No. 3 Liberty (11-1) vs. No. 2 Lakes (12-0), 1 p.m., Tacoma Dome
The lowdown: Two teams with two different routes to today’s semifinal. Lakes dominated opponents, not allowing a point in its three postseason games. Liberty on the other hand was staring at the possibility of its season ending in each of its three playoff games, including the last two where the Patriots had to overcome fourth-quarter deficits.
The Lancers have scrapped the spread offense for a punishing ground attack that averages 302.3 yards per game, led by tailback Willis Wilson, who has rolled up 1,404 yards and 22 TDs this season. Liberty is an explosive offense led by explosive running back Chandler Jenkins, who has rushed for 1,115 yards and 11 TDs and has 512 yards receiving for 9 TDs.
The News Tribune pick: Lakes will be without standout lineman Sione Potoae, who is serving a one-game suspension. But the Lancers defense is still stout without him and should be able to slow down Jenkins and quarterback Trey Wheeler.
Lakes 35, Liberty 14
No. 4 Union (11-1) vs. No. 1 Bellevue (10-2), 7 p.m., Tacoma Dome
The lowdown: It’s a rematch of last year’s 3A championship game, in which a veteran Bellevue squad dominated an inexperienced, but talented Titans team, 35-6. Union will know what to expect this season as it lost only a handful of starters from last season’s team. The key will be the whether Union can figure out Bellevue’s confusing Wing-T offense. Titan linebacker Taylor Nelson is one of the best in the state and will try and stop shifty Bellevue quarterback Kendrick Van Ackeren, who is the latest master of misdirection for the Wolverines.
The News Tribune pick: Union won’t be quite as intimidated and overwhelmed as last season. It also has an understanding of what Bellevue does and how difficult it is to stop the Wing-T. Look for Union’s talented receiver/kick returner Mitch Saylor to make at least two game-changing plays.
Union 31, Bellevue 28
Lummi (9-3) vs. No. 2 Neah Bay (12-0), 4 p.m., Tacoma Dome
The lowdown: Well, it’s not like these teams aren’t familiar with each other. The two schools have already played twice this season with Neah Bay prevailing 28-22 on Sept. 26 and 50-30 on Halloween. Neah Bay isn’t a perennial power in 1B, while Lummi seems to be playing in the Tacoma Dome every season. The Red Devils have two forfeit wins, but they have still pummeled opponents this season. Their closest win was last week’s 20-14 win over Lake Quinault. Lummi made it to the semifinals thanks to a running game, and not the passing game it usually relies on. Quarterback Kyle Finkbonner and running back Eddy Williams are both explosive runners. Finkbonner is also a capable passer as well.
The News Tribune pick: Neah Bay may have beat Lummi twice in the regular season, but the Tacoma Dome and the lights of the semifinals has a way of making inexperienced teams struggle. Lummi has plenty of playoff and T-Dome experience and that will pay off in the end.
Lummi 28, Neah Bay 24