The Weston-McEwen football team will find itself in unfamiliar waters this weekend. When the TigerScots travel to Mt. Angel on Saturday to play Kennedy at 1 p.m., the home team Trojans will be favored in the matchup, the first time the ’Scots will play the underdog role in ages.
The TigerScots (10-0) have burned through a season slate filled with mismatches on their way to a Blue Mountain Conference title and the quarterfinals of the Class 2A State Championships. Kennedy (6-4) is a team that has taken a much different path to this point in the playoffs. The Trojans hold the No. 4 ranking in the state — one higher than Weston-McEwen — largely because of the gruesome schedule they’ve played in the heart of the state’s populated area. The Tri-River Conference in which Kennedy finished second boasts three of the top 10 teams in the state. An equally pounding out-of conference-schedule contributed to the team’s four total losses.
Conversely, the TigerScots have feasted on the competition available to them, beating all foes handily. The season success has made Weston-McEwen confident, senior Jared Bond said, but definitely not cocky.
“People that used to get in our heads we’re not afraid of at all anymore,” said Bond, a receiver and defensive back.
Which one of the sides come out on top in the clash between the battle-hardened western team and the largely untested eastern squad will come down to the mistakes on the field much more than the successes, Weston-McEwen quarterback Dallas Reich said.
“We’ve got to execute the game plan,” said Reich, a senior. “We can’t rely on them making mistakes or anything. We have to make them make those mistakes because they won’t make many on their own.”
The Trojan defense isn’t impermeable and a high-scoring TigerScot offense with Reich at the helm could take advantage of that fact. Kennedy is allowing more than 25 points per contest which should be enough elbow room for Weston-McEwen’s 45-point per game onslaught to at least get moving.
The TigerScots came close to having another home playoff game this week after beating Knappa 48-14 in Athena on Saturday. They needed fellow Blue Mountain team Heppner to upset Kennedy but the Mustangs fell 35-12.
Weston-McEwen coach Kenzie Hansell said he was pulling for Heppner in their game to set up a rematch from earlier in the year when the TigerScots came out on top 38-8. A Mustang victory would have saved Hansell and his team a 250-mile trip to Mt. Angel.
“The thing is you always root for your league and it just so happens with the way the bracket lined up this year, we had a possibility of facing Heppner in the second round,” Hansell said.
If the local boys manage to beat Kennedy this week, they will move into the semifinals where the top team in the state Scio will likely be waiting. Scio (10-1) — the Tri-River Conference champs — takes on Lost River (8-3) on Saturday in the the other quarterfinal match on Weston-McEwen’s side of the bracket.