To hear Meridian Coach Bob Ames talk, Friday's state Class A semifinal football game between his Trojans and Eatonville will be the biggest mismatch since Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed, if not David vs. Goliath.
Meridian, of Bellingham, has a 10-1 record and ranked ninth in the final state poll; Eatonville is undefeated through 11 games and rated No. 1.
Still, Ames suggests that his team's best option may be to hide under the Tacoma Dome carpet for the 2:30 p.m. game Friday.
"Well, I've had our kids practicing punts and kick-off returns, because I think we're going to be seeing a lot of those," Ames said.
"My biggest problem is making sure everyone shows up. I think we're all awed. I had my assistants scout Eatonville (in a 49-20 quarterfinal victory over Elma), and I think they're all putting their resumes together to see if they can get on (Cruisers coach) Steve Gervais' staff."
So far, the aw-shucks approach has not struck a responsive chord in Eatonville.
"Yeah, I've heard the things Bob Ames has been saying, I've read the quotes by him in the paper and I've talked to him," Gervais said. "It's getting pretty deep."
Eatonville will be led by sophomore quarterback Bobby Lucht (6 feet 1, 175 pounds), who has thrown for more than 2,000 yards and 35 touchdowns.
"He's probably the second coming of Joe Namath," Ames quipped.
Gervais calls his quarterback "a natural passer," but stresses that the entire offense doesn't rest on his shoulders.
"In fact," he said, "the past few games we've run more than we've passed because teams are preoccupied with stopping Bobby. We'll take advantage of what the defense gives us."
Eatonville has a pair of running backs that rotate through the Cruisers' one-back offense. Senior Joe Dorn earned the starting job, but was injured until the sixth game. In his place, Ben Zurlo ran for 1,600 yards and scored 30 touchdowns - 20 on the ground, 10 more as a receiver.
With Dorn back, Gervais said he likes to alternate the two between running back and receiver, a strategy that worked last week against Elma, when each back scored a touchdown on his first carry.
"Those are both horses - I think Steve's biggest challenge is making sure there are enough oats to go around," Ames said. "There's the difference between us: he has horses; I have ponies."
Ames' ponies have galloped behind a balanced offense.
Quarterback Bob Bennum is a three-year starter and is described by his coach as something of a show-off.
"A lot of people have told me I should wipe the mustard off him - yeah, he's a hot dog," Ames said. "He's just a hyperactive kid. He runs and throws the ball really well."
Bennum has thrown for more than 1,000 yards.
The Eatonville-Meridian winner will face the Zillah-Quincy winner in the Kingbowl XVI final Dec. 5 at the Kingdome for the Class A state championship.
The other Class A semifinal:
-- Zillah (11-0) vs. Quincy (10-1), Eastmont High School in East Wenatchee, Saturday, 1:30 p.m. - Quincy Coach Bill Alexander is no stranger to the Kingbowl, having coached Bridgeport-Mansfield to the B-8 championship at the Kingdome in 1988.
Quincy running back Wade Gebers is a multiple threat. The senior rushed 181 times for 1,542 yards. Against East Valley of Yakima last week, he also kicked field goals of 43-, 36- and 42-yards. He has booted five field goals of 40-yards or more this season. Quarterback Kerry Bowman, who had a 61-yard touchdown run last week for the Jackrabbits, is a double threat. He has rushed for more than 500 yards and eight touchdowns and passed for more than 800 yards and a dozen TDs.
Zillah bolts into the semis for the first time after knocking off Ephrata 28-21. Zillah Coach Rock Winters served a four-year stint as an assistant to Ephrata Coach Bill Betcher.
The Zillah Leopards are one of the few Class A schools committed to a platoon system. Only two players play both offense and defense.
Zillah junior running back Eli Whitaker (6-0, 175) is Zillah's game breaker, averaging more than 12 yards per carry in the Leopards' wishbone offense. Whitaker has gained 1,267 yards and has scored 29 touchdowns - 19 on runs of 20 or more yards. He's also the team's leading receiver with eight catches for 267 yards.
Quarterback Jason Pollock (6-1, 185) has completed just 33 passes through 11 games, attempting 74, but one-third of his completed passes (11) have been for touchdowns.
Class B-11 semifinals
-- DeSales (8-2) vs. Liberty-Spangle (10-0) at Kibbie Dome, Moscow, Idaho, Friday, 8 p.m. - The Liberty Lancers cruise into the semifinals on the strength of running back Jerrad Jeske, who rushed for 1,524 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Cousins Jeff and Rob Tee combine to power the passing game. Quarterback Jeff has thrown 16 touchdown passes while being intercepted only once; receiver Rob pulled in 12 of those scoring passes.
The No. 1-ranked Lancers run behind an offensive line that averages about 200 pounds.
The DeSales Irish are back in the semifinals after winning the state title last year.
Record-breaking quarterback Pat Graham graduated, and his cousin, Jason Richard, stepped into his position and has thrown for more than 2,000 yards.
DeSales receiver Chad Averill has caught more than 60 passes for almost 1,000 yards despite drawing double coverage in every game.
-- Wahkiakum (Cathlamet) (9-2) vs. Raymond (9-1), at Tacoma Dome, noon, Friday - Wahkiakum's strength is along the offensive line, where the Mules have outstanding size for a Class B school.
All-league center Sam Longtain (5-11, 223) anchors the line and plays middle linebacker on defense. Tight end Dan Cothren (6-2, 210) is an outstanding blocker, and his cousin, Cory Cothren (5-10, 190) starts at guard. The team's starting tackles are both large: Steve Malitka (6-2, 241) and Rob Kerstetter (6-2, 240).
Senior Paul Kuljis has run for more than 1,600 yards behind that line, scoring 24 touchdowns to lead the team in scoring. Senior fullback Joel Nelson is a solid blocker and a danger up the middle in the Mules' power running game.
Coach Doug Makaiwi's son, Kalin, is the quarterback of for the Gulls. The 6-foot, 180-pound junior is also a standout wrestler who will attempt to both wrestle and play basketball after the football playoffs.
Makaiwi averages more than seven years per carry and 13 touchdowns, returned four kick-offs and a punt for touchdowns.
Running back Jesse Buchanan is a sprinter out of Raymond's multiple-set, option offense, running the 100 meters in 11.1 seconds, and the improvement of starting tackles Jared Laine (5-11, 190, sr.) and Rick Sowa (6-0, 200, jr.) has been key to the team's late-season success.
Makaiwi is also a danger to throw the option pass, and basketball forward Chris Fuller is a big target at wide receiver at 6-3.
The teams met last year in the playoffs, with Wahkiakum winning, 40-14 when Raymond fumbled three times in the first quarter and Mules turned the turnovers into an 18-0 lead.
Class B-8 semifinals
-- Pateros (10-0) vs. Lake Quinault (10-0), at Tacoma Dome, Friday, 9:30 a.m. -Lake Quinault Coach Jon Claymore is familiar with Pateros: he coached Tahola in last year's 66-18 quarterfinal loss to the Billy Goats.
"There are a few mixed feelings about that around here," Claymore said. "But we've got a good group of seniors here and I think we've got the talent to compete with Pateros."
That loss to the Billy Goats last year is the springboard for Friday's game plan for the Elks from Amanda Park.
Injuries have hurt the Elks. Fullback/defensive end Derek Lisherness is out of the week, but senior Tom Carlyle fills in nicely at both spots, Claymore said.
Senior Robert Thomas is an all-league running back and linebacker, rushing for more than 1,300 yards.
Defensively, Thomas ramrods a unit that has allowed only 46 points through 10 games, six of them shutouts.
Pateros is led by running back Tyrone Minnis, who has rushed for 768 yards.
Quarterback Bobby Van Lith has completed 59 percent of his passes, piling up 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns. Receiver Brian Hagenbuch has 45 receptions for 638 yards and six touchdowns.
-- Odessa (9-1) vs. Tekoa-Oakesdale (9-0) at Kibbie Dome, Moscow, Friday, 5 p.m. - This game is a rematch of an early-October clash won by Tekoa-Oakesdale, 30-28.
Odessa is led by quarterback Kurt Wolsborn and receiver Jeff Scrupps, who have combined for 1,300 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Tekoa-Oakesdale quarterback Carl Krider has completed 60 percent of his passes this season, amassing 900 yards, and has rushed for 500.