Time for some playoff football in the upper Valley. Wildcats. Rams. Everything is on the line. A preview and our thoughts……

Good Saturday morning. Our headline preview and pick takes us to the gridiron this morning. Mount Si High School’s football team is home this afternoon looking to rebound after their Kingco 4A title game loss last Thursday to Woodinville. Today, they take on the Rogers Rams from Pierce County.

KINGCO 4A FOOTBALL
WIAA 4A OPENING ROUND PLAYOFF – LOSER OUT
MOUNT SI WILDCATS (8-1, KINGCO #2) VS. ROGERS RAMS (5-4, SPSL #4)
MOUNT SI HIGH SCHOOL, SNOQUALMIE – KICKOFF 1:00 P.M.

Mount Si hosts Rogers today in the first home week 10 playoff in at least a couple of years; they all time have only lost one of these week 10 playoff games and that was last year in dramatic fashion up at Monroe.

We start with Rogers. The Rams, from Puyallup, are 5-4 and earned the South Puget Sound League’s fourth seed after taking second in the three-team playoff involving them, Sumner and Curtis earlier this week down in Spanaway. The prep football website Heir Football has designated today’s game as its Game of the Week, and there’s a couple of things of note about Rogers that they tweeted out yesterday.

First, the quarterback. They describe Makaio Gillespie as a dual threat, and we hope you all had a chance to see our Twitter feed on Wednesday when we retweeted the video clip from KING’s Chris Egan, who was on hand covering the activities Tuesday night, of Gillespie single-handedly outgunning Sumner in the first mini-game. We saw the clip and can tell you this kid, a senior, is good. He is however facing a potentially challenging weather situation and physical Mount Si defensive line, so those will be issues for him to consider as he’s working the Ram offense today.

On the ground, their lead back is Alema Gago, and Heir notes that he has over 1,000 rushing yards this season, so look for him to get the rock a ton today. Ball-handling with the rain will be a key, though, so Gago better have some good gloves today to avoid turnovers. Because with this Mount Si offense, turnovers could be very costly for the boys from Puyallup’s South Hill.

Receiver Tyrese Rios is considered by the Heir folks as a “three-star” candidate, meaning his college prospects look good. Rios will need to be ready for anything though with this weather. That said, the lack of Wildcat Andrew Mostofi on defense (Mostofi as you know is out recovering from a collarbone injury believed to have been suffered during Mount Si’s Homecoming win over Newport) guarding him could be a plus for Rios today.

Now to the home side. Last week as you know was a very tough week for this Mount Si football program, failing to grab their first Kingco championship in 20 years. It was especially a challenging week for one Cale Millen. The Wildcat senior star quarterback went just 19 of 34 for 177 yards, a touchdown and interception. The 19 completions were the lowest since the season-opening game against Wenatchee, and the 177 yards, 56% completion percentage and 67.9 quarterback rating were all season lows for the Oregon-bound signal-caller. If there’s anyone ready to get back on cue, it’s this young man wearing #10.

With the rain in the forecast, the ground game will be the big story. Sophomore Cole Norah anchors the running attack for Mount Si and comes off a solid 12-carry, 58-yard effort last week. He’s carried the ball 100 times this season, gained almost 600 yards and has seven touchdowns to his credit. We have sung the “MVP” praises for this kid all year, and today will be more evidence of that if he can deliver a big game in this playoff clash.

Through the air, receiver Jonny Barrett was basically shut down by the Woodinville defense in the loss last Thursday, limited to a season-low four catches for 39 yards. Millen’s so-called by us “partner in crime” hasn’t scored much in the way of touchdowns the second half of the season outside of the five he had in the Wildcats’ 42-7 blowout of Skyline three weeks ago, so he’ll look to break out today as well. He’s gained over 1,100 yards on 67 catches this season. Other players to keep an eye on include juniors Brayden Holt and Colby Botten. Holt had the other touchdown last week in the Kingco title game loss, and Botten had seven catches for 70 yards last week.

Defensively, the usuals are expected to lead the way, including seniors Murphy McDowell and Cody Frederick, and sophomore Daniel Harrison. We want to focus this week on another senior, though, one who a lot of folks from near and far will be cheering for. Lineman R.J. Bell this week was featured in a story in the Colville Tribes’ newspaper, a story we retweeted out for you on our Twitter feed on Thursday after Mount Si principal John Belcher made mention of it himself on his social media.

Bell is a descendant of the Colville Indian Nation and according to the paper, his grandmother works for the tribe. Here’s the story if you want to have a look at it. Belcher had some nice comments about Bell in his Tweet. He wrote, “R.J. Bell represents kindness, hard work, integrity and character as a school leader and athlete. He makes Wildcat Nation proud on both sides of the mountains and honors his ancestors of the Colville Tribes.” And Bell has had a solid season, too, representing not only his school and Valley community well, but his extended Colville Indian community, too. Bell had five tackles last week, but has a total of 43 on the season with one fumble recovery – in the season-opening win over Wenatchee. This senior will be playing collegiately very likely next fall, carrying that torch for his people wherever he suits up next season. As we noted when we sent this out, a lot of people near and far will be cheering for him today, and he’ll not only be playing for himself and his team, but his tribe as well.

So, now that the particulars are all out of the way, what this game boils down to is mental preparedness. Rogers, according to Heir, hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2012, and this Mount Si team, as we just noted, is coming off what can be best described as a psychologically deflating loss on many levels for this squad. As coach Charlie Kinnune noted after last week’s 16-14 loss which gave his Wildcat team its first loss of the season, it forced his program to soul-search big time. “We’re going to find out about everybody in this program right now,” Kinnune said at that time. “Everybody in the program from the players to the coaches to the (players’) parents. We all were winning and all feeling good and now we get a setback and we’ve just got to handle it and we will.” In our close of last week’s game story, we suggested that if they could harness the negative energy out of that loss into positive energy today, then that would be good for the Wildcats.

Mount Si’s players were understandably devastated after last week’s loss, and we felt coming out of the stadium following the game that this would give them a chip on their shoulder and that they’d come out today hungry and fired up. We’ll see if that happens, today. If it does, watch out. But if Rogers is able to keep this thing close, Gillespie in particular might take great advantage and that will be big trouble for Mount Si. At the end of the day, we like the Wildcats, but we have a message for the men in scarlet and gray: Put this thing away early. And we mean early. Allow the visitors to hang around, and it could mean the end far too soon of a special season.

MOUNT SI 28, ROGERS 14

Last week: 1-1 (Woodinville def. Mount Si, Liberty def. Cedarcrest – we picked MS and LIB)
Season: 13-5

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
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