Kickoff: 7 p.m., Friday, Quil Ceda Stadium, Marysville Pilchuck High School
Marysville Pilchuck: The Tomahawks offense starts with junior Austin Joyner. The running back has carried the ball 62 times for 990 yards – averaging 16 yards per carry – and 15 touchdowns. He leads a fierce Marysville Pilchuck rushing attack that also includes JJ Valencia (345 yards), Killian Page (334), Deion Stell (283) and Hunter Trueax (199).
At the quarterback position the Tomahawks also appear to have the advantage with senior Jake Luton. Luton is 48-of-91 for 786 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Luton’s improvement over last year gives Marysville Pilchuck an even more potent offense.
“It’s been nice for us this year because it’s an added dimension to the offense,” said Tomahawks’ coach Brandon Carson. “We have weapons at receiver and Jake’s a weapon also. It probably makes it harder to defend against us.”
Oak Harbor: Like Marysville Pilchuck, the Wildcats rely on a strong rushing attack to bolster their offense. Led by Sheyenne Sams, Oak Harbor averages 365 rushing yards per game. Sams leads the impressive group — and is second in the Wesco 3A North conference behind Joyner – with 821 yards this season. Julian Faralan has 686 yards, just ahead of Dejon Devroe’s 680.
Quarterback Clay Doughty is 25-of-56 for 441 yards and nine touchdowns. The junior averages 63 yards passing per game, a bit behind Luton’s 112.
But the parallels on offense aren’t lost on the two teams’ head coaches.
“There are quite a few similarities,” said Oak Harbor head coach Jay Turner. “We both try to spread the ball out to a lot of different running backs.”
Advantage: Marysville Pilchuck because the Tomahawks have Joyner.
Oak Harbor: With all the talk about the two teams’ offenses, the impressive defenses get lost in the shuffle. Aside from a 36-point outburst from 4A Arlington, the Wildcats have allowed more than 16 points (20) in just one of their other six games.
Sams isn’t just a force for the Wildcats on offense. The senior running back was a first-team All-Wesco 3A North defensive back for Oak Harbor last season. The Wildcats, who also have returning first-team defensive lineman Tyler Adamson, acknowledge that much like they have similarities with the Tomahawks on offense, there are also some similarities on the defensive side of the ball as well.
“There are quite a few similarities … on both sides of the ball,” said Turner. “They run a four man front (on defense). We run a four-man front. We are kind of eerily similar.”
Marysville Pilchuck: Much like Oak Harbor (shocking!), the Tomahawks star running back also plays on defense. Austin Joyner was a first-team running back and defensive back last season for Marysville Pilchuck.
The Tomahawks defense, which gave up a season-high 27 points to Everett last week while resting their starters for much of the game, is only allowing opponents to score 20 points per game. Still, the Marysville Pilchuck coach hopes Friday’s game isn’t a shootout like last year’s contest was.
“I hope it’s not a high-scoring game from our standpoint,” Carson said. “You’ve got to make them work for what they get. They have to work for what they get. We have to play good assignment football and tackle well.”
Advantage: Marysville Pilchuck, again because of Joyner. (There’s a trend developing here.)
Marysville Pilchuck: The Tomahawks boast a first-team all-Wesco 3A North specialist in kicker Ryan Spiva. However, Marysville Pilchuck hasn’t had to rely on Spiva as much with an explosive offense that has not needed to kick many field goals.
Spiva is 1-for-2 this season, with his miss coming from over 50 yards on wet grass. But his lack of kicks this season hasn’t diminished Carson’s confidence in his all-league kicker.
“He’s got a strong leg. He’s a weapon for us in the special teams game,” Carson said. “I have a lot of confidence in Ryan. Hopefully it won’t come down to that, but if it does I have no problems with him lining up for a 35-yarder to win it.”
Oak Harbor: In a game that features such similar teams, Oak Harbor knows that special teams can play an important part in getting a big win. The Wildcats, who feature a much younger squad this season, struggled a bit in the early weeks but seem to be figuring things out at just the right time.
“I think we’re getting better as the season goes,” Turner said. “We were a little shaky at the start with young, inexperienced guys. I think we’ve gotten a lot better.”
Like with offense and defense, once again Sams can play a prominent role. He returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown last week to cap Oak Harbor’s 41-7 win over Marysville Getchell.
Advantage: Draw. Oak Harbor has Sams, Marysville Pilchuck has Spiva. Both are dangerous if needed.
As clearly demonstrated, Marysville Pilchuck and the Wildcats, while not complete mirror images of each other, are incredibly similar. And the pair is coming off a thrilling 47-39 win by the Tomahawks last year in Oak Harbor that saw both offenses and defenses flourish at certain times.
It all sets up what should be a good battle Friday night for the Wesco 3A North championship.
“Certainly we’ve always had some good battles with Oak Harbor,” Carson said. “They’re not too far removed from a state title (in 2006) and they have a pretty prideful program. Coach Turner does a great job up there. They’re always tough.”
Marysville Pilchuck 35, Oak Harbor 31. Because of Joyner.