SPORTS: Neah Bay set for state Class 1B football playoffs

WASHOUGAL — The gameplan for Lyle/Wishram is hardly a secret.

Henry Mattai is going to get the ball early, often and even more after that for Class 1B’s fourth-ranked football team.

And if anyone wants to beat the Cougars (7-2 overall), they’re going to have to figure out a way to stop it.

That’s the task at hand for Neah Bay (8-2), which travels 300-plus miles tonight to Washougal to take on Mattai and the rest of the Cougars in the 1B state quarterfinals.

Red Devils head coach Tony McCaulley certainly knows what his young team has to do once the ball is kicked off at 7 p.m.

“They are going to go to him. They’ve got to. That’s what they do. And we’ve got to stop him,” McCaulley said of Mattai, the third-best eight-man football rusher all-time with 6,284 yards in 36 games.

“It’s going to be tough, extremely tough, because he’s really good, but I feel like we’re ready.”

McCaulley has reason for optimism.

Since starting the season on a sour note with a 45-0 loss to No. 2 Lummi, the Red Devils are 8-1 with seven mercy-rule victories and another narrow loss to Lummi (41-30).

That includes a 52-6 drubbing of North Olympic Peninsula rival Quilcene in last week’s 1B preliminary playoff in Silverdale.

Titus Pascua had yet another big game in the win, running for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries and returning the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown.

Josiah Greene added 182 yards of offense with two scores of his own.

Each player has been a big part of the Neah Bay offense, a unit that has helped the Red Devils score an average 50.7 points per game this season.

But McCaulley’s biggest concern isn’t finding the end zone against Lyle. It’s putting the clamps on Mattai that is the worry.

“He probably is the best running back in the state from what I’ve seen,” McCaulley said. “He’s got really good balance. He’s big. He’s extremely strong.

“Our offense, I think we can move the ball. I don’t know how much, but we can move the ball on them.

“It could be [high scoring] but defense in the end will win it. If we’re going to win, we’re going to have to stop the run.”

If that happens, the Red Devils just might get a shot at revenge in the 1B semifinals.

Lummi — the same school that lost to the Red Devils twice last season only to beat them in the 1B semis — takes on Tahola in another quarterfinal Saturday.

If both win this weekend, they will meet each other in the Tacoma Dome for the second straight year.

“We’ve had a go week of practice,” McCaulley said. “I feel pretty upbeat about it.

“[Lyle] is going to be a pretty dang good team, but we feel pretty good about it.”

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