Neah Bay Red Devils (12-0) vs Liberty Christian Patriots (12-0)
4:oo pm Saturday at the Tacoma Dome
All-Time State Tournament
Neah Bay: Entries – 16; Record – 2-13; Best Finish – Champion (2011, 2013)
Liberty Christian: Entries – 2; Record – 6-0; Best Finish – Champion (2012)
About Neah Bay:
Head Coach: Tony McCaulley (7th year)
This is the fourth straight season the Red Devils have made it to the state final, and second time in three years they will be facing Liberty Christian. The last meeting was a 36-28 Liberty Christian win in 2012, that was also the last time Neah Bay lost a game.
Tony McCaulley has done a fantastic job building a program and culture at Neah Bay, and is widely regarded as one of the state’s best coaches.
If you drew a straight line from Neah Bay to Tacoma, it would actually be shorter than the line from Liberty Christian to Tacoma, but the Red Devils will spend about a half hour longer driving to get to the game.
About Liberty Christian:
Head Coach: Mike Olson (8th year)
Mike Olson has done a tremendous job since taking over in 2007. The first two years were about building, and since then the program has really taken off.
Last year they lost a heartbreaker to Cusick in the play-in round, or else they would’ve face Neah Bay in the opening round of state.
The Patriots don’t return much from the team that won state in 2012, but what they do return is some high caliber talent.
Here is a video of the ending of an epic contest, the last time these two played…
Neah Bay on Offense:
If you’ve never seen an 8-man football game, it might be tough to figure out. You play with three lineman, a QB, and four skill players. Most teams will use so many formations your head will spin trying to figure out who is where.
One thing Neah Bay did last week that I haven’t seen much of is go to a true I-Formation. They put two receivers on the line to play as tackles, with a FB and RB right behind the QB.
The QB for Neah Bay is freshman Rwehabura Munyagi. He had a few struggles early last week, but showed great composure as it really did not seem to affect his play down the line.
When you want to talk keys to the offense, though, it really runs through Cole Svec. Only a sophomore, Svec is the leading rusher with over 1,419 yards and 25 touchdowns. You’ll also see a heavy rushing dose of senior Chris Martinez, who has accounted for 797 yards and 9 touchdowns rushing, and 247 yards and 4 touchdowns receiving.
Speaking of receiving, senior John Reamer leads the Red Devils with 637 yards and 14 touchdowns.
You will also see a helping of sophomores Michael McGee and Cameron Buzzell, who are at 494 and 417 yards rushing, respectively. Buzzell also chips in with 311 yards and 9 touchdowns receiving.
As a team, Neah Bay is closing in on the 4,000 yard rushing mark.
Liberty Christian on Offense:
When you talk 8-man football, one of the keys on offense is usually getting to the outside. With three less players on the field for each team, there is a lot of open space, and heading towards the sidelines is usually a good idea.
My uncle officiates games in Eastern Washington on occasions, and has described it to me as, “A hike and a track meet.” And at times, it can be just that.
The Liberty Christian offense has outscored its opponents 182-46 in three playoff games, thanks in large part to the play of QB John Lesser.
Lesser is just a junior, and is truly the heart and soul of the Patriots big play offense. In last week’s win over Republic, Lesser carried 18 times for 294 yards and three touchdowns. The three touchdowns came on runs of 79, 54 and 43 yards. Lesser also completed four of seven passes, three for touchdowns, for 108 yards.
Alongside Lesser in the backfield is Cody Daniels, who is one of the few returning starters from the last championship team. Last week Daniels carried 12 times for a hard fought 95 yards and a touchdown.
The three most likely receiving targets for Lesser are Mitch Godwin, Robby Heimann and Connor Mote, who all had catches in last week’s win.
Paving the way for the Patriots is senior guard Tate Richards, junior center Rory Utley and freshman guard Stephan Carter. These three are not the biggest bunch, but they do a tremendous job getting push up front and opening lanes.
Through 13 games, the Patriots are averaging nearly 55 points per game, while surrendering just over 17.
Neah Bay on Defense:
The Red Devils are going to have to limit Lesser. It is highly likely he will gain yards, but they need to make sure he doesn’t run wild.
Leading the defense in tackles is Josh Monette, with 160… Yes, you read that correctly. The senior is averaging just over 13 tackles per game, and also has 3.5 sacks.
Also near double digit tackles per game is senior John Reamer, with 118 for the season and 9.8 per game. Reamer also leads the Red Devils with 11 sacks, and even has an INT to his credit.
Those two will be key cogs in containing Lesser, and will need to play their best football for Neah Bay to win.
The this leading tackler, is Cole Svec. When you put it all together, Svec is one of the leading offensive threats, defensive standouts, the punter, the kickoff and punt returner, leads the team in scoring… Seems like this he might be an all around key for Liberty Christian to keep a man on.
Neah Bay has 17 total INTs on the year, Svec leads with 5, but Michael McGee with 4, and Chris Martinez’s 3 are not far behind. Martinez is also one of the leading tacklers, coming in with 65 on the season.
Liberty Christian on Defense:
To some, 17 points allowed per game may not seem like it is too special, but in 8-man football, that is pretty special.
One of the huge keys to 8-man football is outside contain, and not many teams do it as well as Liberty Christian.
Robby Heimann and Cody Daniels get a bulk of the credit at DE, but it is really a solid team effort. Heimann is the heart and soul of the defense, and reportedly has over 30 sacks on the season, with Daniels coming in at 16.
Sandwiched between the two on the DL is sophomore Eric Swanson, who at 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds may not pass the eye test, but he does pass the effort test. Swanson is small, but is a force inside.
Liberty Christian’s defense is about being physical up front, which they are, and fast behind them, which they are.
The Linebackers are Tim MacHugh and Connor Mote. Both athletes really fly around to the ball, and are tough inside.
Run support is also aided by a very active secondary. The corners are John Lesser and freshman Nico Shupe, with the lone safety being Mitch Godwin.