By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
For a third consecutive season, Lake Stevens faces Edmonds-Woodway in a Wesco crossover seeding game, and for the second time in those three seasons it will decide the Wesco 4A championship.
The previous two games have been decided by a total of eight points, with Lake Stevens coming out on top each time.
Defeating the Warriors for a third consecutive season may prove to be the biggest challenge to date. Edmonds-Woodway, ranked seventh in this week’s Associated Press 4A state poll, comes into the game 8-0, having defeated all of its opponents by at least six points — and many by much more than that.
Earlier in the season it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Wesco South champion would be a heavy favorite in the championship game. The Warriors may still be the favorite, but the Vikings have closed the gap.
Lake Stevens (5-3) opened the season losing two of its first three games, but went on to win four of its next five to clinch the No. 1 seed in the North. The Vikings tied Monroe for the league championship, but earned the top seed thanks to their regular-season win over the Bearcats.
Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said at the beginning of the season many of his players were inexperienced at the varsity level. It showed, with the Vikings losing to Glacier Peak and Marysville Pilchuck in their first two games, before finally getting a victory in Week 3 with a 14-13 win over Oak Harbor.
As it turns out, the Vikings opened their season against three of the area’s best teams. Glacier Peak and Marysville Pilchuck square off for the Wesco 3A championship tonight, while Oak Harbor faces Meadowdale for the Wesco 3A’s No. 3 seed.
“I think those games allowed us to be battle-tested and our guys have just slowly gained more experience and with that experience has come confidence,” Tri said. “We’ve started to jell as a team as a result. But a lot of that had to do with just learning to play together.”
One of the biggest reasons for the Vikings’ improvement has been the elevated play of sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason. Tri said Eason has developed a better understanding of the offense and a good rapport with his receivers. The emergence of Eason has taken pressure of the team’s star running back, senior Austin Otis.
“It just allowed us to be that much more balanced,” Tri said. “Teams couldn’t just key on Austin Otis and the run game and it really opened up so many other things.”
Tri made it clear to his players from Day One that the goal was to win. “The expectation was for us to win the Wesco championship,” he said. “We just felt like we had some talent and we weren’t rebuilding we were reloading. … Whether or not we all believed that, that was the message that we sent and the kids bought in.”
Edmonds-Woodway vs. Lake Stevens
When: Today, 7 p.m. | Where: LSHS Football Field
What’s at stake: The winner earns the District 1 No. 1 seed and hosts the Kingco No. 5 seed, which will be the winner of tonight’s Newport-Woodinville game. The loser is the district No. 2 seed and hosts the South Puget Sound League South No. 3 seed, which will be the loser of tonight’s Federal Way-Curtis game.
Cascade vs. Monroe
When: Today, 7 p.m. | Where: Bearcat Stadium
What’s at stake: Winner earns District 1 No. 3 seed and travels to SPSL North No. 2 seed, which could be Auburn, Auburn-Riverside or Kentwood based on tonight’s games. The loser is the No. 4 seed and travels to the Greater St. Helen’s League No. 1 seed, which is No. 1-ranked Camas.
Kamiak vs. Arlington
When: Today, 7 p.m. | Where: John C. Larson Stadium
What’s at stake: Winner earns District 1 No. 5 seed and travels to Narrows No. 1 seed, which will be the winner of tonight’s Gig Harbor-Bellarmine Prep game.