After a strong start, Meadowdale stumbled down the stretch of the season, losing its final three regular season games, including a 27-8 humbling loss to Oak Harbor in a Wesco crossover game.
But Mavericks head coach Mike Don wasn’t worried.
“We just needed to get some kids healthy,” Don said of the late-season struggles. “The kids always believed.”
That belief was evident last week when Meadowdale went down to Lacey and handed Narrows No. 1-seed Timberline a 28-21 loss that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The Mavericks rode running back Malik Braxton to a 28-7 lead and held off a furious Blazers’ comeback to advance to the state tournament for the third time in four years and the first time under Don.
“We knew going in that we could play well and be competitive,” Don said. “The kids played lights out.”
Braxton was one of those players who was struggling with health issues late in the season. The junior running back averaged nearly 115 yards per game during the first eight games of the season, but a hip injury late in the season limited him to just a few carries in the loss to Oak Harbor (his one reception in the crossover game did go for 49 yards and set up the Mavericks’ lone touchdown).
But against Timberline Braxton carried the ball 12 times for 88 yards and a touchdown to help Meadowdale build a three touchdown lead. Braxton did suffer a toe injury and was held out for much of the second half, but Don said he’s ready to go tonight.
If Meadowdale is to beat Lakes it’ll need another big performance from the brothers Evans. Mavs quarterback Jeremiah Evans threw a pair of touchdown passes to brother Josiah, who finished with five catches for 113 yards and two scores.
But according to Don, it’s the other side of the ball that’s key. Besides the final five minutes of the game against Timberline, Meadowdale’s defense bottled up the Blazers’ potent passing attack. This week they’ll have to do much of the same against a Lakes team that can score in bunches as evidenced by its 59-0 win over Nathan Hale in the quad-district playoffs last week.
“Our defensive line is key,” Don said. “We need to keep their QB in the pocket.”
That quarterback is Nick Webster, who tallied 225 total yards and scored three touchdowns before halftime of last week’s playoff win over Nathan Hale. Webster is a threat with both his legs and his arm.
There’s battle-tested and then there’s the Lancers from Lakewood. Lakes is 4-6 heading into tonight’s game, but all six of its losses are to teams still alive in the state playoffs that have a combined record of 44-16.
Lakes vs. Meadowdale
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Edmonds Stadium
How they got here: Lakes (4-6) beat Nathan Hale 59-0; Meadowdale (6-4) beat Timberline 28-21.
Winner receives: Spot in state quarterfinals against Eastside Catholic/Marysville Pilchuck winner
Scoreczar pick: Here’s what I’m going with for this match up: don’t know. The computer has had the Mavericks anywhere from a top-10 team to as low as No. 26 (currently it has them No. 17). Lakes (currently No. 21) gets pummeled one week by a mediocre opponent and then rebounds to soundly beat a good team. The computer is going with Meadowdale, but only because the Mavs are ranked higher going into the game. Meadowdale 24-17.
Swaney pick: Lakes, 28-27
Krueger pick: Lakes, 35-21
Lommers pick: Meadowdale, 28-27