Seven years ago, Dylan Carson and Jace Luton were on the Tacoma Dome sidelines as ball boys as the Marysville Pilchuck football team fell to perennial powerhouse Bellevue in a hard-fought Class 3A state semifinal loss.
Now, those two seniors have helped lead the Tomahawks back to the semifinals for the first time since that 2014 season.
And their opponent? None other than state juggernaut Bellevue.
No. 5 seed Marysville Pilchuck (11-1) is set to face the top-seeded Wolverines (12-0) in a 3A state semifinal Saturday afternoon under the shadow of the Space Needle at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium. With a victory, the Tomahawks would advance to their first-ever state championship game.
“It’s kind of crazy to see that one of the teams we saw at the exact same time (in the playoffs) is who I’m going to see my senior year,” Carson said. “It’s gonna be such an important game for us, with how laden we are with seniors. … There’s nothing more we can ask for than just a win.”
Here’s a preview of the matchup:
No. 1 BELLEVUE vs. No. 5 MARYSVILLE PILCHUCK
When: 1 p.m., Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium (Seattle)
Implications: The winner advances to face either No. 2 Eastside Catholic or No. 6 Kennewick in the 3A state championship game.
Matchup history: This is a rematch of Bellevue’s 20-10 win over Marysville Pilchuck in the 2014 3A state semifinals. The game was tied at 10 in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines pulled away to advance to the state title game and extend their winning streak to 67 games. However, Bellevue’s state runner-up finish that year was vacated after an investigation found widespread recruiting violations in its program.
Record: 12-0 overall, 6-0 KingCo 3A
Playoff path: beat Southridge 42-0 in winner-to-state round; beat No. 16 Lakes 42-21 in state first round; beat No. 9 Rainier Beach 56-22 in state quarterfinals
State history: Bellevue’s powerhouse program has won 10 state championships, including nine 3A state titles in 11 seasons from 2001 through 2011. The Wolverines also won two more 3A state titles in 2012 and 2013 and were the 3A state runners-up in 2014, but all three of those accomplishments were later vacated over recruiting violations. Following a one-year postseason ban in 2016, Bellevue is making its third 3A state semifinal appearance in the past four full-length seasons. The Wolverines are seeking their first trip to the state title game since 2015.
Season recap: Bellevue has been utterly dominant on both sides of the ball, outscoring opponents by 39.6 points per game. The Wolverines have won every contest by at least 21 points and all but two games by at least 31 points. Bellevue opened its season with a trio of impressive victories — a 51-13 rout of 3A state qualifier Peninsula, a 31-0 shutout of 4A state qualifier Kentwood and a 56-35 win over perennial 3A power Lincoln-Tacoma. The Wolverines then cruised through KingCo 3A and into the state playoffs with a flurry of running-clock routs. Bellevue’s toughest test came in its state opener, when it trailed Lakes 21-14 in the second quarter. But the Wolverines pulled away with 28 unanswered points, and then rolled to another blowout in last week’s state quarterfinal romp of Rainier Beach.
Offense: Led by a trio of 1,000-yard rushers in its vaunted Wing-T ground attack, Bellevue averages 49.7 points per game. The Wolverines have scored at least 31 points in every contest and at least 42 points in all but one. Senior running back William Wang leads the way with 1,644 yards rushing and 22 touchdown runs, including 197 yards and five TDs in last week’s state quarterfinal. Two-way junior standout Ishaan Daniels, the KingCo 3A offensive most valuable player, has added 1,216 yards rushing and 15 TD runs. Blake Teets, a sophomore, has run for 1,185 yards and 11 TDs. Bellevue piled up 431 yards on the ground in its quarterfinal rout.
Defense: The Wolverines’ defense has been equally impressive, allowing just 10.1 points per game. Bellevue has posted four shutouts and limited eight opponents to single digits. Junior linebacker George Kruger, the KingCo 3A defensive MVP, entered the state quarterfinals with eight tackles for loss. Anchoring the secondary is three-star recruit Ishaan Daniels, who is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 71 junior cornerback in the nation.
Record: 11-1 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; beat No. 4 Yelm 39-21 in state quarterfinals
State history: Marysville Pilchuck is making its third state semifinal appearance. The Tomahawks also reached the state semifinals at the 3A level in 2014 and at the 4A level in 1989. Marysville Pilchuck is seeking its first-ever trip to a state championship game.
Season recap: Marysville Pilchuck has cruised to nine running-clock routs and won all but two of its games 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 bounced back with five consecutive victories, including a first-round state blowout of Garfield and last week’s runaway state quarterfinal win over previously unbeaten Yelm.
Offense: With a massive all-senior offensive line and a stable of talented backs, Marysville Pilchuck’s deceptive and high-powered Slot-T rushing attack has been nearly unstoppable this season. The Tomahawks average 48.6 points per game and have scored at least 49 points in all but two contests. They gash defenses for an absurd 11.6 yards per carry and have broken 25 TD runs of at least 40 yards. Star senior Dylan Carson leads the way with 2,565 yards rushing and 46 TDs, while averaging 13.4 yards per carry. Carson had a massive performance in last week’s state quarterfinal, rushing for a school-record 427 yards and five TDs against a talented Yelm defense. Carson is climbing the all-time single-season state record list for 11-man football in a pair of statistical categories, according to state prep football historian David Maley. Carson ranks third in all-purpose TDs at 46, just four shy of tying the state record. And he ranks 10th in rushing yardage, sitting 364 yards from that state record. Speedy senior Dylan Velasquez has added 1,060 yards rushing and 17 TD runs, while averaging 13.8 yards per carry. Marysville Pilchuck ran for 549 yards in its state-opening rout of Garfield and 488 yards in last week’s state quarterfinal.
Defense: Marysville Pilchuck’s defense has been overshadowed by its high-scoring rushing attack, but the Tomahawks have been impressive on this side of the ball too. They allow just 15.8 points per game — including 5.8 first-half points per contest — and haven’t surrendered more than 28 points all season. In last week’s state quarterfinal, Marysville Pilchuck held Yelm to a season-low 21 points and 291 total yards, while limiting South Sound Conference offensive most valuable player Kyler Ronquillo to just 2 yards on four offensive touches. Junior linebacker and tackling machine Noah Faber has a whopping 32 tackles for loss, while senior Dylan Carson has added four sacks and 12 tackles for loss in a hybrid role. Two-way standout seniors Nate Elwood and Blake Jones anchor the Tomahawks’ big defensive line, which has played a major role in holding opponents to just 94 rushing yards per game. And in the secondary, senior safety Jordan Velasquez and junior cornerback Jaxon Petermeyer each have three interceptions.
Bellevue 38, Marysville Pilchuck 35
— Cameron Van Til, Herald writer
Marysville Pilchuck 36, Bellevue 35
— Zac Hereth, Herald writer
Marysville Pilchuck 28, Bellevue 27
— Steve Willits, Prep Sports Weekly co-host
Bellevue 35, Marysville Pilchuck 20
— Tom Lafferty, KRKO Radio