By David Krueger and Aaron Lommers Herald Writers
Before Snohomish County residents cast their ballots for president and governor, there are a couple other races to resolve.
On the football field.
Today — call it “Decision Friday” — both Wesco 3A conference titles will be determined. In the North, Marysville Pilchuck travels to Oak Harbor, while Glacier Peak squares off against Meadowdale to determine the South champion.
The winners face each next week in the Wesco championship game.
“I think it’s kind of rare that two teams are playing each other for the league title on the last game of the (regular) season — in both conferences, the North and the South,” MP head coach Brandon Carson said. “That’s kind of neat. You don’t have to rely on somebody else getting a win or a loss. Your destiny is in your own hands.”
All four teams come into the games with 3-0 records in conference play and 6-1 marks overall.
Glacier Peak head coach Rory Rosenbach is another one who enjoys seeing the conference crowns being decided on the final week of the regular season. He even has some advice for the schedule makers.
“It’s awesome,” Rosenbach said. “I don’t know if there was any planning in that, but if they did, those guys should head down to Vegas.”
Here is a closer look at tonight’s games, starting with the Game of the Week as selected by The Herald’s readers.
Marysville Pilchuck at Oak Harbor
For a full breakdown of the MP-OH game, click here.
Carson said this week was business as usual at the Tomahawks’ practices. “We’re trying to approach it like any other game,” he said.
One of the concerns for Carson is the stamina of his starters. The Tomahawks have won their six games by an average of almost 36 points, with their closest victory being a 28-3 win over Snohomish five weeks ago. There haven’t been a lot of games where the starters were still playing after the first 36 minutes.
“It’s been a while since our starters have played all four quarters,” Carson said. “The theme of this week is ‘We’ve got to play all four quarters to beat Oak Harbor.’”
Lake Stevens head coach Tom Tri, whose Vikings beat both the Tomahawks and the Wildcats this season, said Marysville might have a few more offensive weapons, but Oak Harbor is capable of doing some damage through the air.
“(Marysville’s) O-line is big and physical and they’ve got two or three backs that run very hard,” Tri said. “The first thing you’ll have to do with Marysville is stop their run game. They’re versatile, they can run inside the tackles or outside the tackles.
“Oak Harbor is a little bit different. They’ll run, too, but they throw it a little more. Their QB (Ian Kolste) can chuck it a little bit. They mix it up.”
Tri said the “1-2 punch” of MP running backs Austin Joyner and Kacey Walker will be tough for the Oak Harbor defense to handle.
“That Joyner kid is one of the best running backs we’ve seen all year, bar none,” Tri said. “He’s fast, physical, sees the edge. He’s a good back.”
Glacier Peak at Meadowdale
For a full breakdown of the Meadowdale-GP game, click here.
Glacier Peak has gotten to this point with a high-powered offense led by a trio of players who give defenses fits. Quarterback Chris Beccera leads the way, having thrown for more than 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. On the receiving end of many of those Beccera passes is wide receiver Sean Elledge, who has 26 catches for 604 yards and eight touchdowns. The pass is set up by the Grizzlies’ running game, led by Michael Palmer, who has rushed for 752 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Mavericks aren’t nearly as flashy offensively, but just as deadly. The running-back combination of Morgan Masanda (382 yards, eight touchdowns) and Giavani Shepard (304 yards, four touchdowns) is the driving force of the Meadowdale offense. The Mavericks look to control the ball and wear down teams with the run game, though both players have the ability to break off big plays.
Meadowdale coach Mark Stewart doesn’t try to hide the fact that his team is a run-first team. “We’ve gone out and won championships by running the ball,” he said.
Expecting a big dose of the run, the Glacier Peak formula for success is simple.
“We need to stop the run first and foremost,” Rosenbach said. “We need to execute on offense. It’s all about third down. We want to stop them and they want to stop us. We can’t go three-and-out, especially if they are going to grind it.”
The Grizzlies have no significant injuries coming into the game, while the Mavericks are without starting quarterback Brian Marty and offensive lineman Dustin Spicknall.
Mountlake Terrace head coach Tony Umayam, whose team lost to both Glacier Peak and Meadowdale by three points, said injuries could be a factor.
“Depending on how the backups respond, that might give Glacier Peak an advantage,” he said.
Rosenbach said he’s sorry Stewart’s team isn’t at full strength, but injuries are a part of the game.
“I feel bad for him, but I will take it,” Rosenbach said. “Mark will have them ready to play. They will have a plan and they will be ready to go. With that said, obviously I’m sure he thinks that it’s a huge deal and I would too if that was me. At least it happened two weeks ago so those kids have had a week to prepare.”
Stewart kept a positive outlook when talking about the loss of his starting QB.
“He will be missed,” Stewart said, “but it gives another quarterback an opportunity to show what he can do in Jeremiah (Evans).”