Bantams, Panthers, Pirates prep get ready for playoff football

Nov. 10—Washington football playoffs are starting this week and three teams in the area have a chance to claim the title of best in their classification. The Pomeroy Pirates, Asotin Panthers and Clarkston Bantams will be playing in the Washington Class 1B, 2B and 2A state tournaments, respectively.

Pomeroy has a chance to continue its program's rise and cement itself as a top-tier 1B team, and Asotin and Clarkston hope to continue doing what both teams have done the whole season: defy expectations.

Here's a preview on this week's games:

Clarkston vs. Woodland, noon Saturday, Clarkston High School

The Bantams (7-2, 5-1) started the season 2-2, but haven't lost a game since on their way to becoming the Washington Class 2A Greater Spokane League champions.

Their journey to the state playoffs was traveled on the backs of a dangerous passing attack and a sneaky-good run game. Clarkston quarterback Carter Steinwand has been the engine for both.

Woodland (8-2, 7-1) runs a multiple defense as they present several different defensive fronts in an effort to confuse the offense. Steinwand's dual-threat ability helps mitigate the threats of a multiple defense some. But Clarkston coach Brycen Bye has been putting a heavy emphasis on the Bantams' overall run game this week in practice.

The goal is to be as fluid as possible, turning the Beavers' discipline in its multiple defensive fronts into jumbled chaos.

"We feel good that our offensive line has a lot of seniors who have seen (their defense), a lot of it," Bye said. "But (Woodland) is going to bring a challenge on our offense because they're so multiple in what they do, it's going to be really tough. ... The thing about running a lot of different things is that there are weaknesses in every defense that can be exploited."

The Bantams' defense will also have its hands full.

Elijah Andersen, the 2A Greater St. Helens League MVP, will be the player to stop for the Clarkston defensive unit. Andersen is the Beavers' leading rusher, receiver and occasionally lines up for them at quarterback, depending on the formation.

The Bantams are used to facing multi-tooled athletes under center: Aaron Kinsey from Rogers High School and Ethan Turley of West Valley High School. Clarkston faced West Valley during its early-season struggles and allowed 42 points in the loss but won 39-12 against Rogers during its five-game win streak.

Saturday's game will come down to which team is more disciplined and makes the least amount of mistakes. If the Bantams play like they have during their streak, it's hard to foresee a more disciplined team on the same field.

Asotin vs. River View, 7 p.m. today at Fran Rish Stadium, Richland, Wash.

Before this year, the current Panthers players hadn't experienced a winning season of high school football. This year that changed with Asotin getting its first winning season since 2019.

The Panthers (8-2, 5-1) have won six straight after starting the season 2-2, a testament to the coaching staff and continued growth of the players.

If Asotin wants to make it seven straight and continue its season, it'll have to do so against the River View Panthers (9-1, 4-0). The only loss the rival Panthers had was against Northeast 2B champions, Northwest Christian — a team that also beat Asotin.

River View also played against another Northeast 2B team in Liberty. These matches against league foes has given Asotin some game film to scout and practice for, so the Panthers aren't going into their first state playoff game in four years blind.

"We were kind of fortunate," Asotin coach Jim Holman said. "They present a pretty similar challenge to what we've seen the last two weeks against Lind-Ritzville and against Manson. They're kind of a culmination of physicality and they'll sling the ball around a little bit, too. ... We've been able to rep the same things for the last two weeks."

Often facing such a combination of speed and power can wear teams down, but the offense and defense of Asotin has grown. It won against teams with a similar makeup and has built a winning mentality. Asotin has gone from a team hoping to win to a team that knows it can win.

Several players' development has been key. Quarterback Cody Ells and wide receiver Gavin Ells has become one of the best connections in the league, running back Peter Eggleston is a bruiser, running back/kicker Cameron Clovis is a do-it-all player and the offensive and defensive lines have become strong units on the field.

On defense, Asotin will need to go with what worked against Lind-Ritzville and Manson to tire out the speedsters on River View. On offense, the Panthers will need to utilize the versatility between the run and pass game to keep the rival Panthers guessing. If Asotin does that, pretty much exactly what it's done over the last two weeks, the Panthers will be looking at a seven-game win streak and a quarterfinal appearance in the state playoffs.

Pomeroy vs. Naselle, 1 p.m. Saturday, Pomeroy High School

The Pirates (9-1, 8-1) have been going with what works for them the whole season and doesn't look like it's going to stop on Saturday.

Pomeroy has relied on its physical running attack to wear down teams en route to a second-place finish in the Washington Class 1B Southeast League and has gotten contributions from several reserve players in a recent string of blowout wins.

The Pirates have familiarity with Naselle (9-1. 5-1). They hosted the Comets in a playoff game in 2021 and ended up falling short 72-42.

"They're a very, very well-coached, very good football team," Pomeroy coach Kyle Kimble said. "As far as our preparation, we've been doing what we've normally been doing during game week. ... Kids are focused, kids are intense, kids are watching a lot of film. They understand Naselle, they understand what's at stake."

Naselle's 2023 team and Pomeroy's 2021 team have a lot in common. Both teams had (or have, in the Comets' case) speedy athletes at running back and linebacker. They find the open gaps quickly and aren't afraid to turn on the burners.

Kimble sees the similarities between the squads, but he's confident in this year's team to come out with the win the same way it has the whole year: with discipline and a winning mentality.

If Naselle does manage to neutralize the capable running game of the Pirates, Pomeroy's Jett Slusser is a more-than-capable passer.

But the Pirates' first priority will be wearing down and tiring out the other team with its bruising running attack and hard-hitting defense.

"We got big, physical players who want to play football and keep this thing rolling," Kimble said. "I think it should be a good battle on Saturday. Looking forward to hosting them."

Kowatsch can be contacted at 208-848-2268, or on Twitter @Teren_Kowatsch.