Kentlake (4-3) at Kentwood (5-2)
7 p.m. today at French Field
The lowdown: Winner not only sweeps the other three city programs, but will move on to the playoffs. If Kentwood extends its series win streak to six, it clinches SPSL North’s No. 2 seed.
Why the Falcons will win: They won’t even remember they had a four-game skid before last week’s 21-0 shutout victory over Auburn Riverside if they can beat the big-boy program tonight. Kentlake has little margin for error. Establishing RB Taylor Angevine (92 rushes, 561 yards, two TDs) early should open passing lanes for QB Lewi Larson (72-of-163, 733 yards, five TDs).
Why the Conquerors will win: Kentwood has won five consecutive games, and it comes down to one primary reason – forcing turnovers. At one point, the Conks were at minus-1 in turnover ratio. Now, they’re plus-16. The interior of the defensive line, led by DTs Greg Humphreys and Nathan Herrick, and NG Robert Sims, has been dominant.
The News Tribune pick: Can’t see the Conquerors losing and leaving a home playoff game on the table.
Kentwood 23, Kentlake 12
No. 4 Orting (8-0) at No. 5 Cascade Christian (7-1)
7 p.m. Saturday at Sunset Chev Stadium
The lowdown: One of these two programs has won the past three Nisqually titles. Cascade Christian snapped a two-game losing streak to Orting with a 27-21 road win en route to the 2007 league championship.
Why the Cardinals will win: They have athletes everywhere, but it’s their aggressive nature that needs to be reeled in Saturday. If Orting overpursues – a big reason why it’s only giving up 43 rushing yards per game – the Cougars have patient tailbacks who use cutback lanes for long runs. On offense, QB Nick Wilkins (108-of-185, 1,536 yards, 19 TDs) hasn’t thrown an interception in five games.
Why the Cougars will win: Cascade Christian’s advantage comes on the defensive line with mobile DLs Neil Fuhrmann, Taylor Colton and Matt McDonald. QB Ben Johnson (70-of-94, 807 yards, 12 TDs) returns after a broken hand sidelined him for two games.
The News Tribune pick: The offenses should have the upper hand, and a healthy Wilkins should be better than a rusty Johnson.
Orting 34, Cascade Christian 31
Centralia (6-2) at No. 3 Tumwater (8-0)
7 p.m. today at Tumwater Stadium
The lowdown: Tumwater has never lost in EvCo play (20-game winning streak), and a win today would earn the No. 1 playoffs seed for the Thunderbirds. Centralia won 9-6 at Tumwater in 2004, its last victory in the series.
Why the Tigers will win: They have tradition, they punish teams with the wing-T, and they’ve won four of their past five games, including a 21-3 decision over W.F. West to claim the "Swamp Cup." Centralia likes to play uptempo, and has explosive inside-outside punch in RBs Zach Baldwin (1,046 yards, first 10th grader in program history to crack 1,000 yards) and Devon Hughes (755 yards).
Why the Thunderbirds will win: Coach Sid Otton prefers to grind drives out on the ground, but has loosened the reins on QB Rocky Hinkle (50-of-83, 1,081 yards, 16 TDs), who has flashy targets in TE Daniel DeVries (team-leading nine TDs) and WR Kyle Warner (16 catches, 262 yards).
The News Tribune pick: This figures to be a track meet, and that suits the Thunderbirds just fine.
Tumwater 40, Centralia 28
Sumner (4-4) at Bonney Lake (4-4)
7 p.m. today at Sunset Chev Stadium
The lowdown: Both teams need a win – and help – to earn the fourth and final spot to the playoffs. The teams have split two meetings, with Bonney Lake winning last year, 41-6.
Why the Spartans will win: Coach Keith Ross is a realist about rivalry games. "Throw out schemes. Kids win this game," he said. And Sumner intends to be physical with RBs Ryan Halvorsen (86 rushes, 549 yards, five TDs) and Alex Griffith (94 rushes, 413 yards, two TDs), but needs to take shots with WR Zeric Cage (seven total TDs) deep.
Why the Panthers will win: They’ve got the easiest route to earning a playoff spot if they win and Peninsula beats Franklin Pierce in Purdy. Coach Jeff Gardner said he’ll likely get updates on that game from the press box. RB Aaron Quevedo (73 rushes, 596 yards, six TDs) will play with a broken toe.
The News Tribune pick: Preseason SPSL 3A contender Panthers take adventurous route to getting back to postseason.
Bonney Lake 21, Sumner 20
BEST IN STATE
No. 6 West Seattle (8-0) vs. No . 7 Eastside Catholic (7-1)
7:30 p.m. today at Memorial Stadium, Seattle
The Wildcats haven’t won a league title since 1961. The Crusaders have gone without one since 1993. One of them will break through when the two teams square off for the Metro League championship. West Seattle is led by speedy playmakers Aaron Grymes and T.J. Lee. Eastside Catholic boasts a big weapon in Marion Bactol, who has returned three punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns.
The News Tribune pick: West Seattle 33, Eastside Catholic 27.