ATHENA - On paper, this game shouldn't be close.
Blue Mountain Conference champion Weston-McEwen looms as a heavy favorite here Saturday afternoon when the TigerScots entertain Knappa in the first round of Oregon's Class 2A state football playoffs. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.
The TigerScots are, after all, undefeated. Knappa finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Northwest League, and the Loggers' 4-5 season record pales in comparison to Weston-McEwen's splashy 9-0 mark.
Weston-McEwen has also averaged 45 points a game while yielding fewer than five points per contest. The Loggers have been outscored 204-173 through nine regular-season games.
Also, Knappa suffered a 28-22 loss to Enterprise Oct. 1 in a non-league game in Enterprise. Weston-McEwen clubbed the Outlaws 37-0 last weekend, also in Enterprise, to capture the BMC title outright.
The wise guys in Las Vegas might pull this one off the board.
But Kenzie Hansell knows better.
For starters, the TigerScots' fourth-year head coach has experienced two disappointing first-round playoff defeats in his first three seasons.
"We are now in position once again of it being a must-win game," Hansell said. "Two of the last three years, we have played a tough opponent who went on to win our side of the bracket and play for the state championship."
The coach is also well aware of Knappa's long and often successful playoff history.
The Loggers are in the playoff field for the 18th time in school history. They are in the postseason for the fifth straight year, and they won a state championship as recently as 2008.
"They are traditionally a great postseason team," Hansell said of the Loggers. "They've been to the semifinals each of the last three years and won a state championship in 2008. They are a great program with a great coaching staff, and they have been in this position before."
Still, Hansell is heightened knowing his team will have the home-field advantage for the first time in his playoff coaching tenure at W-M. The TigerScots lost 48-16 at Gold Beach last year and 51-14 at Culver in 2008.
"We are very excited about playing at home," he said. "We get great community support, at home or on the road, but playing this first game at home is a huge step in the right direction where our program is going."
While the TigerScots have scored 405 points this season and have pitched six shutouts as well, Hansell is hard-pressed to label his team stronger on one side of the ball or the other.
"I would say both sides are our strength," Hansell said. "We are proud of both sides. Every kid has to do his job, and it's all about trusting one another to get the job done."
In Knappa, the TigerScots will face a team unlike any of the teams they've faced in their league.
"They like to throw the ball and run some draw stuff," Hansell said of the Loggers. "They like to spread out the defense, and they are fast and well disciplined.
"We haven't faced many passing teams. Dayton, Wash., was probably the closest."
The TigerScots won that non-league game Sept. 15 in Dayton by a 43-0 score.
A victory Saturday will vault Weston-McEwen into the state quarterfinals for the first time since 1996, the year the TigerScots made it all the way to the finals before losing to Dayton 49-3.
"Our kids deserve this opportunity," Hansell said. "They've been working toward it since August. We have 10 seniors on this team and I have been pushing them since they were in the seventh grade.
"We have a rule on this team," the coach added. "Our seniors have an obligation to leave the program better than it was when they came in, and our underclassmen have an obligation to send the seniors off on the highest note possible."