LAKE STEVENS — Doug Eklund has been going to football games since he was about 8 years old.
His mother would drop him off at Lake Stevens High School, about a mile away from their house. He would collect-call using a pay phone when he was ready to go home. In the space where the caller is supposed to say a name, he would quickly yell, “Come get me!”
Eklund, 71, has been watching Lake Stevens football ever since. He was there last week when the team beat Woodinville High School 28-14.
“The first half was like neck-and-neck,” he said. “You could see we were just wearing them down. And that’s what we’ve done all year.”
Lake Stevens secured a spot in the Class 4A state championships with that win. They’re playing against Union High School of Camas at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Tacoma Dome. Neither school has won a state football title.
The Vikings last advanced to the state championship game in 1994. They lost by one point.
The community has been showing support for the high school team this week. Business along Highway 9 have displayed the message “Lake take state” on reader boards. Houses near the school are decorated in gold and purple balloons and lights.
Shane Krueger and Jay Roughton have been posting fliers at businesses, inviting people to cheer for the team as they leave for Tacoma. Everyone is welcome. They plan to line up near Lundeen Park around 2:30 p.m.
“We want as many people as possible to wish them luck,” Krueger said.
His son is a senior at the school and plays in the school band. The school is sending buses for that group, the cheerleaders and any other students who want to join, said Jason Pearson, the school’s athletic director.
A couple of freshmen on the team go to Cavelero Mid High. That school also is sending students.
“We’re looking at about eight buses that say Lake Stevens heading down to Tacoma,” Pearson said.
While the city’s population has been growing, it still feels like a small town, he said. He believes having one high school contributes to that, and others agree.
People congregate in the stadium on Friday nights and little kids know that they’ll be a Viking one day, said Ken Collins, an assistant superintendent at the school district.
Collins was on the Washington State University football team in the 1980s, and went on to play for the New England Patriots for a couple of years.
He became the head football coach at Lake Stevens in 1990. Later, he led the team to the school’s last state championship game. He stays in touch with some of those players, who are mostly in their 40s now.
Actor Chris Pratt was on that team. He showed support for the school this week on Twitter.
“Rooting for the Vikings of Lake Stevens HS this weekend,” he wrote. “Hope you guys bring home the trophy!!! I’ll be watching!”
Rooting for the Vikings of Lake Stevens HS this weekend as the football team heads to the State finals at the #Tacomadome Hope you guys bring home the trophy!!! I’ll be watching! Make us proud!!! #HitHeadsUp #Lessgo #SmashMouthFootball
— chris pratt (@prattprattpratt) November 27, 2018
All of the school’s fall sports teams did well this year. Each made it to the playoffs. Students and staff celebrated with a pep rally Friday.
People had to yell over the band to hear one another, even if they were inches apart. Students jumped up and chanted with the cheerleaders as their class standing was called. At one point, everyone sitting in the bleachers made a human wave. It traveled around the gym at least four times.
Senior Carson Fatland showed a video he made of highlights from all the sports this season.
He’s going to be touring WSU on Saturday. He won’t make it to Tacoma, but has been to nearly every other game this season. After the win last week he noticed a change at the school.
“After we beat Woodinville school spirit went up 110 percent,” he said.
Football brings them all together, he said.