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Peninsula Daily News
NEAH BAY — Neah Bay goes into the 1B state playoffs with huge expectations.
As the defending state champions with an undefeated season record, the Red Devils are expected to win more than just Saturday’s quarterfinal game against Mary M. Knight at Silverdale Stadium.
They’ve advanced to at least the semifinals in all but one of Tony McCaulley’s five previous seasons as the head coach, so they have a lot of history to live up to.
They know it, and their neighbors know it.
“Our town expects us to go far,” sophomore John Reamer said before practice Wednesday.
“Neah Bay’s always done good in sports, so it’s a lot more pressure to perform.”
And since the Red Devils won the state title last year, everyone is gunning for them, hoping to dethrone the champs.
“We have a really big target on our back,” Tyler McCaulley, a junior running back and linebacker, said.
“Everyone’s shooting for us.”
While they recognize the expectations and that they will be facing some motivated opponents, the Red Devils aren’t feeling squashed by the pressure that’s on them.
“I don’t feel more pressure, I just feel like we need to win,” junior quarterback Josiah Greene said.
And the Red Devils have many reasons to feel confident that they will do just that, win:
■ They’ve been here before.
Big games are nothing new to Neah Bay’s players.
They won championships in youth football, and many of the starters on this year’s team have been major contributors since they were in eighth grade, so they’ve already experienced a few playoff runs.
In short, they know state playoff football.
“It’s good to know how you have to come into the game, how intense it is, just how you have to play in the playoffs,” Tyler McCaulley said.
“The stakes are way higher. The intensity is up like 10 times [more than] the regular season, and it’s win or go home.”
In fact, they have so many holdovers from last year’s title team that the learning curve has been miniscule.
“It’s great. At the beginning of the season before we even put pads on, we could come out and run our offense,” Tony McCaulley said.
“We could start right where we ended off last year. We replaced [only] our center and our tailback [from] last year on offense, and the backup players had played a lot.
“It’s amazing how far you can go in a year that you have all your players back.”
■ They have Josiah Greene.
All Greene has done since leading Neah Bay to the championship and being named the 2011 1B state player of the year is improve.
“He’s actually a better football player than he was last year,” Tony McCaulley said.
“He’s worked on his game extremely hard from the time we won the title until now.
“He’s worked on his passing game a lot. Last year, he didn’t throw the ball that well. He could throw it, but this year he can throw it extremely well.
“He’s bigger, he’s faster, he’s quite a bit better, I believe.”
■ Josiah Greene has a lot of help.
Neah Bay isn’t a one-man team.
Greene is surrounded by weapons such as Tyler McCaulley, his cousin Zeke Greene, Leyton Doherty, Joey Monje and Cody Cummins.
“It just makes it a lot easier because I don’t have to do much,” Josiah Greene said.
“I just hand it off, or just make a throw and trust my receiver to go get it.”
■ This is what they play for.
The Red Devils seem to relish the opportunity to once again prove themselves in the state playoffs.
“It’s exciting; lose and you go home,” Zeke Greene said.
“We don’t like losing. It’s just how we’ve always been.”
Neah Bay has been so successful in recent years that the regular season is essentially a preseason before the playoffs.
“That’s what we play for, the playoffs, and that’s what we prepare our full season for,” Tony McCaulley said.
“We won the league championship this year; that wasn’t one of our goals.
“Our goal was — you know, I hate to say it — but our goal was to win the state championship, not just get there.”
■ They’re hungry.
“We want it,” Reamer said of the 2012 state championship.
The Red Devils took nothing for granted in the offseason.
McCaulley said the returning players put in a lot of work and are all better than last year.
“[Last year’s] state championship doesn’t mean anything, we’re just focused on this year. Trying to get another one,” Zeke Greene said.
“Our goal this year is to get a repeat, just like our goal last year was to get a state championship.”
■ They’re wary.
Even though a potential semifinal matchup with rival Lummi is on the other side of this game, Neah Bay realizes Mary M. Knight is a formidable opponent.
“We’re not going to look past Mary M. Knight,” Tyler McCaulley said.
“They’ve made it to the playoffs, and they have to be a good team to make it to the quarterfinals.”
In college football, this might be considered a potential “trap” game for the Red Devils.
The Owls have a lot of talent and just one loss on the season.
That setback came against Taholah, which is playing Lummi in another quarterfinal game Saturday in Aberdeen.
“They’re fundamentally sound, they don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Tony McCaulley said of the Owls.
“I think they’re a good football team. I think they’re solid. They’re the third or fourth best football team over here [in the West], I believe.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty decent game.”
On the radio
The Neah Bay-Mary M. Knight state quarterfinal game will be broadcast on Forks 1490 and on the Internet at www.forks1490.com.
Kick-off is at 6 p.m.