They don’t get much bigger than this.
No. 3 Pella vs. No. 6 Washington, Friday at 7 p.m., with a spot in the state semifinals on the line.
“We got some work to do,” said Washington head football coach Randy Schrader. “I think it will be a whale of a football game. You have two pretty good football teams and two well-coached teams, two passionate teams about the game of football.”
Two No. 1 seeds and a combined one loss between them — with the lone defeat occurring the last time these two teams met.
“Washington has a great football team,” said Pella head coach Jay McKinstrey. “They have had an outstanding year. When we played them the first time we knew they were very good. As we told our kids at the beginning of the year, I knew Washington had aspirations of playing in the dome, and they should.”
Since Week 2 on Sept. 6, this game has been building up for Washington.
“We certainly thought (Washington would be in this position and have this opportunity,” McKinstrey said. “We are grateful that we are (too).”
On that day, Washington allowed 319 rushing yards. Missing in action on defense were senior free safety Alex Coker, due to a hip pointer, and linebacker and leading tackler Garrett Covington.
Pella thoroughly dominated the trenches with its physicality.
“I think everyone will admit it — our O-line didn’t have their best game,” said senior Tanner Knupp. “They knew it. I’m glad we lost then, instead of now.”
The Little Dutch sent numbers to the box as they stunted the Washington running game.
The Demons had a season-low 15 rushing yards in a 14-7 loss.
“Pella is a really physical football team,” Schrader said. “I don’t think 14-7 was indicative of how physical they were.”
McKinstrey said his players just play hard play after play.
The game is still fresh in the minds of several Demons.
“Pella got us our first home game,” Knupp said. “Now it is time to take revenge back to their place.”
Washington bounced back from that loss, winning its next nine games, all by at least three touchdowns.
“It has been a good run, but we need to get our revenge on Pella,” said junior Thomas Bump. “We will be very motivated and ready to go.”
Knupp said that the winner could very well advance to the title game.
“You talk to all the big-time predicators, and they are saying if you win this game you are almost automatically in the championship game,” Knupp said.
Watching film from the last matchup might not carry much weight — the game was two months ago.
McKinstrey said both teams are playing at a higher level and faster.
Both squads’ go-to attack is the running game. Washington is No. 2 in the state with 3,567 yards, and Pella ranks sixth with 2,909 yards.
“If we contain the run game and make them go to the air, we have a pretty good chance,” Knupp said. “Our pass defense is incredible.”
Washington has the confidence to erase the last loss with a win in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
“I have full faith that we are going to pull this one off,” Knupp said. “We gave them both their scores.”
This time Washington will have a chance to win on the road in Pella.
“It is going to be a great atmosphere on Friday night,” Schrader said. “We have put some things in since then somatically that will hopefully help us.”
Schrader said his offense will be working on fade routes and throws ahead of the game. Quarterback Daryn Sebelius’ belief in his ability has been evident down the stretch.
“I think his confidence is back,” Schrader said. “I think we were concerned after the Pella game. His confidence was bad three or four games.”
Schrader is preparing for Pella to bring pressure from the defensive ends on the outside.
“They are going to be tough at the five-techniques,” Schrader said. “They have two really good guys. They are going to bring them and be physical.”
Schrader admits his team has been eager for a rematch.
“In the whole scheme of things, we were hoping to play Pella, because they are a really good football team,” Schrader said. “They handed it to us in Week 2.”