By Jon Saperstein Herald Writer
SNOHOMISH — Snohomish opened Friday’s game with an 84-yard touchdown pass and it looked like, for a brief moment, the Panthers would follow through on the threat to throw the Wesco 4A North Standings into gridlock.
But this game quickly became all about Lake Stevens and running back Austin Otis.
The Vikings righted their ship after the long touchdown and raced to a 57-21 victory over their league rival at Veterans Memorial Stadium in the final regular-season game for both teams.
“This is one of the biggest (games of my career) because this is one of if not the biggest rival we have,” Otis said. “Definitely my best game. By far my best game.”
Otis rushed for four touchdowns and a school-record — according to coach Tom Tri — 294 yards on the evening. As a team the Vikings rushed for over 500 yards on the night.
“Our front five and our tight end Ryan Simoneaux did a tremendous job of controlling the line of scrimmage,” Tri said. “Controlling isn’t even the right word. More like dominating the line of scrimmage.”
Because there was seemingly an endless supply of running lanes, Otis had the most fun a high school kid can have in the midst of the football season’s first real downpour. He didn’t realize how many yards until he heard from his coach.
“It was just a blast,” Otis said. “This is obscene. I had no idea I even got that many (yards). I thought I was pushing just over 100. This is crazy right now.”
As much as the Vikings manhandled Snohomish, the Panthers hung in the game early mostly due to Lake Stevens’ mistakes. The score was just 21-7 at half and 28-14 early in the third quarter.
On the opening 84-yard score a Lake Stevens defender fell down, allowing Russell Crippen to jog to the end zone. The Vikings stuffed Snohomish on their next possession but muffed the ensuing punt. Vikings quarterback Gavin O’Neil threw a pair of interceptions. The second Panther score also came when a defender fell down on a 56-yard pass by quarterback Kyle Gionet, who threw for all three Panther touchdowns.
With the game still close, the Lake Stevens coaches used the threat of playing in a tiebreaker Monday to get the team to fall into line.
“We talked about it before the game. We talked about it at halftime,” Tri said. “We asked these guys if they want to go out and play Arlington and Snohomish again. And not a one of them said yes, so we made a few adjustments and took better care of the football in the second half.”
They also made a commitment to running the football.
“We decided to run the ball until they stopped it and they didn’t really stop it,” Tri said.
With the win, Lake Stevens (3-1 league, 6-2 overall) cemented its spot as the No. 2 seed from the 4A North to the Wesco playoffs behind No. 1 Monroe. Arlington (2-2, 3-5) clinched the third seed with the Panthers (1-3, 2-6) loss. Had the Panthers pulled off the upset, the three teams would have finished tied for two playoff spots and played in the dreaded Kansas City tiebreaker.
Instead Lake Stevens moves on to play Edmonds-Woodway, the No. 2 seed from 4A South next Friday at Edmonds Stadium. It will be a rematch of what was the Wesco championship in 2011, which helped propel the Vikings to the state semifinals.
“I’ve seen them a little bit this year,” Tri said of the Warriors. “They’ve got one of the best backs in the state in Desmond Young. Their offensive line is big and physical too. It’s going to be a great football game.”
Even though the team lost a lot of talent from the 2011 team Otis thinks last year’s experience is going to help this year’s Vikings.
“This year I think we can go pretty deep in the playoffs,” Otis said. “I’m really hoping so because since we’ve been there last year we know what it’s like and we really want to get back there.”
At Snohomish H.S.
S—Russell Crippen 84 pass from Kyle Gionet (Collin Shelton kick)
LS—Austin Otis 1 run (Ignacio Ponce kick)
LS—Otis 2 run (Ponce kick)
LS—Tanner Krenz 31 run (Ponce kick)
LS—Otis 53 run (Ponce kick)
S—Boomer Vuori 56 pass from Gionet (Shelton kick)
LS—Tevin Gray 43 pass from Gavin O’Neil (Ponce kick)
LS—Otis 70 run (Ponce kick)
LS—O’Neil 30 int return (pass good)
S—Vuori 30 pass from Gionet (Shelton kick)
LS—Andrew Grimes 2 run (Ponce kick)
Records—Lake Stevens 3-1 league, 6-2 overall. Snohomish 1-3, 2-6.