for Friday night, has been moved to Thursday, due to a scheduling conflict the Spartans had.
The game will be played at 6 p.m. Thursday at Ingersoll Stadium.
Rainier coach Terry Shaw told The Olympian after Saturday night’s loss to top-ranked Napavine, that the Mountaineers will forfeit their nonleague finale against Washougal on Friday.
Two key players for Rainier, lineman Easton Holmes and Ian Russell, a two-way starter, were injured against Napavine.
“We can’t play (Washougal) with 14 guys,” Shaw said.
PIONEER BOWL DECIDES SOCCER TITLE, AGAIN
The last girls soccer clash between Black Hills (13-2, 8-1 2A EvCo) and Tumwater (14-1, 9-0) went to two overtime periods and a penalty shootout. The T-Birds escaped with a 5-4 shootout to win, 1-0.
This meeting, at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Tumwater District Stadium, will decide the 2A EvCo title.
Black Hills and Tumwater have squabbled over the title for the last four years. The last time neither program won the title was 2012, when W.F. West won, and advanced to the state playoffs.
Tumwater is in a better spot to win the outright championship — a win gives the T-Birds the title. Black Hills has to win by two or more goals to win the title for the fourth straight year.
IOWA OFFERS BRAVERMAN
River Ridge track star Josh Braverman was offered a full ride scholarship from the University of Iowa last week.
Braverman, a senior, won the 2A state title in the 300-meter hurdles last season, and led the state — in all classifications — with his personal-best time of 37.98 seconds for the majority of the season.
Braverman reached the podium in all four events he competed in at the state championships, including the 110 hurdles (second), 200 (fifth) and long jump (sixth).
His former teammate, DeJuan Frye — who won six state titles at River Ridge — is a sophomore on Iowa’s track and field team.