Deion Stell took the opening kickoff of the Tomahawks' playoff game with Bishop Blanchet and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown, setting the tone in Marysville Pilchuck's 48-21 romp over the Braves.
The 3A Quad-District victory clinched a spot in the first round of the state tournament for the No. 3-ranked Tomahawks.
Marysville Pilchuck head coach Brandon Carson called Stell's return "huge. It really sets the tone. A 7-0 lead without your offense or defense being on the field is huge."
It was the second kick returned for a touchdown by Stell this season. The senior running and defensive back said his team looks to him for big plays every time he goes out on the field.
"That's something that they expect of me," Stell said. "Sophomore year, the first time I touched the field, it was a kick return for a touchdown. Our goal for kick returns is three (for touchdowns) a year. I think we're at two. We've got time for the third one."
Marysville Pilchuck never surrendered the lead that Stell's return established. Killian Page had a one-yard touchdown run and Stell added two more touchdowns -- on runs of 24 and 28 yards -- as the Tomahawks piled up points early.
Austin Joyner, whose injured ankle kept him out of last week's Wesco 3A Championship against Glacier Peak, returned to the field and made his presence felt. He had a 93-yard touchdown run on the first play of a Tomahawks' drive after a Bishop Blanchet punt.
The Braves, ranked 10th in the most recent Associated Press high school football poll, got the ball at midfield after recovering a Marysville Pilchuck fumble. But they couldn't get anything going and had to give the ball back to Joyner and the Tomahawks, who took a 34-0 lead going into halftime.
"Yeah he's doing pretty good," Carson said of Joyner. "He's going to be fine."
Joyner finished the game as the leading rusher for Marysville Pilchuck (10-0 overall). He had 11 carries for 163 yards. Stell carried seven times, adding 75 yards to the Tomahawks' rushing attack. Marysville Pilchuck finished with 310 rushing yards in the game.
"I thought we played a fairly clean game and that's what you have to do when you get to this point in the season," Carson said. "Just have to keep rolling. We're happy and we get to host next week. It should be exciting."
Page, who had seven yards on seven carries, didn't play in the second half because of back spasms. Carson said they held him out just to be safe and that Page is "going to be fine."
Even the Tomahawks' defense got involved in the first-half scoring. Marysville Pilchuck linebacker Alex Gray got past the line of scrimmage and intercepted a backward toss -- the first of his two interceptions -- by Bishop Blanchet quarterback Davin Tullis. Gray tipped the ball, secured it while running and raced 40 yards to the end zone.
The Braves had just 68 yards of offense in the first half and more than doubled that with an 87-yard scoring drive to start the second half. Bishop Blanchet -- 7-3 out of the Kingco league -- capped the drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Tullis to Clinton Allen Jr.
Oshea Trujillo had a 77-yard run and Allen Jr. added a 49-yard touchdown reception in the game's final minutes and to account for the last score.
"I thought our defense was really, really good tonight," Carson said. "They put up a couple late on us, when we had some new guys in, but that's no big deal."
The Tomahawks' reward for the victory is a rematch with Eastside Catholic, which eliminated Marysville Pilchuck 65-34 in the state quarterfinals last season.
Stell and the Tomahawks believe they are a much improved squad from last year, and are looking forward to seeing the Crusaders again.
"This is going to be a big game for us," Stell said. "It's something we've been looking forward to. We checked out the bracket like two or three weeks ago and saw it (was possible to play against Eastside Catholic). … They were a good team, but we also didn't play our best game. We've got to take care of the little things: block, tackle, fall forward, don't turn over the ball. We've got to do it all."
Despite such a dominant performance against Bishop Blanchet, Marysville Pilchuck is sure it still will find something to work on in the week leading up to the state tournament.
"Our mantra is just, 'Improve every week,'" Stell said. "We're going to break it down. Our coaches watch loads of film. Carson never sleeps. He'll be up until tomorrow when we come (in). We pick at the details. We'll look at the things we did wrong so we can eliminate our mistakes."
At Quil Ceda Stadium
Bishop Blanchet 0 0 7 14 -- 21
Marysville Pilchuck 21 13 7 7 -- 48
MP–Deion Stell 99 kickoff return (Ryan Spiva kick)
MP–Killian Page 1 run (Spiva kick)
MP–Alex Gray 40 interception return (Spiva kick)
MP–Austin Joyner 93 run (kick blocked)
MP–Stell 24 run (Spiva kick)
MP–Joyner 14 run (Spiva kick)
B–Clinton Allen Jr. 9 pass from Davin Tullis (Hunter Hanay kick)
MP–Stell 28 run (Spiva kick)
B–Oshea Trujillo 77 run (Hanay kick)
B–Allen Jr. 49 pass from Alex Freeman (Hanay kick)
Records–Bishop Blanchet 7-3 overall. Marysville Pilchuck 10-0.
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