Same opponent. Same round. Same location.
For the second year in a row, the Lake Stevens High School football team hosts Gonzaga Prep in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.
It’s a rematch of the Vikings’ 35-14 state quarterfinal win over the Bullpups last season.
Here’s a preview of Saturday’s matchup:
No. 2 LAKE STEVENS vs. No. 10 GONZAGA PREP
When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Where: Lake Stevens H.S.
Radio: KRKO 1380 AM
Implications: The winner advances to host defending 4A state champion Graham-Kapowsin in next week’s state semifinals. No. 6 Graham-Kapowsin beat No. 3 Sumner 28-21 in a state quarterfinal Friday night.
Last meeting: Star running back Jayden Limar totaled 165 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns to lead Lake Stevens to a 35-14 win over Gonzaga Prep in last year’s 4A state quarterfinal showdown of unbeatens. The Vikings shut down the Bullpups’ triple-option rushing attack, limiting them to a season-low 14 points and just 233 total yards.
Record: 9-2 overall, 4-0 Wesco 4A
Regular season: lost to Garfield 26-16, beat Bellevue 37-28, beat Federal Way 63-21, lost to West Linn (Ore.) 45-6, beat Jackson via forfeit, beat Eastlake 41-16, beat Mariner 48-0, beat Kamiak 56-10, beat Glacier Peak 57-17
Playoff path: beat Bethel 63-0 in winner-to-state round, beat No. 15 North Creek 42-27 in state first round
State history: Lake Stevens is making its fourth consecutive 4A state quarterfinal appearance and its sixth in the past seven postseasons. With a victory, the reigning 4A state runner-up Vikings would earn their third state semifinal trip in the past four postseasons. Lake Stevens is seeking its first-ever official state title.
Season recap: It was an up-and-down start for the perennial powerhouse Vikings, who challenged themselves with their toughest non-league slate in coach Tom Tri’s 18 seasons at the helm. They opened with a mistake-filled 26-16 loss to talent-laden Garfield, committing four second-half turnovers in the defeat. But they bounced right back with an impressive 37-28 win over defending 3A state champion Bellevue, followed by a rout of 4A state qualifier Federal Way. Lake Stevens had another setback in Week 4, when it traveled to the Portland area and suffered its worst loss in a decade with a 45-6 defeat to Oregon powerhouse West Linn. Yet the Vikings have been their usual dominant selves ever since, rattling off seven straight victories by an average margin of 39.5 points. In Week 6, they routed 4A state qualifier Eastlake 41-16. They cruised through Wesco 4A for their ninth consecutive league title, capped by an emphatic 57-17 blowout of then-4A-top-ranked Glacier Peak. They opened the postseason with a 63-0 thrashing of Bethel. And they rolled past North Creek for a 42-27 triumph in last week’s state opener, pulling away for a 28-point fourth-quarter lead before surrendering a pair of late scores with their backups.
About the Vikings: Four-star Notre Dame-bound senior running back Jayden Limar leads the way for Lake Stevens, which averages more than 40 points per game with its high-powered spread attack. Limar has rushed for 1,467 yards and 26 TDs at a whopping 9.2 yards per carry, while adding 215 yards receiving and three TD catches. The ultra-talented back has topped 190 yards from scrimmage five times this season, including 295 total yards and three TDs in the win over Bellevue and 248 yards and four TDs in last week’s first-round victory over North Creek. At quarterback, sophomore Kolton Matson has completed 71% of his passes for 1,170 yards, 14 TDs and five interceptions. He’s been particularly efficient as of late, throwing 11 TD passes and no interceptions over the past six games. Versatile sophomore receiver Cassidy Bolong-Banks has a team-high 412 yards receiving and five TD catches, while adding 306 yards and three scores on the ground as a fly-sweep weapon. Two-way senior standout Isaac Redford has 398 yards receiving and four TD catches, along with seven interceptions on defense. And junior Cole Becker has added 382 yards receiving and six TD catches. On defense, the Vikings allow just 19 points and 289 total yards per game. They yield just 4.3 yards per carry and have come up with 15 interceptions, while holding opposing passers to a 55% completion rate.
Record: 9-2 overall, 7-1 Greater Spokane League 4A/3A
Regular season: beat Cheney 58-0, lost to St. John’s College (Wash., D.C.) 42-14, beat Ferris 35-6, beat Mead 28-21, beat Ridgeline 49-12, beat University 52-12, beat Central Valley 28-21, lost to Mt. Spokane 31-27, beat Lewis and Clark 56-20
Playoff path: beat Moses Lake 28-26 in winner-to-state round, beat No. 7 Kamiakin 40-27 in state first round
State history: Gonzaga Prep is making its second consecutive 4A state quarterfinal appearance and its sixth in the past eight postseasons. The Bullpups won the 4A state title in 2015, which was their program’s third state championship.
Season recap: It’s been another strong year for Gonzaga Prep, which has been one of the state’s most consistent 4A programs over the past decade. But the Bullpups haven’t been quite as dominant as they were last season, when they took an unbeaten record into the state quarterfinals. Gonzaga Prep suffered an out-of-state blowout loss in Week 2, when it traveled across the country and fell 42-14 to a talented St. John’s College program in Washington, D.C. The Bullpups rebounded with five consecutive wins, including a 28-21 victory over 3A state qualifier Mead. Their lone in-state loss was a 31-27 defeat to 3A state qualifier Mt. Spokane in Week 8, which ultimately ended up determining the Greater Spokane League 4A/3A title. Gonzaga Prep escaped the winner-to-state round with a 28-26 win over Moses Lake after the Mavericks couldn’t connect on a potential game-tying 2-point conversion pass with less than 1:30 to play. The Bullpups then traveled to the Tri-Cities last week and beat reigning 4A state semifinalist Kamiakin 40-27 to earn their second consecutive state quarterfinal trip.
About the Bullpups: Once again, Gonzaga Prep is led by a high-powered triple-option attack. The Bullpups average 37.7 points and 373 rushing yards per game, while churning out 7.0 yards per carry on the ground. They graduated leading rusher and standout quarterback Ryan McKenna from last year, but have continued their success this season with five ball carriers who’ve topped 400 yards rushing. Senior running back Lilomaiava Mikaele leads the way with 1,111 yards and 17 TDs at a clip of 6.1 yards per carry, including a season-high 190 yards and three scores in last week’s first-round win over Kamiakin. Noah Holman, a sophomore back, has added 724 yards and 15 TDs. Senior back Nick Bankey has run for 701 yards and six TDs, while fellow senior Sam Ohman has chipped in 679 yards and four TDs. Senior quarterback JoJo Shortell has thrown for 575 yards and eight TDs, while adding 428 yards and three scores on the ground. His top target is senior Bo Howell, who has 344 yards receiving and seven TD catches. Gonzaga Prep allows 19.8 points per game on defense. Luke Miller, a senior defensive lineman, has five sacks.
Extra points: Evan Weaver, a former All-American linebacker at Cal, is back at his alma mater as an assistant coach for Gonzaga Prep. Weaver was the 2019 Pac-12 defensive player of the year and was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL draft. He led the Bullpups to the 4A state title as a senior in 2015.
Herald pick: Lake Stevens