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"Expectations Couldn’t be Higher… Can you be Perfect?"

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It's state tournament time for high school football in Washington and this always takes me back to the movie Friday Night Lights. Permian High School working all year for a chance at a state title, in a town that eats, drinks, and sleeps high school football. I don't have an ounce of West Texas in me, but you can't help but love tournament time and the clichés… "Go Big or Go Home"…"Now or Never"…"State or Bust". Cheesy but you love it.

Locally, it's already a strong beginning to the state tournament. All three GSL schools are hosting state games on Saturday. I don't know the last time that's happened, but that's certainly a good start if any school wants a state title.

 The GSL hasn't had a state champion in football since Ferris did it back in 2010. Before the Saxons, Lewis and Clark was the last school to do it in 2007, and before the Tigers, it was Central Valley back in 1997.

Just talking 4A, Mead and Gonzaga Prep each have a chance to stamp their teams as one of the best in school history.

The Bullpups haven't even been in the state tournament since 2006, and their last state title came in 1986. It was part of a three year stretch where they played in each of the 4A title games.

For Mead, their history has even less success. With a win on Saturday, the Panthers will match the best teams in school history because Mead has never advanced to the state semifinals. The school has won in the first round only four times in school history – 1984, 1990, 1996, and 2005.

History may not be in either school's favor, but to a degree I'd say the state tournament isn't necessarily about who's the best team in state, but about who plays better football the "Westside" or the "Eastside".

This time of year you see Central Valley fans cheering on U-High, Mount Spokane fans pulling for Mead, and everyone else rooting for Gonzaga Prep. Even Mid-Columbia Conference fans begin to root for the GSL. So what changes? I think it's the mindset that "Well if our team can't go, where going to root for whatever school is left from our area." For some it's rooting whatever school is left from our side of the state.

It's easy to band together when a majority of the time the "Westside" owns most of the state hardware for football. It's even easier to band together when the other guys have 3A football power Bellevue and 4A power Skyline.

Most high school football fans know what those schools have done in recent years, but here's a reminder.

  • Bellevue: four straight 3A titles, with 9 in the last 11 years.
  • Skyline: Five straight trips to the state championship game, four state titles in that time.

For the Spartans, their lone championship loss over that span came against Ferris in 2010. Coincidentally enough that's the last time an "Eastside" school won a title in either 3A or 4A.

Programs like Bellevue and Skyline have football on lockdown, but for one of our GSL schools to do some damage in this year's tournament, it will have to go through the "West side."

For whatever reason, the Mead Panthers have never gotten over the hump of making it to the state semifinals in footbal, but this year Mead has one of the more favorable setups in the 4A bracket. Saturday's game will be a handful with Newport and their wishbone offense. With a win though, Mead may have a clear shot to the semi's. They would then play the winner of the Eastmont vs. Auburn game, two schools that don't rank in the top ten for 4A according to the Seattle Times state rankings.

Gonzaga Prep shares a less friendly fate. They playUnion on Saturday, a school that has three losses on the season, but holds the #9 spot in 4A according to the Seattle Times. Even with a win this weekend, their road gets even more challenging, as they'd likely host Bellarmine Prep, the #4 team in 4A.

In a perfect world Mead and Gonzaga Prep meet up in the state semifinal for a rematch that all GSL fans want to see. Not only that, but the winner would go on to the state title game, where they'll likely have a chance to knock off 4A power Skyline.

That's a best case scenario, but for now the GSL can thank their lucky stars to how 4A got seeded. All three of the undefeated teams in 4A (Skyline, Federal Way, Camas) all sit on the top half of the bracket, meaning G Prep or Mead wouldn't see either one of these schools until the state championship game. It's a pleasant change from last year when Mead lost to Skyline in the first round.

The bracket is proof that sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, but at this point in the season schools need to do both. It's state tournament time, and we'll just see how things shakeout come Saturday.

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