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Saxons look both ways

Offensive threats Orosco, Tonani must shore up secondary in final

Ferris senior running back Gage Orosco and junior wide receiver Jordan Tonani have piled up impressive statistics the past four games.

Orosco has rushed for 539 yards on 63 carries and three touchdowns and caught 10 passes for 232 yards and a TD. Tonani has caught 31 passes for 347 yards and four TDs.

Their most important contributions Saturday when the Saxons (10-3) take on defending champion Skyline (11-2) in the Gridiron Classic State 4A championship game could be required on defense. Both start in Ferris’ secondary – Orosco at safety, Tonani at cornerback.

“Without a doubt,” Ferris coach Jim Sharkey said. “Our secondary’s got to play extremely well. Gage and Jordan are a big part of that.”

It’s a tall task, to be sure. This isn’t an ordinary team Ferris will square off against in the Tacoma Dome. The Spartans of Sammamish won the 4A title last year and captured the title in their final year in 3A two seasons ago.

Pulling the trigger in Skyline’s wide-open offense is Brigham Young University-bound quarterback Jake Heaps. His favorite target is athletic junior Kasen Williams, who has hauled in a team-leading 66 passes for 1,120 yards and 17 TDs.

“What makes them so tough is the other three receivers are also very good,” Sharkey said. “They have no weak links in their receiving corp. Kasen, of course, is the No. 1 target, but if you overload on him the others have a knack of causing a lot of problems.”

The Seattle Times held an on-line chat with Bothell coach Tom Bainter and Skyline coach Mat Taylor before the teams’ semifinal last week. Bainter was asked how his team planned on covering Williams.

“We are going to sneak a 12th and 13th person on the defensive side,” Bainter quipped.

Tonani said the Spartans have the Saxons’ full attention this week.

“Their skill players are unreal,” Tonani said. “Theses guys are very good. We have a very tough task in front of us. We can’t stop them, but we hope to slow them down as much as we can.”

Without giving away specific details, Orosco was asked what the Saxons planned to do.

“We have to give their receivers a little more cushion than we normally do with most teams, but we’ve also got to be physical,” he said.

The title game is a rematch of last year’s semifinal. Skyline pulled out a 24-21 decision.

“I wouldn’t say we should have beaten them last year, but we definitely could have,” Tonani said. “We had our chances.”

Tonani is just thankful that Ferris finally broke through and reached the title game. He’s also thankful to be healthy after battling some early-season injuries.

He suffered a minor shoulder sprain in the second game.

“It was just the beginning of a chain of injuries,” said Tonani, who pulled a quad the following week.

“Even in a couple of our losses he wasn’t 100 percent,” Sharkey said. “We saw the old Jordan in Week 9 against University. He’s kind of taken off from there.”

Sharkey can’t say enough good things about Orosco’s play the second half of the season.

“His ball security has really picked up,” Sharkey said. “His patience has improved. He’s just making big plays. He’s got really good vision out there. We’re not as good when Gage and Jordan aren’t on the field, that’s for sure.”