PREP FOOTBALL: Neah Bay and Liberty Christian meet again in state title game
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Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News
Neah Bay’s Cole Svec (16) runs behind the blocking of Cameron Buzzell (14) against Tulalip Heritage earlier this season. The Red Devils play in their fourth consecutive Class 1B state championship game Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
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Roger Harnack/The Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle
Liberty Christian's John Lesser runs for a few of his 294 yards last week against Republic. Lesser scored the winning touchdown against Neah Bay as a freshman in the 2012 state championship game.

By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News

TACOMA — For the fourth straight year, Neah Bay will play for the Class 1B state championship.

That's a mighty accomplishment that speaks to the quality of the program, from the players to the coaches.

Also speaking to the quality of the program, though, is that merely playing in the state championship isn't enough.

“It's not done yet,” senior Josh Monette said after the Red Devils win over Lummi last week.

“We've got one more, and then I'll see how I feel because we got to get that one more.”

In its three most recent trips to the state championship game, Neah Bay has won twice, in 2011 and 2013.

The Red Devils lost to Liberty Christian 34-28 in the 2012 championship game when the Patriots scored on the last play of the game.

They haven't lost since, winning 24 consecutive games.

They get a chance to even the score when they face Liberty Christian (12-0) of Richland at the Tacoma Dome on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Neah Bay coach Tony McCaulley is more focused on the 2014 state championship than the 2012 state title game.

“This is a whole different team. The only thing that's the same is they're Liberty Christian and we're Neah Bay,” McCaulley said.

“It's two different teams, and we're playing for a state championship.

“They're the last team we lost to . . . so if we want to stay with our undefeated record, we need to win.

“That's the only bit of feel we've got for them.”

The Red Devils (12-0) are painfully familiar with Liberty Christian's star player, John Lesser.

It was Lesser, then a freshman running back, who took a pitch and scored from 2 yards out as time expired to deny Neah Bay the repeat in 2012.

Now Lesser is the Patriots' starting quarterback. He has run for 1,826 yards and 29 touchdowns, and thrown for 1,255 yards and 19 scores.

In last week's 46-20 semifinal win over Republic, Lesser gained 294 yards on the ground and passed for 108 while contributing to six touchdowns.

“He's good. That's not the only one, though: they've got three guys that are pretty fast fellas,” McCaulley said.

Neah Bay's offense is led by sophomore running back Cole Svec, who has 1,419 yards rushing — he averages 11.4 yards per carry — with 25 touchdowns.

Svec gets most of the touches, but the Red Devils' quiver is loaded with offensive weapons, including Chris Martinez, Collin Haupt, John Reamer, Cameron Buzzell and Elisha Winck.

Despite the shiny statistics, not much will come easy for either offense.

Neah Bay's defense held opponents to 17.5 points per game, while Liberty Christian only allowed 18.6 — both impressive clips for wide-open 8-man football.

The Patriots' 4-3-1 defense is led by senior defensive ends Cody Daniels and Robby Heimann.

The Red Devils rely heavily on seniors such as Josh Monette, Reamer, Winck, Martinez and Haupt, along with defensive backs Svec and Buzzell, sophomores with extensive experience.

These stout defenses will probably make Saturday's game similar to Neah Bay's 26-20 win over Lummi last week, in which every yard was earned.

The Red Devils have more experience in such games this season, with three wins over Lummi by a combined 30 points.

Liberty Christian's closest game was a 62-46 shootout with Touchet.

Then again, Neah Bay romped to the state title last year with an 18-point win over Touchet in the championship being the closest game. The rest were won by 32 points or more.

Just like in 2012, Saturday's showdown likely will be decided by which team can capitalize the most off of the other's mistakes.

The Red Devils fumbled three times in the first half as Liberty Christian jumped out to a 20-8 lead.

Neah Bay clawed its way back into the game, tying it at 28-28 with 2:49 remaining in the fourth quarter before the Patriots' game-winning drive.

Broadcast information

Saturday's state championship game will be aired live on Forks 1490 and www.forks1490.com. Oly Archibald and Pete Haubrick will provide the play-by-play action.

The game also can be viewed online through the WIAA's website for a cost of $9.95.

Go to www.tinyurl.com/pdnWatchGame, and click the link in the upper-right-hand corner.

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Sports Editor Lee Horton can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at lhorton@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 04. 2014 5:53PM
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