The countdown is on.
At the time of publication, it will be exactly one week until area football programs open practice for the upcoming regular season. Unlike 2018, there are no returning state champions in the Columbia Basin. Royal’s 53-game win streak ended in last year’s state semifinals and Almira/Coulee-Hartline fell to rival Odessa in the 1B title game.
That’s old news.
Now, the grass is cut, the fields are marked and the uniforms are clean — for the time being.
According to the “experts” at the Columbia Basin Herald sports desk, here is each team’s most intriguing game in 2019.
Moses Lake vs. Wenatchee, Oct. 4
Moses Lake would like to return to the top of the Columbia Basin Big Nine after three wins last season. The Chiefs only have four home games, hosting the Panthers on Oct. 4. Wenatchee took last season’s game 34-0 after losing the previous three meetings.
An early test against Wenatchee should show whether Moses Lake has the potential to return to the state tournament.
Ephrata at Othello, Oct. 4
Ephrata fell one win why of the 2A state tournament in 2018 after losing to West Valley of Spokane in a crossover game. The Tigers were able to build momentum in the middle of its season after shutting out Othello 16-0. The Huskies will be motivated after missing the postseason.
Quincy at Ephrata, Oct. 11
Throw out the records, the Battle of the Basin is always interesting for each party involved. The Jacks will want to atone for a 37-3 loss to the Tigers last season. Quincy’s last win against Ephrata came at home in 2016.
Othello at Royal, Sept. 13
It’s hard to judge a team after two weeks, but Othello’s game against Royal will be a litmus test for the 2A Huskies. Royal steamrolled Othello 56-0 last year and the Huskies will undoubtedly want to make an early-season statement against the 1A power.
Royal at Connell, Oct. 11
The South Central Athletic Conference East belongs to the Knights until further notice, however, there is finally some vulnerability after 53 wins in a row. The Eagles always find a way to play the Knights tough and this game, barring any upsets, should decide the league champion.
Warden vs. Royal, Oct. 4
Warden has some pivotal home games in 2019, hosting Okanogan, Royal and Connell. League games hold the weight and Warden is chomping for an upset against the Big Two of Royal and Connell. The Cougars will get a crack at the Knights at home on Oct. 4.
Wahluke vs. Warden, Oct. 25
Wahluke will look to reach a district crossover game in 2019 and will need as many wins as it can get in a league featuring Royal and Connell. A late-season home game against Warden could have serious playoff implications for teams in contention for the No. 3 or No. 4 seed.
Lind-Ritzville/Sprague vs. Colfax, Oct. 4
The Broncos open their 2019 season with four non-league games before hosting Colfax in Week 5. LRS lost a tight game to Colfax 12-6 last season and will look to score an early league win to break out of the middle of the pack in its league.
Soap Lake vs. Odessa, Oct. 4
Soap Lake returns to Class 1B after four seasons at 2B. The Eagles get to play both 2018 finalists, the first a home game against reigning champion Odessa.
Almira/Coulee-Hartline at Odessa, Oct 25
A rematch of the 1B state championship had to be the choice. Odessa has been ACH’s only serious competition in 1B the last two seasons and the Tigers are primed for another run at first place.