NEAH BAY — On the field, it’s a take-no-prisoners battle to the end. Off the field, it’s an extended family full of hugs and respect and shared meals.
Neah Bay and Lummi will be meeting for the seventh time in eight years in the State 1B Semifinals Saturday (Everett Stadium, 4 p.m.). Simply put, to get to the state championship, the two teams pretty much have to go through each other. And it’s been that way for a while now.
Once upon a time, Lummi had Neah Bay’s number in the rivalry, beating the Red Devils in “all the big games,” said Neah Bay head coach Tony McCaulley.
But, from 2011 to 2014, Neah Bay beat Lummi every year in the postseason. Lummi finally got its revenge last year, beating Neah Bay 26-20 in the State 1B semifinal. That playoff win by Lummi was also monumental because it broke a Neah Bay 35-game winning streak. Ten months later in September, Lummi won again by the exact same margin 36-30 in a regular-season game. It remains Neah Bay’s only loss of the year.
This year, the two Northwest 1B teams meet on Saturday with one loss between them. Neah Bay (9-1) is ranked No. 3. Lummi (11-0) is ranked No. 1.
It will be the eighth straight year the two school meet in the football postseason and the fifth straight time in the semifinals.
McCaulley it’s a “pretty intense” rivalry. One that extends past football as almost all of the Neah Bay and Lummi kids play basketball and see each other all over again on basketball courts in the winter.
“But, there’s also a lot of respect. We get together after the game, talk, have dinner, prayers. Between the white lines, it’s intense,” he said.
McCaulley thinks it will be important for the Red Devils to come into Saturday’s game and be fired up from the start. One difference in the tight rivalry he saw in the previous two losses is that Neah Bay .
“I think in both of those games, we started a little flat,” he said. “They had us figured out early.”
In fact, in 2015 semifinal, Lummi got out to a 26-0 lead and Neah Bay roared back with 20 points in the fourth quarter, but the Red Devils’ comeback fell one score short.
Again, in September, Lummi got out to a 24-6 lead and withstood a furious Neah Bay comeback in the second half to hold on.
Another big factor will be turnovers. In both of those Neah Bay losses, Lummi won the battle of turnovers. And one turnover, especially late in the game, can decide the contest.
“A play here and a play there make all the difference,” McCaulley said.
The Red Devils have been practicing in mud and rain to get ready for less-than-ideal conditions and to learn the importance of keeping their hands on the ball.
There are expected to be showers in Saturday’s game at Everett Stadium, but it is FieldTurf, so there won’t be any mud.
The game will be broadcast on Forks Radio 1490 AM.
The other State 1B semifinal will be Sunnyside Christian versus Odessa-Harrington. The 1B State Championship will be held Dec. 3 at the Tacoma Dome.