Unless the two division winners should happen to meet in the state playoffs, there is no such thing as an overall Wesco championship game in football.
But when we look back in November, tonight’s Jackson-Stanwood contest might turn out to have been a clash of champions. Both teams are contenders to win their respective division titles. Jackson is coming off a first-place finish in the Wesco South and could very well repeat. Stanwood, a middle-of-the-pack team last year, has the bulk of its starters back and will likely move up into one of the division’s three playoff berths.
Another potentially unofficial title game tonight pits Mariner and Lake Stevens. Both were playoff teams last year, finishing third in their respective divisions.
Another game tonight between 2008 playoff teams is the Meadowdale (first Wesco 3A) vs. Edmonds-Woodway (second Wesco South) contest.
Then there’s the rematch between 2A state semifinalists Lynden and Archbishop Murphy Saturday morning at Qwest Field.
They’re all non-counters in the league standings, but they should produce some exciting results.
Here’s a look at the top openers and the rest of the weekend schedule:
Jackson at Stanwood
When: 7 tonight
Where: Stanwood H.S.
Last year: Jackson RB Talor Cox rushed for 205 yards and two TDs and QB Andy Gay threw for 106 yards and a TD in a 32-8 Timberwolves victory.
Players to watch: RB Riley Carr was Jackson’s second-leading rusher last season with 103 carries for 740 yards and 11 TDs. Gay completed 82 of 123 passes for 1,319 yards and 13 TDs.
RB Brad Gee led Stanwood in rushing last season with 127 carries for 791 yards and nine TDs. QB Mike McCune completed 44 of 101 passes for 434 yards and two TDs.
On paper: Jackson will be every bit as good as it was last year. Stanwood, with 14 returning starters including several at key skill positions, will be much better. I don’t think Jackson will be able to exploit the Stanwood defense they way it did last year and Stanwood should be able to grind out some time-consuming drives.
Predictions: John McDonald picks Stanwood 21-20. Mike Cane picks Jackson 24-14. Tom Lafferty picks Jackson 35-28.
Mariner at Lake Stevens
When: 7 tonight
Where: Lake Stevens H.S.
Last year: Lake Stevens recovered from a three-TD deficit and, sparked by a 100-yard kickoff return by Bo Dickinson, scored 27 unanswered points in the second quarter en route to a 36-34 win.
Players to watch: RB Austin Parker, with 40 carries for 262 yards cand four TDs, is Mariner’s top returning rusher.
RB Duke Dolphin had 135 yards rushing and 266 receiving for Lake Stevens last year.
On paper: Both teams are reloading at most of the skill positions, but Mariner has size and experience in the line which Lake Stevens lacks.
Predictions: John McDonald picks Mariner 21-10. Mike Cane picks Mariner 27-21. Tom Lafferty picks Mariner 14-7.
Arlington vs. Glacier Peak
When: 7 tonight
Where: Snohomish Veterans Memorial Stadium
Last year: Arlington spoiled Glacier Peak’s debut with a 37-7 win. Eagles QB Jake Parduhn rushed for three TDs and passed for two and had 273 yards total offense.
Players to watch: RB Jake Parduhn did most of the passing for Arlington last year, but he will take handoffs this season from last year’s No. 2 QB Andy Smith. Parduhn had 118 carries for 533 yards and six TDs last season, while Smith completed 37 of 69 passes for 549 yards and seven TDs. The Eagles return all three of their top receivers: Jon Shell (29 catches, 502 yards, four TDs), Dylan Lindberg (26, 410, four) and Conner Varnell (28, 405, nine).
Because it opened last year without a senior class, Glacier Peak returns all of its starters including prolific QB Zach Richter (177-291, 2,154 yards, 19 TDs). Also back are its top two rushers: RBs Alex Stepanchenko (49 carries, 469 yards, five TDs) and Austin Wirtz (58, 359, two), and its top four receivers: Tanner Southard (42 catches, 722 yards, 10 TDs), Luke Westberg (45, 522, seven), Jack Bonner (39, 464, two) and Tommy Rollins (31, 360).
On paper: While Arlington is probably better suited to defend against Glacier Peak’s spread offense than most area teams, it won’t be dealing with a bunch of inexperienced underclassmen this time around. Glacier Peak is going to score a lot of points in this game. But it still needs a defensive stop or two to reverse last year’s outcome.
Predictions: John McDonald picks Glacier Peak 35-21, Mike Cane picks Glacier Peak 35-34 OT. Tom Lafferty picks Glacier Peak 24-21.
Archbishop Murphy vs. Lynden
When: 9:30 a.m. Saturday
Where: Qwest Field
Radio: KRKO (1380 AM)
Last year: The two teams met twice last season. In the season-opener on Sept. 5, Murphy QB Jake Downs threw two TD passes in a 26-15 win. In a Class 2A state semifinal on Nov. 29, Lynden QB Jordan Hastings threw for 173 yards and two TDs in a 21-13 win.
Players to watch: Hastings came close to 3,000 total yards last season. He ran 175 times for 773 yards and 11 TDs and completed 175 of 311 passes for 2,193 yards and 26 TDs. His top two receivers return. WR Blair Bomber caught 72 passes for 998 yards last year. WR Ryan Seto caught 31 for 540.
When you consistently employ 10 or more running backs a game, you’re bound to have some back. RBs Randall Murphy (72 carries, 655 yards), Alex Martinez (52, 370) and Jacob Clark (32, 287) combined for 1,312 yards rushing for the Wildcats last season.
On paper: With the majority of its state title team returning, Lynden has a legitimate opportunity to repeat. Murphy could be a stumbling block down the road, but not this early in the season.
Predictions: John McDonald picks Lynden 28-21. Mike Cane picks Lynden 21-20. Tom Lafferty picks Lynden 24-23.
Other games tonight
Non-conference: Lakewood at Lakeside, 4 p.m.; Everett at Bishop Blanchet, Mountlake Terrace vs. Lynnwood at Edmonds Stadium, 5 p.m.; Port Townsend at Coupeville, 6:30 p.m.; South Whidbey at Grandview, Shorewood at Monroe, Oak Harbor vs. Cascade at Everett Memorial Stadium, Marysville-Pilchuck vs. Shorecrest at Shoreline Stadium, King’s at La Conner, Vashon Island at Sultan, River Ridge at Cedarcrest, Seattle Prep at Granite Falls, Snohomish vs. Kamiak at Goddard Stadium, 7 p.m.; Meadowdale vs. Edmonds-Woodway at Edmonds Stadium, 8 p.m.
Non-conference: Highland Christian vs. St. John-Endicot at Kittitas H.S., 4 p.m.; Darrington at Seattle Lutheran, 7 p.m.