Week one of the local high school football features two traditional rivalry games: Mark Morris hosts Kelso and Woodland visits Kalama.
“It’s a great time for our county,” Monarchs coach Shawn Perkins said. “Lots of rival games in the first week to kick off the season, it will be exciting. It’ll be great to see what the Hilanders do.”
Whatever the Hilanders do will go through senior quarterback Marshall Coleman.
For much of Kelso football’s existence, it was a smash mouth, on-the-ground, rather simplistic offense.
The Hilanders wing the ball around the field with Coleman and athletes everywhere. It’s a new-ish look, but not one opponents are totally unfamiliar with.
“I think we’re decently ready,” Monarchs linebacker Keoni Makaiwi said. “We had some injuries, but we got some guys stepping up, filling roles.”
The Monarchs hope to improve over the past two blowouts, when the Hilanders claimed 40-0 and 31-14 wins in 2018 and 2017, respectively. It’s the 12th consecutive year that MM and Kelso have started the season against each other and the Hilanders have won the last five meetings.
“It’s a mental game. We are working to make sure we’re sharp in everything we do this Friday,” Mark Morris head coach Shawn Perkins said.
That mental game also extends over to Kelso, which has to deal with the Monarch’s tricky Wing-T offense.
It’s built on misdirection, confusion, and using a defense’s aggression against it.
Kelso believes it’s ready to handle it, as it has in past years.
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“It’s been going good,” Coleman, who also plays cornerback, said. “Everybody’s been learning. I think we got it down, so I think we’re ready to go.”
For Kelso, the game is the first step in trying to improve off a dominant 8-2 season in which the Hilanders claimed second-place in the 3A GSHL.
“Making sure everyone is in high spirits and good emotions,” Kelso head coach Steve Amrine said. “It is a rivalry game week one, it’s exciting.”
“The whole town gets involved,” Coleman added. “it’s fun for them. We just want to put on a good show for them.”
Week one is about a lot of things, but even though these are both non-league match-ups the first game helps set the tone for the rest of the season and gives coaches a measure of players and teams.
“It comes down to blocking and tackling. Making sure the guys are in the best shape,” Amrine said.
“Getting our kids to understand their assignments and not focus on the first-game jitters but to have a little fun,” Perkins said.
The Monarchs see time of possession as key, Perkins says, while Amrine is emphasizing the importance of the Highlanders’ mindsets.
“We want to play hard and passionate,” Amrine said. “It’s a cool night to start the school year with rivals. We’re going to have to go out and play a really tough team.”
The game starts at 7 p.m. Friday at Longview Memorial Stadium.
Kelso plays next week at home against R.A. Long. while Mark Morris plays at Castle Rock.