The worst is behind the Kalama Chinooks. Now to see if it’s made them better.
After finishing a three-game gantlet that included the fourth- and seventh-ranked teams in Class 1A, the Chinooks begin the part of their schedule that will determine just how far they’ve come from last year’s forgettable one-win campaign.
A playoff spot is still out there, even with the Chinooks (0-2 in league, 1-2) already down a pair of losses in the Southwest 1A Trico Division standings.
But it’s going to take a string of wins to make it happen, starting tonight against unbeaten White Salmon (2-0 in league, 3-0). Eric Boswell, for one, is confident his recharged program can make that happen.
“I expect us, and I think our kids expect, to win out,” the Chinooks head coach said. “Watching some teams on film, we think we have as much talent as any team in the league. If our kids stay healthy and execute and play well and don’t make mistakes, I think we can win week in and week out.”
Signs of improvement have been evident the past two weeks for Kalama.
After getting hammered at home by 1A No. 4 Woodland 40-0 on opening night, the Chinooks responded with a 39-8 win over 2A Ridgefield, then gave La Center a few scares in a 49-20 loss last week on the road.
The latter included a 227-yard day from senior running back Colton Aschoff, who had touchdown runs of 42, 80 and 30 yards against the seventh-ranked Wildcats.
“We’ve been pretty good offensively the past two weeks,” Boswell said.
“I was determined to line up and run the ball against (La Center), and we did. We just didn’t finish a few drives.
“We attacked and attacked and attacked and it just worked. We’re going to stick with it.”
The grind of the first three weeks was not without its casualties.
Fullback Carl Hausserman and starting tailback Justin Royal are both likely to miss tonight’s game because of ankle injuries. The former could be out of the lineup next week as well, Boswell said.
That likely means more opportunities for Aschoff (45 rushes, 389 yards this season), quarterback Elijah Bannister (27-179) and sophomore Jasper Pulido (12-115) in Kalama’s veer attack.
Boswell hinted that explosive senior wideout Jared Shagool, who scored three touchdowns in the Chinooks’ win over Ridgefield, could see a fair amount of time in the backfield as well.
At this point, it’s time to unload all the weapons. Kalama cannot afford too many more missteps, and White Salmon’s spread attack can light up a scoreboard. The Bruins put 48 on the Ilwaco Fishermen last week while rumbling for 250 yards on the ground and 394 total.
They beat Kalama with a fourth-quarter surge a year ago, a loss the Chinooks never truly recovered from. The end result was a lost season that included eight straight defeats.
A year later, Kalama is ready to put that in the past.
“We knew we had a tough start the first three (games this season),” Boswell said.
“La Center and Woodland are way better than everyone else in our league. They just have that much more talent than everybody else. That’s not demeaning any other of our opponents.
“Castle Rock, Toledo and White Salmon, we have to beat those three to have a chance at a playoff spot, so this is the biggest game of the year for us this White Salmon game. That’s how we’re treating it.”