Royal, ACH ready to make their run into the football playoffs

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  • Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin HeraldRoyal quarterback Saywer Jenks goes into Friday night's 1A state playoff game against Freeman with 32 touchdown passes on the season.

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    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Almira/Coulee-Hartline receiver Payton Nielsen, a 6-4. 180-pound senior, is a major weapon in the Warriors scoring arsenal this season.

  • Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin HeraldRoyal quarterback Saywer Jenks goes into Friday night's 1A state playoff game against Freeman with 32 touchdown passes on the season.

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    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Almira/Coulee-Hartline receiver Payton Nielsen, a 6-4. 180-pound senior, is a major weapon in the Warriors scoring arsenal this season.

It’s tournament time where anything can happen, but that’s what makes the whole thing worth playing.

The road to the 1A state championship goes through Royal City where the Knights (10-0) are riding high on a 37-game winning streak dating back to the quarterfinals of the 2014 tournament. The two-time 1A state champions are averaging 48.4 points a game and have won every game this season but one via the running clock rule (40-point lead).

They host Freeman on Friday at 7 p.m. at David Nielsen Stadium.

“We’re playing OK. We still have some things to clean up,” coach Wiley Allred said. “We worked on our run game a little more (against La Salle) because we’re going to need to run (the deeper we get into the tournament). The defense is playing solid.”

If the New York Giants can end New England’s 18-game winning streak and the Patriots can come from a 25-point deficit mid-way through the third quarter to win a Super Bowl, anything can happen and the Knights are very much aware the rest of the state is gunning for them.

Their 37-game winning streak is currently ranked in a tie for seventh in the nation. The Royal offense has put up 484 points in 10 games, including 74 and 75-point performances. But it’s not just a one-sided, go-for-broke program designed to outrun its opponents.

The Royal defense is equally as impressive as its counterpart, with five shutouts in the first six games. They didn’t allow a touchdown of any kind until Connell’s Parker McCary returned a kickoff 90 yards for a score in Week 7. In 10 games, they have given up just three offensive touchdowns all season.

“We’ve managed to stay focused defensively. There’s always things to work on,” Allred said.

A year ago, Royal defeated Connell during the regular season and again in the Tacoma Dome for the 1A state championship. Things are shaping out for the same scenario again this year, but the Knights focus, as it has been all season, is on the next game.

1B eight-man playoffs

The Almira/Hartline-Coulee Warriors (8-2) rebounded from their second loss of the season where they let a 24-point lead slip away in the 1B Northeast league championship against Odessa with a one-sided victory over Republic.

ACH, the 2015 1B state champions, will host Colton (7-3) on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Brick House.

Warrior quarterback Maguire Isaak is averaging 180 yards in total offense going into the game, but ACH has scoring threats in wide receiver Payton Nielsen and Hayden Loomis.

“Our goal every year is to go deep into the playoffs and that’s our goal again this year,” coach Brandon Walsh said. “We had to get in and watch film and evaluate (after the loss to Odessa), but we still have a good football team and we made the adjustments.”

Maguire is the trigger man for the Warriors’ offense, which is averaging 51.4 points a game. Gage Burchill and Nielsen have the ability to catch in traffic and go up and get balls. Loomis and Parker Zappone give the Warriors running game another burst of speed to compliment Maguire’s ability to get the edge.

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