Gaylan Gray and Marysville Pilchuck face unbeaten Yelm on Saturday in a 3A state quarterfinal. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Gaylan Gray and Marysville Pilchuck face unbeaten Yelm on Saturday in a 3A state quarterfinal. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

3A state quarterfinal preview: Marysville Pilchuck vs. Yelm

The Tomahawks and their high-powered rushing attack travel to face unbeaten Yelm in the 3A quarters.

Two years ago, the Marysville Pilchuck football team reached the Class 3A state quarterfinals before running into a star-studded Lincoln-Tacoma squad.

Now, the Tomahawks are back.

And they’re looking to move another step closer in their pursuit of a state championship.

Making its second consecutive state quarterfinal appearance, Marysville Pilchuck and its high-powered Slot-T ground attack travel to face unbeaten Yelm on Saturday afternoon for a spot in the state semifinals.

Here’s a preview of the matchup:

No. 5 MARYSVILLE PILCHUCK at No. 4 YELM

When: 1 p.m., Saturday

Where: Yelm H.S.

Implications: The winner will travel to face either No. 1 Bellevue or No. 9 Rainier Beach in the 3A state semifinals.

MARYSVILLE PILCHUCK

Record: 10-1 overall, 5-1 Wesco 3A North

Playoff path: beat Shorecrest 56-8 in Wesco 3A crossover round; beat Bishop Blanchet 62-28 in winner-to-state round; beat No. 12 Garfield 52-21 in state first round

State history: Marysville Pilchuck is making its second consecutive state quarterfinal appearance and its fifth in program history. The Tomahawks are seeking their third trip to the state semifinals and their first since the 2014 Austin Joyner-led team.

Season recap: Marysville Pilchuck has cruised to running-clock routs in nine of its 11 games and has won all but one contest by more than 30 points. That includes a 49-14 thrashing of 4A state qualifier Glacier Peak in Week 4 and a 49-15 dismantling of then-3A sixth-ranked Ferndale the following week. The Tomahawks’ lone blemish was a 28-14 loss in Week 7 to league rival Arlington, which ultimately led to a three-way share of the Wesco 3A North title between Marysville Pilchuck, Arlington and Ferndale. The Tomahawks have bounced back with four consecutive blowout victories, including a 549-yard rushing performance in last week’s opening-round rout of Garfield.

Offense: With a massive offensive line and a stable of talented backs, Marysville Pilchuck’s deceptive Slot-T rushing attack has been nearly unstoppable this season. The Tomahawks average 49.5 points per game and have scored at least 49 points in all but one contest. They gash defenses for an absurd 11.6 yards per carry and have broken 22 touchdown runs of at least 40 yards. Star senior Dylan Carson leads the way with 2,138 yards rushing and 41 TDs, while averaging 13.1 yards per carry. Carson has 14 TDs of at least 40 yards and has scored on a staggering 25.2% of his rushing attempts. Speedy senior Dylan Velasquez has added 1,046 yards and 17 TDs, with 15.2 yards per carry. They run behind a bruising all-senior offensive line that totals 1,330 pounds.

Defense: Marysville Pilchuck’s defense has been overshadowed by its rushing attack, but the Tomahawks have been impressive on this side of the ball too. They allow just 15.4 points per game — including 5.1 first-half points per contest — and haven’t surrendered more than 28 points all season. Two-way standout seniors Nate Elwood and Blake Jones anchor the defensive line, having combined for 13 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. Sophomore linebacker Noah Faber has a whopping 30 tackles for loss and seven pass breakups, while senior linebacker Dylan Carson has added four sacks and 12 tackles for loss. And in the secondary, senior safety Jordan Velasquez and junior cornerback Jaxon Petermeyer each have three interceptions.

YELM

Record: 10-0 overall, 6-0 South Sound Conference

Playoff path: beat Mead 37-21 in winner-to-state round; beat No. 13 Seattle Prep 52-28 in state first round

State history: Yelm is making its third consecutive state playoff appearance and just its fourth in program history. Prior to 2018, the Tornados’ only other state playoff appearance was in 1987. Yelm is seeking its first-ever trip to the state semifinals.

Season recap: Yelm has won every game this season by double digits and is riding a 16-game win streak, dating back to its overtime loss to Kennewick in the first round of the 2019 3A state playoffs. The Tornados opened the season with a pair of impressive non-league wins over Lincoln-Tacoma and Mount Si. Yelm then went unbeaten in the South Sound Conference, but didn’t get a chance to claim the outright league title due the cancellation of its matchup against fellow conference unbeaten Peninsula. Yelm overcame five turnovers — including two that resulted in defensive scores — to rally past Mead in the winner-to-state round. The Tornados rode their defense in that game, holding Mead to just one offensive TD and 53 total yards. Yelm then exploded for a season-high 52 points to pull away from Seattle Prep in last week’s state opener.

Offense: Led by an arsenal of playmakers, Yelm averages 41.1 points per game and has scored at least 34 points in all but one contest. Senior quarterback Palaina Hooper spearheads the attack, having completed 66% of his passes for 1,877 yards, 22 TDs and four interceptions. His top target is SSC offensive most valuable player Kyler Ronquillo, a three-star junior recruit who has 776 yards receiving and five TD catches. The Tornados’ two-headed rushing attack features 230-pound sophomore Brayden Platt and junior William Carreto. Platt has run for 1,044 yards and 14 TDs, with an average of 8.0 yards per carry. Carreto has added for 506 yards and six TDs, at 8.4 yards per carry.

Defense: Yelm allows just 14.5 points per game and hasn’t yielded more than 28 points all season. The Tornados have a four-star linebacker in Brayden Platt, who is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 50 overall sophomore recruit in the nation. But he may not even be the best linebacker on this defense. That distinction could also go to SSC defensive most valuable player Ray Wright, a talented junior linebacker who has racked up nine sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. Up front, senior defensive lineman Logan Platt has been a force with 12 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. And junior defensive back Kyler Ronquillo has three interceptions, including a pick-six.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Marysville Pilchuck’s rushing attack vs. Yelm’s defense: With their explosive Slot-T rushing attack, the Tomahawks have run wild in nearly every game this season. The only team to slow them down was Arlington, which restructured its defense a few years ago specifically for run-heavy Wing-T and Slot-T offenses like Marysville Pilchuck’s. Yelm has a strong defense, with a number of talented playmakers. But how will the Tornados fare with limited time to prepare for the Tomahawks’ deceptive attack? The answer to that question could very well determine the outcome.

PREDICTIONS

Marysville Pilchuck 35, Yelm 34

— Cameron Van Til, Herald writer

Marysville Pilchuck 31, Yelm 27

— Zac Hereth, Herald writer

Yelm 38, Marysville Pilchuck 31

— Steve Willits, Prep Sports Weekly co-host

Marysville Pilchuck 35, Yelm 27

— Tom Lafferty, KRKO Radio

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