TACOMA — Neah Bay and its Class 1B Gridiron Classic foe Liberty Bell both feature potent offenses and stingy defenses, but the similarities between the two eight-man football state finalists end there.
The two teams will match up for the 1B crown at noon Saturday at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma with Neah Bay going for its fifth trophy in its eighth state championship appearance overall. This will be the Red Devils’ first state title game since the 2016 season capped a string of four titles in six years.
Liberty Bell (10-2) will be playing for the school’s first football title.
Much like those 2011-2016 Neah Bay squads, the No. 2-seeded Red Devils (10-0) utilize their size, strength and speed to brutalize opponents with a power rushing scheme.
Lead back Jodell Wimberly has churned up 1,735 rushing yards on 143 attempts (12.13 yards per carry) with 24 touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Julian Carrick is nearly as dangerous, piling up 1,026 yards on 71 carries, including 26 touchdowns.
Carrick was named a WIAA Student-Athlete of the Week this week for his state semifinal performance in an 82-24 win over Liberty Christian in which he totaled 235 rushing yards and six scores, plus an interception on defense.
Neah Bay is a firm believer in the old adage ascribed to former Texas head coach Darrell Royal: “There are three things that can happen when you throw a pass and two of them are bad (incomplete passes and interceptions).”
Carrick has unleashed just 27 passes this season, throwing for 457 yards and nine TDs.
Liberty Bell meanwhile, threw the ball 26 times alone in its state semifinal thumping of No. 1 seed Odessa.
Quarterback Riley Lidey is 153 of 218 through the air for 2,501 yards and 50 TDs, while also rushing 90 times for 880 yards and 11 scores.
The Mountain Lions also feature running backs Remy and Lucien Paz, brothers who have combined to rush for more than 1,600 yards and 16 TDs, and each tallied more than 100 tackles defensively.
Head coaches Kane Bachelor and Jeff Lidey are new to coaching championship games, but the Red Devils have the intangible advantage on their sideline.
Assistant coach Tony McCaulley guided Neah Bay to a 4-1 record in state title games from 2011-2016 as head coach, while fellow assistant TJ Greene was the Red Devils’ defensive coordinator and fellow assistant Tyler McCaulley was a pivotal piece of the Neah Bay attack during their run at the top of 1B.
The 1B Gridiron Classic Championship kicks off at noon at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma. The game will be broadcast live on the subscription streaming service NFHS. The cost for one month is around $11.
Tickets for the title game are $16 for adults, $11 for seniors, students and active military.
According to the WIAA, there will be no cash sales for entry into the contest. Tickets must be purchased online at https://wiaa.com/subcontent.aspx?SecID=332. There will be an opportunity to purchase tickets at the venue using your phone, and staff will be present to assist people through the process.
Contact sports reporter Michael Carman at firstname.lastname@example.org.