By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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Both teams harbor resentment for past losses, and will try to avenge those setbacks when they square off Saturday at at 4 p.m. at the Tacoma Dome.
Lummi lost to the Red Devils 48-28 in September after it went the entire second half without scoring a point.
But the Blackhawks have last November on their minds.
Lummi beat the Red Devils twice in the 2011 season, but in the state quarterfinals, Neah Bay came from 20 points behind to beat the Blackhawks on its way to the school’s first state title.
“We told [our team] after losing in the quarterfinals that we would be playing Neah Bay in the semifinals [this year],” Lummi coach Jim Sandusky told the Peninsula Daily News earlier this week.
“We started preparing the day after.”
The Red Devils, despite winning the last two games between the teams, still remember all the times the Blackhawks sent them home early from the playoffs.
“We haven’t beaten them in the semifinals,” Neah Bay coach Tony McCaulley said.
“The semifinals are a whole different ballgame. It’s big-time football.”
To add to their Lummi win streak, the Red Devils need to stick to their normal game plan.
“We kind of wear on teams, wear them out physically,” McCaulley said.
Not that [Lummi] isn’t physical, but we did that to them the last two times.”
Neah Bay might also have to come from behind, as it has in its two recent wins over the Blackhawks.
“Lummi gets up on you. They gamble defensively and try to jump on you fast,” McCaulley said.
“As a coach, you hate to get behind, [but] we’re a confident team that doesn’t give up.”
While the Red Devils focus is to keep doing what they do at a high level, McCaulley said Lummi is more prone to make significant adjustments.
Sandusky said the Blackhawks already have.
Since playing Neah Bay earlier this season, players have been moved around, though Sandusky declined to give specific examples.
“It has just been putting guys where they could make more plays,” he said.
Sandusky said his team’s mindset has changed, too, since September.
“I’ve never seen them as focused as they have been the last six weeks,” he said.
Both coaches see two evenly matched teams in Neah Bay and Lummi, which is something they don’t see often.
“The exciting thing for both of us is we know it will be a good game,” Sandusky said.
“That doesn’t happen often for either of us.”
The only 8-man game either team has played in which the final score was within 35 points was the matchup with each other. (Lummi other loss on the season was a 26-14 setback in an 11-man game with LaConner).
The Blackhawks haven’t faced a quarterback like Neah Bay’s Josiah Greene, Lummi quarterback Jared Tom hasn’t had to work as hard to lead his offense to the end zone as he will against the Red Devils.
Sandusky and McCaulley have a lot of respect for their rivals, who are separated by 200 miles and approximately five hours of travel.
McCaulley said his team can afford to make mistakes because the Blackhawks “take full advantage of every and any weakness.”
Sandusky, who said he talks to McCaulley during the season and throughout the offseason, calls Neah Bay’s offense “a machine.”
“Stopping the run is hard enough, but now they’re much better at passing the ball,” Sandusky said.
“It’s going to be quite the chore.”
Since Neah Bay and Lummi are so equal, both coaches said protecting the ball will be crucial, and could be the deciding factor.
“The last seven years, the only time we lost to them is when we gave up the ball more than they did,” Sandusky said.
On radio, online
The semifinal game, which is set to kick off at 4 p.m., will be broadcast live on Forks 1490 and online at www.forks1490.com.
Oly Archibald will call the play-by-play action.