By Aaron Swaney Herald Writer
Three weeks into this year’s prep football season, Edmonds-Woodway vs. Lake Stevens seemed an unlikely Wesco 4A Championship matchup.
The Warriors hadn’t won a game and were smarting from a 27-7 thrashing at the hands of 3A Meadowdale. Lake Stevens was unbeaten, but it was Arlington that was garnering much of the hype in the Wesco North.
Since then, though, the Vikings and Warriors have distinguished themselves as the class of the South and North division, respectively, and the two teams will do battle at Edmonds Stadium tonight at 7 p.m. to decide who will be the Wesco No. 1.
“The guys are happy to have a chance at being Wesco champs,” said Lake Stevens head coach Tom Tri.
As the No. 1 seed, the winner of tonight’s game will host the Greater St. Helen’s League No. 3 and the loser hosts the Narrows League No. 4 in the first round of the quad-district playoffs. The difference is the Wesco No. 1 seed gets another home game in the first round of the state playoffs.
“When they found out that the winner gets to host two playoff games it kind of lit a fire underneath them,” said Tri.
The Vikings would seem to be the favorite going into tonight’s game. Since beating rival Arlington 42-32 on Sept. 30, Lake Stevens has been on a tear, winning its next three games over Monroe, Marysville Pilchuck and Stanwood by an average margin of nearly 35 points per game to finish the regular season undefeated at 8-0.
But Edmonds-Woodway has more in its corner than just the home-field advantage. Since their 0-3 start, the Warriors have been on a tear of their own, winning five straight. E-W went unbeaten in South play, including a 31-27 come-from-behind win over South No. 2 Mariner to start the streak on Sept. 23. Edmonds-Woodway coach John Gradwohl wasn’t sure his team had it in them.
“If you had told me we’d be in the Wesco title game when we were 0-3 and I would have said, ‘I don’t know about that,’ ” Gradwohl said.
The Warriors have been led by their so-called “two-headed monster” in the backfield. Mark Coutee and Desmond Young have combined to rush for 1,569 yards this season and 19 touchdowns. The two rotate in and out of the game to keep fresh and how they go is usually how Edmonds-Woodway goes.
Conversely, Lake Stevens is led by its passing attack and quarterback Jake Nelson, who has passed for 1,870 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. Nelson spreads the ball around evenly to wide receivers Christian Gasca (45 catches, 870 yards, 11 TDs) and Brady Pahukoa (38/513/4) and running back Shae Giddens (20/248/2), and isn’t afraid to tuck and run, having rushed for 567 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“Their QB makes a lot of plays with his arm and his feet,” said Edmonds-Woodway head coach John Gradwohl. “He takes off and he’s as good as any tailback and that gives them an added dimension.”
My pick: Lake Stevens 43, Edmonds-Woodway 39
Snohomish vs. Jackson
8 p.m., Everett Memorial Stadium
The Wesco Championship game may get all the hype, but this game is the one with two teams playing must-win games. The winner of this game advances to the quad-district playoffs, while the other goes home. Snohomish, which lost five games to start the season, has won three straight, including a 1-1 showing at last weekend’s Kansas tiebreaker to put themselves in position to even make the playoffs. Jackson, which had a chance to lock up a playoff spot last Friday but lost to Mariner, is battling a number of injuries to key players including RB Trai Patrick and WR Trevante Robinson.
My pick: Snohomish 28, Jackson 24