TOUCHET — Gary Dorman absorbed a lot of pertinent knowledge during his 28 years as Wayne Dickey’s assistant football coach at Touchet High.
None of which prepared him for the hustle and bustle, the hurrying and scurrying that envelops the school this week in preparation for the Indians’ first trip to the Gridiron Classic since 2002.
“I talked to Wayne yesterday, and I told him that I didn’t realize how much I didn’t do as an assistant coach when these things happen,” Dorman said in a Tuesday interview. “It’s not so much the coaching part, it’s everything else.
“Turning things over to the WIAA office ... where you are going to eat ... where you are going to stay ... parents calling ... all the outside stuff that takes time away from the focus on football. Fortunately, our athletic director, Jorge Ortiz, and our superintendent, Susan Bell, have taken it upon themselves to make this as easy on me as they can. I couldn’t do it without them, plain and simple.”
Dorman took over as Touchet’s head coach in 2009, replacing Dickey, who resigned following the 2008 season after 30 years on the job. Dorman was the Indians’ top assistant during their last six appearances in the 8-man state championship game, but this will be his first trip to Tacoma as the head coach.
The Indians earned their spot in the Gridiron Classic with a stunning 62-36 come-from-behind semifinal victory over Rosalia Saturday night at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco. They will face No. 1-ranked and undefeated Neah Bay Friday afternoon at 4 in the Tacoma Dome to decide the state title.
The Red Devils will be making their third consecutive appearance in the championship game. They captured the school’s only state title in 2011 with a 36-28 victory over Almira-Coulee-Hartline and lost to Liberty Christian 34-28 in last year’s finals.
Touchet has played for the title seven times over the years and brought home state championships in 1979, 1994, 1998 and 1999.
Touchet and Neah Bay have met just once in their history. That was the 1999 state championship game, and the Indians prevailed 42-36.
Dorman hasn’t watched Neah Bay in person, but he has seen them on film and again on television last Friday when the Red Devils defeated Lummi 46-14 in a semifinal game in the Tacoma Dome.
“They have a pretty good grip on what they are trying to accomplish,” Dorman said of the Red Devils. “They have pretty outstanding size across the line and big running backs who are big, strong kids. And their quarterback is very good at what he does running the ball. They don’t pass a lot because they have never had to.”
Dorman first compared Neah Bay to Rosalia because of the Spartans’ ability to run the ball, then corrected himself and likened the Red Devils more to Wilbur-Creston, which Touchet defeated 36-14 in quarterfinal play in Spokane two weeks ago.
“They are like Rosalia in that they run the ball and run the ball and say, ‘Stop us if you can,’” he said. “But they are probably even more like Wilbur-Creston. Rosalia couldn’t throw the ball, but Wilbur-Creston had two good running backs and maybe a better quarterback.”
Asked if it was more important to outscore Neah Bay or find a way to slow them down, Dorman came up with the obvious answer.
“Hopefully both,” the Indians coach said.
“Knowing you are playing against a team that wants to stuff it down your throat, you have to get some (defensive) stops now and again. But we are not going to hold them scoreless. They are going to put points on the board, so our offense needs to be clicking, too. I don’t think it is going to be a defensive battle.”
Dorman is also hopeful that his team’s foot speed and its depth will be factors that work to the Indians’ advantage Friday.
“I think our general speed is going to maybe present a few problems for them,” Dorman said. “Maybe not right away, but if we can keep switching out our running backs and our receivers, as the game wears on I would like to think our chances of getting to the third and four quarter with our conditioning and depth, it will be to our advantage.”
What probably won’t work in Touchet’s favor will be the conditions under the concrete roof of the Tacoma Dome.
“It’s a different climate in there,” Dorman explained. “Part of it might be the adrenalin running through their bodies, but it’s also very dry and kids sweat like there is no tomorrow. The heat down on the field is a different type of climate than they are used to, especially this time of year.”
None of the Touchet players has ever played in the dome. The Neah Bay players, their seniors in particular, have so on several occasions over the past three seasons.
The Indians will be afforded a one-hour practice session in the Tacoma Dome Thursday afternoon. They are scheduled to depart Touchet Thursday morning at 8:30.
“We’ll stop on the way over for lunch, check into our motel and then don our practice gear and head over to the dome,” Dorman said.
In the meantime, practices here will be limited because of the Tuesday morning snowfall that blanketed the valley.
“We have a skiff,” Dorman said. “But I guaranteed the kids that no matter what the weather is here, we’ll have a dry field to play on Friday.”
Dorman said that his players would practice outside for about an hour each day through Wednesday, then retreat to the school gymnasium for conditioning.
The Indians’ injury report is short, Dorman noted. Quarterback Elias Martinez was kicked in the mouth during the Rosalia game and required stitches to his gums afterward.
“He’s pretty swollen,” Dorman said. “He kind of looks like he was in a car accident or a train wreck. We have some other banged up bodies, but there’s nobody who won’t be at or near 100 percent considering they’ve played 100-or-so days of football.”
Colton Goble is nursing a sore shoulder, the coach said, and Ruben Butler has sore knees.
“Nothing I am too worried about,” Dorman said. “They will be ready to go.”