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Bruins vs. Beavers

Playoff hope rests on win over Woodland

It's a simple as this: Columbia High must win its Trico Division matchup with Woodland Friday night to have a shot at qualifying for the Washington District 4 2A football playoffs.

A Bruins victory this weekend, coupled with a Castle Rock win at Stevenson, would produce a three-way tie for third place in Trico standings and necessitate a tiebreaker to determine the league's third and final district entry.

Such a playoff, which would follow the Kansas Plan format, would take place next Tuesday, probably at Ridgefield High School.

A coin flip would precede the action. The odd-team out would get a bye, then meet the first-round victor in a winner-to-district scrimmage.

The last team standing would advance to Friday's district playoffs and play the second-place team out of the Evergreen Division.

But, before such a scenario can come into play, the Bruins have to beat the Beavers, who are ranked 14th in one 2A poll and will have the homefield advantage.

"The brass ring is hanging out there in front of us," said Bruins Coach Scott Ross, "if we want to grab onto it. Woodland isn't just going to hand it to us."

Woodland (3-2 in Trico, 6-2 overall) is riding a late-season tidal wave that includes impressive victories over Ilwaco, Stevenson and Castle Rock.

Moreover, the Beavers won last year's week-eight meeting with the Bruins, 14-7, to clinch the Trico championship. A little less (no title), but just as much (a playoff berth), is at stake when the two teams collide this Friday.

"Woodland is on the upswing. They ran all over Castle Rock (in a 38-12 win last weekend)," Ross noted. "They went into that game like they were playing a playoff game. They'll come out fired up and ready to rock and roll the same way Friday night, and we're going to have to do that to."

The Beavers are led by running back Justin Leonard, who rushed for 250 yards and three touchdowns against the Rockets (2-3, 4-4). In his last three games, the sophomore has run for 714 yards.

Ross said their quarterback, Paul Benjamin, is another threat the Bruins will have to concern themselves with as they scheme about how to stop Woodland's ground game.

Benjamin, operating behind what CHS's head coach described as a "good-sized line," ran for 58 yards and one TD and passed for 63. He also returned a kickoff 46 yards for another score.

"We have a lot of incentive to do well, and I feel confident we're going to go out there and give them a tough game," Ross said, "if we can clean up our offense a bit and keep playing tough defense."


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