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It's rivalry week in the state of Washington: Central Washington and Western Washington are meeting Saturday in the Cascade Cup, which figures to be a rout, as Central is as good as ever and the Vikings are rebuilding, and it's time for the Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State, which is a game with postseason implications, will be streamed live online, and should be a close contest.


The Huskies won last year's installment of this rivalry 13-11, the first year of what might be considered its modern era.

"Last year we kind of really renewed the essence of what it is, and we got our alumni more involved, so I think it carries a little more weight last year and this year than it did in previous years, I would say," said Washington coach Brian Schoener. "There's just kind of an interesting challenge that arises when we play Wazzu. All the guys want to play Washington State."

Washington is 5-1-1 and tied for first place in the Western Division, with one loss and one tie against Oregon. Washington State is 5-1, with a loss to Central Washington and a bunch of lopsided wins.

"This year we've had a lot of depth. We've taken that final step forward into a high performance model, so we're starting to do the things that the other big programs are doing. We're jut kind of now starting to populate with the athletes that can pull it off," said Washington State coach Matt Hudson.

"That's why I think the trend is really impressive, because at this point we have the foundation set that once we start getting the Deshon Bells and people like that, it's really going to take off. That's the biggest thing. We kind of went all in this year with doing everything the big programs do, and it's actually paid big dividends."

Playing at outside center, Bell is tied with midfield mate Josh Vizcaya for the conference lead in tries with eight. Both are very strong, fast, physical ball carriers and tacklers.  

"Big, athletic strong runner," said Hudson describing Bell. "Hard to take down. Very intelligent. Very, very hard worker. Still learning the game, for sure."

"Very shifty running back," Hudson said of Vizcaya. "He's going to try out for the WSU football team, and I have some fear that he's going to make it. Hard to take down. Very hard tackler."

Washington has a strong center pairing, too, with James Shiri-Wasto and former HS All American Nick Gadbaw.

"I think that's probably going to be where the game's won and lost," said Schoener, "because we have really physical, talented centers as well, so I think it's actually going to be quite an exciting battle this weekend."

Gadbaw, just a freshman, is transitioning from back rower to center pretty seamlessly for the Huskies.

"He's kind of lights out. He's a very physical, strong, fast-paced runner," said Schoener of Gadbaw. "He's got a great stiff arm, runs awesome lines, there in support always, so that's where I think it'll be pretty exciting this weekend."

Another exciting Husky is scrumhalf Justin Santos, who will sneak in for a try when the opposition's not expecting it. He's done so from quick tap penalties a couple of times this season, and last week he slid in on a short yardage pick-and-go.

"He's the scrumhalf, he's the captain, he's a senior, so he's around the ball," said Schoener of Santos, "so when penalties happen, we've kind of given him the green light to go."

The Apple Cup can be viewed live 1pm PST here.