WALLA WALLA - It's a local showdown in quarterfinal 2B playoff football action Saturday when DeSales and Waitsburg-Prescott head to Pasco's Edgar Brown Stadium in the quest to continue its seasons.
Both teams are coming off dominant wins last Saturday with DeSales (8-2) scoring a 33-7 victory over Brewster, while W-P (10-0) nailed Oroville 49-13.
"It was one of our better games," said W-P head coach Jeff Bartlow of the first round win. "We had a close game against Tekoa-Oakesdale a few weeks ago, and I think that really woke us up. We still managed to pull out the win in that game, which is nice because it kept us undefeated, but I think it also woke us up too."
After the long bus ride north, DeSales showed no signs of fatigue, jumping out to a 26-0 lead in a game that wasn't in question for long in large part due to the return of senior running back Kyle Lindgren, who posted 109 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown.
"We were a little worried how the kids would respond to the long bus ride, but we came out and had a really solid first half," said DeSales head coach Pat Graham. "That's big for us because we have a sophomore quarterback, who has never played in the playoffs so we don't want to be put in a situation where we have to put the ball up 30 or 35 times in a game."
For W-P the victory provided a prime example of the team's offensive balance, which has seen the squad post 1945 yards on the ground and 1915 through the air, behind quarterback Zach Bartlow and senior running back Kris Cady.
"Against Oroville we ran the ball downhill," Bartlow said. "All 11 guys that were on the field executed. Our linebackers played great, and I thought that was also probably just about the best that we've pass blocked this season."
Both teams believe they have improved since their Sept. 30 meeting at W-P, which W-P took 27-14.
The teams both feel they have matured and evolved into clubs that are looking to reach the Final Four of 2B football.
"It's a little different because it's not too often that you've already played a team that you draw in the playoffs," Bartlow said. "I think it's an advantage for both teams because we kind of know what each other is going to do, and we have a relationship with each other and our programs exchanged tapes so I think that will make for an even better game."
Graham is also looking forward for to a rematch with W-P, although avenging the regular season loss is not an added motivator at this point.
"When you're in the quarterfinals you don't need anything extra to get your team ready to play," Graham said. "Our kids know what a big opportunity this is to us so we look at the last game against them as just part of the past, and we can learn from that game, but it isn't any added fire or anything."
The previous match up also provides W-P with a chance to make a few more educated guess on what DeSales is most likely to do opening the game.
"They're a physical team, and we know that since they ran the ball well on us last time then they're probably going to come out and try to establish the run again and build the pass off that," Bartlow said. "Their offensive line played a great game against us, and they can pass the ball too so we know they're like us, and they'll mix it up."
Not much is getting past Graham about his familiar foe either.
"On offense you have to watch out for their three big skill guys, Bartlow, Cady and (wide receiver T.J.) Hofer," Graham said. "Obviously containing three guys with those kinds of skills is a lot easier said than done. Their offense runs through those three guys, and they make everyone on their offense better."
Still, both coaches know that, while knowing their opponents game plan and personnel is a plus, it still comes down to gearing their players up for the right to move within a game of playing for the state championship.
"We've had a great week of practice," Graham said. "We're all looking forward to Saturday, and we know they have a great coaching staff and a talented team so we are excited to have a great game and move one step closer to our goal."
Bartlow and his crew bring similar sentiments into the showdown.
"This is a program we know and respect well," he said. "It's exciting to have two teams from our area playing, and at this point it's a one-game season. We are honored to get to play another night in a great stadium and see where it goes from there."