It takes numbers to slow down the West Valley running game, and even more to stop it.
Running behind a drive-blocking offensive line with a posse full of hard-charging running backs, the Eagles pummeled Ephrata, the No. 3 seed from the CWAC, 33-7 at home on Friday night.
Now, the Eagles have been stopped by a 10-person committee.
West Valley coach Craig Whitney and his staff will be idle on Saturday . His team will skip its regular Saturday morning practice session.
“We don’t have any idea who we’re getting ready to play next, so it doesn’t make sense to have practice,” Whitney said. “This year, the state is trying something newm, and they have a committee that will decide seeding for the playoffs, and they won’t decide that until Sunday. So we’re waiting.”
The Eagles (9-1) won their eighth consecutive game, using the same formula that got them the No. 1 seed from the Great Northern League.
“We expect a lot from our offensive line,” Whitney said. “And because we expect a lot from them, we expect a lot from our running backs, too. We expect you to keep your balance, keep driving, keep your legs moving.”
The Eagles make a lot of yards after their backs absorb their first hit. They frequently find a way to squirm out of a tackle and break loose for a big gain.
Against Ephrata, they used a mix of fullback Marshall Meleney and halfback Ethan Rehn out of the backfield, but it was quarterback Matthew Allen who did the most damage, dashing 30 yards for a touchdown on the game’s opening drive when the Tigers’ defense swarmed after Meleney.
He capped the scoring on the same play, this time scoring from 52 yards out.
In between, he found Alyjouah Rollins with a 25-yard touchdown pass, and Hunter Tiffany with a 20-yard pass on the final play of the first half.
“I call Hunter my cat man, because he has such great reflexes,” Whitney said. “On that play, he just went up and took the ball away from the defender. He just ripped it out of his hands. It was just an outstanding effort.”
Ephrata had difficulty running against the West Valley defense and found most of its offensive success throwing to its 6-foot 4 Hunter James and 6-5 Joshua Benthem.
“They were a lot like Pullman that way,” Whitney said. “It’s hard to cover guys that big with our little defensive backs. Hunter Tiffany has a great vertical leap and if he were 6 feet tall, it would be outstanding. Unfortunately, he’s only 5-9, but he did a great job anyway.”
Meleney, who doubles as a middle linebacker on the WV defense, credited the coaching staff for the team’s defensive effort.
“We looked at film every day and we just trusted what our coaches told us,” he said. “It’s just about giving it 100 percent every day and every practice. It works.”
Whitney said he’s unsure of what to expect, since there’s only one Eastern Washington representative on the seeding committee.
“I think we deserve to be in the top four or five seeds,” he said. “But you never know. I want to say we’re 31-4 the last three seasons. We lost one league game to Pullman by three points, we lost to Shadle Park in the second game this year and it was the worst game we’ve played in three years. And we lost to Lynden and Hockinson in the playoffs.
“The only thing I know for sure is that I need to be close to the computer once they announce the bracket, because I need to send out my game films to our opponent within 30 minutes.”
Ellensburg 31, Pullman 7: Brady Helgeson ran for 142 yards and a touchdown and the Bulldogs beat the visiting Greyhounds (7-3) to advance to the State 2A playoffs. Pullman was eliminated with the loss.