SNOHOMISH — Well, this is familiar.
Just like in 2012, Glacier Peak faced Meadowdale for the Wesco 3A South championship in the final week of the regular season and just like a year ago, the Grizzlies came out on top, beating the Mavericks 20-17 on Friday.
The 3A North also came down to a matchup of two teams unbeaten in league play just at it did a year ago, with Marysville Pilchuck beating Oak Harbor 39-21 setting up a rematch of last year’s Wesco 3A championship game between the Grizzlies and the Tomahawks next Friday.
The only difference, this time the game will be played on the Grizzlies’ turf.
“We’re excited about an opportunity to play for the Wesco championship and the number one seed,” Glacier Peak head coach Rory Rosenbach said. “Let’s go do it again – at our house this time.”
The Grizzlies owe their return to the championship game to a stellar defensive effort against the Mavericks. Glacier Peak held Meadowdale to just 79 yards of offense in the first half. The Mavericks responded with 230 yards in the second half, but 153 of those came on three plays.
“Defensively, we were lights out,” Rosenbach said.
The Mavericks didn’t make many big plays, but the ones they did make kept them in the game. With Glacier Peak leading 3-0 in the second quarter thanks to a 34-yard Spencer Pettit field goal, the Grizzlies faked a punt from their own 29-yard line. Glacier Peak fumbled on the play and the ball was picked up by Marzel Simmons, who went 25 yards to give the Mavericks their first lead at 7-3 after the extra point.
“There was a miscommunication on our staff,” Rosenbach said of the botched fake punt. “I didn’t want a fake punt, but we were looking at the fake punt. That’s on us.”
The Mavericks looked as though they would distance themselves from the Grizzlies on the first offensive play of the third quarter when Malik Braxton took a handoff and ran to the left side for an 80-yard touchdown. As it turned out, the play never happened. The Mavericks were called for a false start penalty, but neither team heard a whistle.
Meadowdale was still able to salvage a drive that eventually stalled on the Grizzlies’ 18-yard line. Junior kicker Brett Schafer had a chance to bring the Mavericks to within a point, but his 35-yard field goal was off the mark.
Glacier Peak took advantage by driving 62 yards in seven plays capped off by a 3-yard Matthew Darling touchdown run to give Glacier Peak the lead back at 10-7 after Pettit’s extra point.
Darling added another touchdown run from four yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Glacier Peak a 17-7 lead.
“In the second half offensively we were able to figure out some of the things we needed to do and were able to put some points on the board,” Rosenbach said.
Slow starts have been a problem for the Grizzlies this year, but in all but one of their games they have figured out how to finish.
“We’ve got to fix the slow start,” Rosenbach said. “They were doing a little bit different stuff than we anticipated, so we weren’t getting the looks we thought we were going to get. So you go in at halftime and you make your adjustments and you figure out what you can do.”
Trailing by 10, the Mavericks needed a big play to stay in the game and Braxton delivered with a 43-yard run. But as they had the whole game, the Grizzlies’ defense tightened and Meadowdale had to settle for a field goal.
The Mavericks’ defense did its job with stops on the next two possessions, but the offense was unable to take advantage. Evans was intercepted by Kaianoa Wong on the Mavericks’ next possession. Meadowdale forced a three-and-out, but Evans was intercepted again, this time by Austin Hines, on the very next offensive play.
The Mavericks finally did break through with a 72-yard touchdown from Jeremiah Evans to Charlie White with the 58 seconds remaining. Meadowdale’s ensuing onside kick attempt landed harmlessly out of bounds and the Grizzlies downed the ball twice to preserve the win.
“It was scary there towards the end,” Glacier Peak running back Josh Pinca said. “But now that this is out of the way we have to focus on the game next week.”
The Mavericks turned the ball over three times in the second half and Evans was 4-for-14 with the touchdown and two interceptions in the final two quarters.
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.