“ … Educated in a small town,
“Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town.
“Used to daydream in that small town,
Another boring romantic, that's me …”
John Mellencamp has a way of saying things the way they are meant to be said. Probably could have threw in a line “… and they can play football in my small town …”
Royal assistant coach Jeremy Scroggins wears a sweatshirt that reads, “Back to back, state champs.” There are several others worn by the Knights fan base, but the one that stood out in the throngs of people that made the short trip over from Royal City on Saturday afternoon for the 1A state semifinal at Lions Field read, “We are Royal.”
“It’s a good place to raise a family,” said Brandon Jenks as his family and extended family bounced up the stairs to find their seats.
We are Royal, and the Knights let Newport know it, dusting the Grizzlies 35-7 to advance to their third 1A state title game in as many years. They will roll into Tacoma in a tie for the fifth-longest winning streak in the country with 40 straight games.
Meanwhile, the Almira/Coulee-Hartline Warriors punched their ticket for a return trip to the Tacoma Dome with a 60-6 victory over the Lummi Nation in Saturday’s 1B state semifinal game. The Warriors, who won a state championship in 2015, will see if they can’t add their second championship in the past three years.
“When we won in 2015, we were coming off a two-win season and it was more of a surprise that we won,” ACH coach Brandon Walsh said. “We had high expectations at the beginning of this season and it’s fun to achieve some of those expectations.”
The boys are going to the big city and the bright lights and the caravan of friends, fans and family will be there like a long, drawn-out scene from “Hoosiers.” Both teams and both towns (actually there’s three with ACH) will be there in support.
The Warrior fan base has been real road warriors the past few weeks, but the one more road trip on the schedule could prove to be the sweetest yet. ACH played at Montesano High School in the quarterfinals, then at Civic Stadium in Bellingham last weekend.
To borrow a line from another song, this time by Willie Nelson:
“On the road again. Just can't wait to get on the road again.
“The life I love is making music with my friends,
“And I can't wait to get on the road again …”
Don’t know if they particularly like heading out on the road, but that’s way they do it up the Coulee Corridor where supporting your team and your town is like breathing country air. Who knows? Maybe the sweetest song they’ll sing this fall will be bringing the Big Trophy back to the Brick House.
Royal fans are banking on the same result. In a Wiley Allred-coached interview all the kids have memorized, they say the same thing, “We’re not trying to win three in a row. We’re just trying win another state championship.”
That they are and the home stands at Lions Field were nearly full with support from the Royal Slope where working hard is like a deep breath of … well, country air. They take their football seriously. But they all know that if you wear black and gold, you better come to work, because nothing worth having in this world is free.
Royal senior Corbin Christensen said after the Connell game earlier in the year at David Nielsen Field, “I love these games,” he said. “I mean look, our whole town is here. From the looks of the stands, so’s there’s. These games are always so much fun.”
He could very well be saying the same thing on Saturday in the Dome following his last high school game.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.