TOUCHET - When he's at his best, Vicente Flores can expect to touch the ball on offense 10-to-12 times during the course of a game.
And more often than not, that's been often enough to produce several Touchet touchdowns, keep opposing defenses honest and set the table for an Indians victory.
Trouble is, Flores hasn't been at his best for more than a month now.
The elusive 175-pound junior speedburner has been hampered by a string of nagging injuries and illness. First there was a deep bone bruise on his right shin followed by a sinus infection. Then, in last week's 28-20 Washington Class B-8 playoff victory over Cusick, Flores sustained a thigh bruise on his left leg in the first quarter that effectively ended his day.
"It was like a charley horse, and he couldn't get it worked out," Touchet coach Gary Dorman said of Flores' most recent injury, which occurred while he was breaking up a pass from his defensive secondary position. "He couldn't make any lateral moves on offense, but we tried to put him back in there on defense in the second half, hoping he could go. But after two series I pulled him out and told him he was through for the day."
Dorman estimates that his big-play back hasn't been operating at more than 70 percent efficiency since suffering the bone bruise four weeks ago.
"He's been pretty banged up," the coach admitted. "But we've been doctoring him, and a couple of nights ago he said he was feeling pretty good. He was able to jog without too much pain, and hopefully he will be ready to go Friday night."
That's when the Indians run head-on into No. 1-ranked Almira-Coulee-Hartline in the state quarterfinals in Moses Lake. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Moses Lake High School.
The undefeated Warriors are 11-0, a record that includes victories over three teams that Touchet (8-2) has also faced this year. A-C-H began its season with a 44-18 home victory over Cusick, edged Liberty Christian 46-44 in Richland and topped Garfield-Palouse 48-24 in Coulee City.
In addition to their victory over Cusick here last weekend, the Indians won 76-36 at Garfield-Palouse and lost at Liberty Christian 60-16, a regular-season finale in which Dorman elected to rest his starters during the second half.
"We have seen a couple of game films on A-C-H," Dorman said. "And they are ranked No. 1 for a good reason. They have great tradition, they are extremely well coached and they are disciplined. It will be a real challenge, one we are looking forward to.
"Playing No. 1 in the state is what it is all about."
Other than a 265-pounder who starts at center and nose guard for A-C-H, the Warriors and the Indians are comparable in size, Dorman said. And after going up against Cusick's 300-pound Andrew Taylor last week, that almost seems like a step down, the coach said.
Speed, Dorman suggested, might be the more important denominator.
"The one thing they have going for them are their ball carriers," Dorman said. "They are fast, and their quarterback loves to run as well. And he's real deceptive.
"I would say they are about 60-40 in favor of the run," he added. "And the minute you think you have stopped their run, they will dump the ball over your head. And they do it very effectively."
That same speed factor will be significant when the Indians have the ball.
"They present problems with their defense because of their speed," Dorman said. "They react to the ball really fast, and they are very good at gang tackling.
"In 8-man football that is not always real easy to do, but it seems they always have four or five guys at the point of the tackle. I don't know if that means there are guys open on the other side of the field."
If Flores isn't an effective weapon Friday, more of the load will fall to junior running back Jose Martinez, who rushed for 95 yards against Cusick, 89 of gained after the halftime break.
"It makes us a little more power oriented when Vicente is not in the game," Dorman said. "We don't have that elusive speed on the edges and we have to play a little more hard-nosed football.
"Jose doesn't have the comfort of knowing that if he doesn't get it, we can slip it to Vicente going around the edge. Jose has to be more determined knowing that we will be putting the package in his mailbox."
Then again, the key could be in the hands of sophomore quarterback Elias Martinez, who was jittery in the first half against Cusick but recovered in time to run for two touchdowns and pass for a third after the intermission.
"We are going to have to be able to throw the ball some," Dorman conceded. "Our hope is that the pass will open up our ground game.
"Elias struggled some last week. But he is a sophomore who is still learning, and he's and doing a good job. He is learning on the run, literally."
Dorman originally thought the quarterfinal game would be played in Spokane.
"I think Moses Lake is a little closer for both teams," he said.
As for the weather, the forecast isn't promising.
"If it's snowing and blowing, both teams are going to have to line up and try to run the ball inside a little bit more," Dorman said. "But everyone knows it never blows in Moses Lake."