The Vikings defense had Skyline star quarterback Max Browne looking average -- even below average -- and was offsetting Lake Stevens' stagnant offense.
But in the end, the Vikings could only hold Browne and the Spartans back for so long. Skyline, the defending state champions, exploded for 42 points in the final three quarters on its way to a 42-0 win in the first round of the state tournament.
"They scored three quick ones and that changed the momentum," said Lake Stevens head coach Tom Tri.
Browne started the game 0-for-2 on the Spartans' first drive, and 1-for-3 for 15 yards on their second. He completed two of his first 10 pass attempts as the game became a defensive battle early on.
But his third completion was an 80-yard touchdown pass to Matt Sinatro that broke the tie and sparked Skyline's offense.
"We made some plays in the first half defensively. I was proud of our front four and our linebackers did a good job," Tri said. "Our secondary covered in the first half, but it's tough when you've got a kid that can throw the ball 60 yards in the air on a dime. They're going to make some big plays, and they did, and that just got their momentum (going) even more."
Browne, a Southern Cal commit who last week became Washington state's career completions record holder, finished 10-for-21 for 279 yards and three touchdowns.
Skyline running back Cedric Cooper caught one of those touchdowns, a 30-yarder with 1:18 to go until halftime that put the Spartans up 22-0 before the break. Cooper also ran the ball nine times for 58 yards including a 31-yard touchdown run.
Lake Stevens, meanwhile, struggled offensively. Vikings' running back Austin Otis had 43 yards on 13 carries before Lake Stevens had to switch to a pass-heavy approach while trailing. The aggressive Skyline defense pinned their ears back and brought five or six defenders after Lake Stevens quarterback Gavin O'Neil, who finished 13-for-32 for 75 yards and was intercepted five times.
"They were able to put pressure on us and we struggled," Tri said. "We made some changes with o-line pass (protection) and did a better job of picking up their blitz but we've still got to have some time to throw the ball."
O'Neil was sacked six times, and was hurried from the pocket on several more attempts.
Despite the reputation of Skyline, Tri said his Vikings did not come into the game scared. After a good week of practice, they felt like they could run with a perennial state contender.
"Our kids, give them credit, they battled hard all week in practice. They never had that star-struck look in their eye," Tri said. " Our kids were great, they really were. Just once we got down we couldn't find any momentum."
In fact, the Vikings came out slugging right off the bat. Their best play may have been their first. Lake Stevens opened the game with an onside kick and recovered, shocking the hometown Skyline fans and invigorating the large contingent of Vikings' students that were standing and cheering behind the end zone.
Tri said that was the plan all along.
"We thought we could pooch one up over the top of their front line and get the ball on the ground and have a good shot at getting it and we did," he said.
But the Lake Stevens offense couldn't get rolling. At halftime, the Vikings had 85 yards of offense, compared with 183 for Skyline. Tri reminded his team that this season the third quarter had been very good to Lake Stevens and that they were more than capable of putting up a lot of points in a single quarter.
The Vikings scored 30 in the second quarter of last week's 67-33 win over Kentlake.
However, scoring on Skyline proved to be much more difficult. Otis got a 16-yard run while dragging four Skyline defenders with him to lead off the half, but after that it took three more plays before the Vikings punted.
"We didn't get it done tonight. My hats go off to Skyline," Tri said. "They played a great game. They're very physical. They took our run game away and unfortunately we didn't have an answer with our pass game tonight. So we have to go back to the drawing board and start all over again for next year."
At Skyline High School
Lake Stevens 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Skyline 0 22 17 3 -- 42
S--Matt Sinatro 80 pass from Max Browne (Sean McDonald kick)
S--Trevor Barney 11 run (Peter Stromgren pass from Nate Gibson)
S--Cedric Cooper 30 pass from Browne (McDonald kick)
S--McDonald 23 FG
S--Cooper 31 run (McDonald kick)
S--Andrew Giese 29 pass from Browne (McDonald kick)
S--McDonald 47 FG
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