Southridge is determined to break Newberg's six-year state winning streak and become the first champion from the Metro League since 2004
by: Miles Vance MAN IN THE MIDDLE — Southridge senior DJ Heino and his teammates open the state playoffs on Saturday.

Southridge is ready.

Ready to play. Ready to win. Ready to make history.

The Southridge boys water polo team, already the Metro League champion, is poised on the verge of the 2011 High School Water Polo State Playoffs, and poised - the Skyhawks hope - on the verge of their school's first-ever state title run.

Southridge starts that run with a 10:20 a.m. game on Saturday against Barlow at Corvallis' Osborn Aquatic Center. With a win there, the Skyhawks would play again later on Saturday in the state quarterfinals. The semifinals, championship, third-place and fifth-place matches are all scheduled for Nov. 11-12 at Osborn Aquatic Center.

'We were fairly confident about how the team would do early in the season, but we came into each contest without any expectations and worked on playing together as a team, focusing on the end goal of a state championship,' said Southridge coach Erik Akerman.

The Skyhawks have been good as gold so far, going 10-0 in Metro play and 15-0 overall, their efforts led by the starting seven of seniors Kyle Blandin, DJ Heino and Jamal Teano, juniors Cody Blandin and Jarred Rimb, and sophomores David Stiling and Blake Hokkanen.

Hokkanen leads the team in scoring with 105 goals and has also added 47 assists and 34 steals, but he's had plenty of help.

Stiling has 85 goals, 46 assists and 35 steals. Kyle Blandin has totaled 73 goals, 36 assists and 35 steals. Heino has collected 67 goals, 41 assists and 27 steals. Cody Blandin has 53 goals, 39 assists and 53 steals. And Rimby has scored 24 times, made 33 assists and 23 steals.

Further, senior Devon DeJardin has scored 32 times and also made 20 steals.

'The best part about this team is that all seven of the starters are strong athletes - fast swimmers and strong legs,' Akerman said. 'Having this physical base allows us to dominate defensively and allows everyone to be an offensive threat. We are extremely lucky to have these seven young men leading our team, where in the past, we have had more weaknesses.'

Indeed, that group has beaten its 15 opponents in 2011 by an average score of 16-4.

But the Skyhawks are now headed for state, and there, they are going to aiming for way more than just 'average.'

The key, Akerman said, is in playing the same stifling defense that has been the key to the team's success all year long.

'Working together and communicating effectively to play defense has been the key to our season,' he said. 'Our team needs to play outstanding defense and focus on playing at the highest level every single game ... so that as the games get tougher, we will maintain our composure and follow our game plan.'

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