NEAH BAY, Wash. — Tony McCaulley has a pretty good scouting report on the Touchet Indians, who will oppose his Neah Bay Red Devils Friday afternoon in the Tacoma Dome to decide this year’s Class 1B state football championship.
The Red Devils coach, now in his sixth season, has watched the Indians play personally on a couple of occasions this fall. And some of his assistant coaches have traveled to watch Touchet games on several others.
But McCaulley is darned glad he made the trip to Pasco Saturday night to scout the Touchet-Rosalia semifinal game at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco. Because he learned something about the Indians that he hadn’t seen in any of the previous games.
“I didn’t think they could throw the ball at all,” McCaulley confessed. “I was surprised, and I was impressed with their kid at quarterback.
“I’m glad they had to do it.”
Elias Martinez, Touchet’s senior quarterback, threw the ball only sparingly throughout the course of the regular season. And it wasn’t necessary to go to the air much in playoff victories over Odessa-Harrington and Wilbur-Creston.
But when the Indians fell behind Rosalia 30-6 late in the second quarter of Saturday’s semifinal game, Martinez took over. He finished the night by completing 8-of-12 passes for 203 yards and five touchdowns as the Indians rallied for a 62-36 victory and a place in this weekend’s Gridiron Classic in Tacoma.
“They are a good football team,” McCaulley said of the Indians. “They are well coached, they don’t give up and they are well conditioned, which is one of the reasons why they won Saturday.
“They fell behind because of all of those turnovers early in the game, but they had the character to fight back. They were flying to the ball and playing with a lot of emotion. They played with a lot of fight, and they wore Rosalia out.”
The Indians are back in the state championship game for the eighth time in school history, but this marks their first trip to Tacoma since 2002 when they lost to Southeast 1B District rival Lacrosse-Washtucna 38-6.
Neah Bay, on the other hand, will be making its third consecutive appearance in Tacoma Friday. The Red Devils defeated Almira-Coulee-Hartline 36-28 in 2011 for the school’s one-and-only state football title, and they lost to Liberty Christian 34-28 in last year’s championship game.
“I don’t think the best team always wins in games like these,” McCaulley said. “We lost last year on a last-second touchdown, but we got behind early because we had some turnovers and that was basically the game.
“The year we won it, Almira-Coulee-Hartline might have been the better team. But we played really, really well, and it was just the reverse last year.”
Neah Bay is in the finals for the fifth time overall. The Red Devils lost to Odessa 74-28 in the 1989 championship game and 10 years later they met up with Touchet in the finals and lost 42-36.
This year’s Neah Bay team is built around a strong senior class, several of whom will be starting in the state championship game for a third straight year. That group includes Tyler McCaulley, the coach’s son, who is a 5-foot-11, 265-pound fullback.
“He’s mainly a blocking back,” Tony McCaulley said of his son. “But he’ll run it a little bit, too, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield.”
The Red Devils are primarily a running team — around 70 percent of the time, the coach estimates — and the team’s leading rushers are senior halfback Cody Cummins (6-4, 190) and senior Josiah Greene (6-1, 197) from his quarterback position.
Senior end Zeke Greene (5-8, 165) is the team’s leading receiver when the Red Devils do put the ball in the air.
Neah Bay has plenty of bulk up front in center Bill Hanson (6-3, 240) and guards Carl Mack (5-10, 270) and Mitchell McGee (5-8, 197). John Reamer (6-1, 230) is the other end.
“I think we can capitalize on our size,” McCaulley said. “We like the physical game, and we think we can wear teams down.
“Besides that, we are super hungry after the loss in last year’s title game. These kids have been in the weight room every day since.”
Neah Bay enters Friday’s game with an 11-0 record and was ranked No. 1 in the final regular-season 8-man state poll. The Indians are 12-1 and were No. 2 in that poll.
Their only common opponent is Odessa-Harrington. The Red Devils defeated the Titans 64-12 when they met Sept. 13. The Indians opened their season Sept. 9 with a 46-28 victory over Odessa-Harrington and then defeated the Titans again 68-14 when the teams met in the first round of postseason play.
As potent as both teams are, McCaulley doesn’t necessarily anticipate a high-scoring game Friday in the Tacoma Dome.
“I think it’s going to be a good game,” McCaulley said. “We are a lot alike. Both teams prefer to run the ball, but I would expect that the defenses will decide the game.”