It’s the game the Almira/Coulee-Hartline football team expected to play one year ago.
The Warriors put their 13-0 record on the line today when they take on Neah Bay (11-2) in the State 1B championship game at the Tacoma Dome. Kickoff is at 4 p.m.
Cusick avenged an early-season loss, upsetting ACH 36-28 in the semifinals last year. That setback was the single motivational factor for ACH coming into this year.
It started on the first day of practice.
“We handed out gear and turned off the lights and watched the video of the semifinal loss,” ACH coach Brandon Walsh said. “It was a good reminder to all of us where we didn’t want to be this year. We wanted to end up back in the same spot to have a chance at the (state) title and do what we could to get over the hump.”
ACH’s four seniors – Derek Isaak, Jordan Ping, Tucker Matthewson and Brock Streeter – were in eighth grade when the Warriors won a state title in 2007. Walsh, in his 13th year as head coach and an ACH graduate, started at center on a state title team in 1990.
Isaak, a three-year starter at quarterback, and junior running back Colin Deyarmin have been in the middle of ACH’s success all season. Isaak, a dual threat, has thrown for 1,010 yards with 19 touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing for 1,579 and 28 TDs. Deyarmin has rushed for 1,527 yards and 23 TDs and has 10 receptions for 229 yards and five TDs.
Isaak also has returned three punts for TDs and he and Deyarmin each have returned a kickoff for a TD.
Impressive yards, considering nine of ACH’s games ended early because of the mercy rule.
They’ve also had an impact on defense. Isaak, a safety, is second on the team in tackles (66.5) with five interceptions and one returned for a TD. Deyarmin, an outside linebacker, is third on the team in tackles (55.5) and has one interception.
Isaak, who has offers to play basketball in college, remembers not liking football as a freshman.
“It’s crazy. I hated it at first,” Isaak said. “I remember my freshman year I’d get beat on by the seniors and juniors and couldn’t wait for it to be over.”
The 6-foot-1 Isaak, whom Walsh believes is the fastest 8-man player in the state, is keeping the door open to playing football in college – although basketball is his first love.
“He’s one of those special kids who does things the right way,” Walsh said of Isaak. “There hasn’t been a kid who has spent more time in the weight room than him. A lot of it stems for his love for basketball. He has high hopes of playing college basketball – unless I can change his mind after this week.”
Deyarmin, a two-year starter, is a stout 5-10, 180 pounds who dedicated himself to the weight room after last season. The increased strength and speed showed this year.
“He’s very athletic with great vision, great power and good open field speed,” Walsh said. “Colin is one of those kids that in a different offense next year will probably carry it 25 or 30 times and could set a state record for rushing. In our offense this year, we can be very balanced and he doesn’t have to carry the load.”
Deyarmin hopes the lesson learned from last year makes a difference today.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Deyarmin said. “I hope we can make it count.”
Isaak and Deyarmin have mutual respect for each other.
“He’s an amazing football player,” Deyarmin said of Isaak. “With him our backfield is so hard to key on. He’s one of the most accurate passers in the state. On defense he helps save a lot of big plays from happening against us.”
“He’s been awesome,” Isaak said of Deyarmin. “He runs so hard. He got so strong over the summer and fast, too.”
The Warriors expect a difficult test from Neah Bay, which topped Odessa-Harrington 74-34 in the semifinals. Earlier in the season, ACH had no difficulty stopping Odessa-Harrington 64-20.
“I’d classify them as a power run team that sets up the pass with play action,” Walsh said.”
Isaak said the plan today is simple.
“We just have to execute and take care of the football,” he said.