Jayden Limar (left) and Lake Stevens are set to face Vega Ioane (far right) and Graham-Kapowsin in Saturday night’s Class 4A state championship game. (Kevin Clark / The Herald; Pete Caster / Tacoma News Tribune)

Jayden Limar (left) and Lake Stevens are set to face Vega Ioane (far right) and Graham-Kapowsin in Saturday night’s Class 4A state championship game. (Kevin Clark / The Herald; Pete Caster / Tacoma News Tribune)

4A state title game preview: Lake Stevens vs. Graham-Kapowsin

Get ready for the state championship game with an in-depth look at both teams and how they match up.

For the fourth time in the past six full-length seasons, the Lake Stevens and Graham-Kapowsin football teams are squaring off in the state playoffs.

This time, it’s for all the marbles.

And by the end of the night, one of these two perennial powers will be celebrating their first-ever state title.

The third-seeded Vikings (11-0) and top-seeded Eagles (13-0) are set to collide in the Class 4A state championship game Saturday night at Mount Tahoma High School.

“It creates somewhat of a rivalry — whether you like it or not — just because (we’ve) seen them so many times in the past few years,” 17th-year Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said.

The programs’ first state playoff clash came in 2015, when Jacob Eason and the Vikings rolled to a 49-14 rout of Graham-Kapowsin in the 4A state quarterfinals.

Two years later, the Eagles got revenge with a 38-31 win over Lake Stevens in the opening round of the 4A state playoffs.

And they met again in 2018, when the Vikings dispatched Graham-Kapowsin with a 45-28 quarterfinal victory on their way to the 4A state title game.

“Both of us know each other pretty well,” 17th-year Eagles coach Eric Kurle said.

And for the better part of the past decade, both programs have been perennial state title contenders.

Lake Stevens has made nine 4A state playoff appearances in the past 10 full-length seasons — including six trips to the quarterfinals, four to the semifinals and now two to the championship game.

Graham-Kapowsin has made eight consecutive 4A state playoff appearances — including six trips to the quarterfinals, two trips to the semifinals and now its first-ever trip to the title game.

One of these two highly successful programs will complete the final step of their ascent on Saturday.

“That’s just one of the added features to this game — both teams have an opportunity to win their first state championship,” Tri said.

And as for the matchup itself? It features a highly compelling contrast of styles — with the Vikings leaning on the speed and athleticism of their talented playmakers, and the Eagles leaning on their overpowering size and strength up front.

“It should be a great game,” said Gonzaga Prep coach David McKenna, whose team fell to Lake Stevens in the state quarterfinals. “It really should. It’ll be fun to watch.”

Here’s an in-depth preview of the matchup:

No. 1 GRAHAM-KAPOWSIN vs. No. 3 LAKE STEVENS

Lake Stevens is making its second state title game appearance in the past three full-length seasons. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Lake Stevens is making its second state title game appearance in the past three full-length seasons. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

When: 4 p.m., Saturday

Where: Mount Tahoma H.S. (Tacoma)

Radio: KRKO 1380 AM

Online stream: NFHS Network

STATE CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY

Graham-Kapowsin: This is the Eagles’ first state championship game appearance in their program’s 17-year history. Graham-Kapowsin has reached six of the past seven 4A state quarterfinals, but made it past that round only once prior to this season’s first-ever run to the title game.

Lake Stevens: This is the Vikings’ fourth state championship game appearance, including their second in the past three full-length seasons. Lake Stevens lost in all three of its previous title game trips. The Vikings fell 52-20 to Union in the 2018 4A title game, 7-6 to O’Dea in the 1994 3A title game and 21-12 to Shelton in the 1985 3A title game. Prior to the creation of the state playoffs in the 1970s, Lake Stevens claims a pair of unofficial state titles. The Vikings finished atop the Associated Press poll in 1966 and beat Granger in an unofficial state championship game scheduled between the two schools in 1951.

RECENT MATCHUP HISTORY

Lake Stevens and Graham-Kapowsin met in the 2015, 2017 and 2018 state playoffs. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Lake Stevens and Graham-Kapowsin met in the 2015, 2017 and 2018 state playoffs. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

This is the fourth time in the past six full-length seasons that these teams have met in the 4A state playoffs. Here are the three previous matchups between them:

2018 4A state quarterfinal — Lake Stevens 45, Graham-Kapowsin 28. Lake Stevens pulled away in the second half to continue its march to the state title game. Star running back Dallas Landeros rushed for 241 yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Tre Long threw for 230 yards and three TDs. The Vikings’ defense did the rest, holding current University of Washington quarterback Dylan Morris and the Eagles to just 14 points until late in the fourth quarter.

2017 4A state first round — Graham-Kapowsin 38, Lake Stevens 31. Long threw for 449 yards and two TDs in just his second career varsity start and helped Lake Stevens slice a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to seven. But the Vikings were ultimately undone by four turnovers, and their late rally fell short against Morris and the Eagles.

2015 4A state quarterfinal — Lake Stevens 49, Graham-Kapowsin 14. Current NFL quarterback Jacob Eason threw for 252 yards and four TDs, star running back Andrew Grimes rushed for 290 yards and three TDs, and the Vikings cruised into the state semifinals.

GRAHAM-KAPOWSIN SEASON RECAP

Standout dual-threat quarterback Joshua Wood and the Eagles have steamrolled opponents by 41.3 points per game. (Pete Caster / Tacoma News Tribune)

Standout dual-threat quarterback Joshua Wood and the Eagles have steamrolled opponents by 41.3 points per game. (Pete Caster / Tacoma News Tribune)

Record: 13-0 overall, 9-0 South Puget Sound League 4A

Week 1: beat Rogers-Puyallup 48-0

Week 2: beat Olympia 56-0

Week 3: beat Bethel 45-0

Week 4: beat Puyallup 34-3

Week 5: beat Curtis 56-12

Week 6: beat Bellarmine Prep 41-0

Week 7: beat Sumner 41-14

Week 8: beat Emerald Ridge 35-0

Week 9: beat South Kitsap 54-0

Winner-to-state round: beat Federal Way 63-6

State first round: beat No. 16 Kentwood 49-7

State quarterfinals: beat No. 9 Bothell 41-25

State semifinals: beat No. 4 Kamiakin 42-0

Summary: Graham-Kapowsin has steamrolled to the state title game behind a massive group of college-bound linemen and an array of talented skill-position players. The Eagles have outscored opponents by 41.3 points per contest, winning every game by at least 16 points and all but one by 27-plus points. They’ve cruised to nine running-clock routs, including two in the state playoffs. G-K breezed through the challenging SPSL 4A, outscoring its league foes by a combined 410-29 margin in nine conference games. That included a 34-3 rout of eventual 4A state qualifier Puyallup and a 41-14 win over eventual 4A state quarterfinalist Sumner. The Eagles opened their playoff run by dispatching Federal Way and No. 16 Kentwood in two more blowouts. Their lone challenge of the season came in the state quarterfinals against No. 9 Bothell, which trailed G-K just 27-17 entering the fourth quarter. But the Eagles pulled away, scoring two fourth-quarter TDs to advance to the semifinals and avenge their 2019 state quarterfinal loss to the Cougars. G-K then rolled to another running-clock rout in last week’s semifinals, blanking No. 4 Kamiakin 42-0 to advance to its first-ever state title game.

Opposing coach’s take: “They’re as dominant a team as I’ve seen in my time here.” — 20th-year Sumner coach Keith Ross

LAKE STEVENS SEASON RECAP

Despite a late-season injury that sidelined their standout quarterback for three weeks, Jayden Limar (right) and the Vikings take a perfect record into the state title game. (John Gardner / Pro Action Image)

Despite a late-season injury that sidelined their standout quarterback for three weeks, Jayden Limar (right) and the Vikings take a perfect record into the state title game. (John Gardner / Pro Action Image)

Record: 11-0 overall, 4-0 Wesco 4A

Week 1: canceled

Week 2: canceled

Week 3: beat O’Dea 20-3

Week 4: beat Archbishop Murphy 49-14

Week 5: beat Snohomish 40-6

Week 6: beat Mariner 56-7

Week 7: beat Jackson 91-6

Week 8: beat Kamiak 35-28

Week 9: beat Glacier Peak 34-28

Winner-to-state round: beat Emerald Ridge 63-21

State first round: beat No. 14 Richland 52-7

State quarterfinals: beat No. 6 Gonzaga Prep 35-14

State semifinals: beat No. 2 Eastlake 45-28

Summary: After its first two games were canceled, Lake Stevens opened with a 20-3 win over perennial power and eventual 3A state quarterfinalist O’Dea in Week 3. The Vikings then cruised to blowout victories until Week 8, when they prevailed for a tense 35-28 win over upstart Kamiak. Standout senior quarterback Grayson Murren suffered a leg fracture in the Kamiak game and missed nearly the entirety of the next three contests, but Lake Stevens still managed to score a combined 149 points over that span. In Week 9, the Vikings pivoted to a Wildcat-heavy rushing attack and beat league rival Glacier Peak 34-28 to claim their eighth consecutive Wesco 4A title. Then after backup freshman quarterback Kolton Matson returned from a season-long injury the following week, Lake Stevens went back to its normal spread offense and rolled to a Week 10 playoff rout of Emerald Ridge and a first-round state blowout of Richland. Two weeks ago, in Murren’s first start since the injury, the Vikings shut down No. 6 Gonzaga Prep’s high-powered triple-option attack and dispatched the previously unbeaten Bullpups with a 35-14 state quarterfinal victory. And last week, Lake Stevens more than doubled No. 2 Eastlake in total yardage and pulled away for a 45-28 state semifinal win over the previously unbeaten Wolves.

Opposing coach’s take: “I can’t speak highly enough of them. I was very impressed with how well they played us.” — Gonzaga Prep coach David McKenna

GRAHAM-KAPOWSIN OFFENSE

Led by a massive offensive line, the Eagles have run all over opposing defenses. (Pete Caster / Tacoma News Tribune)

Led by a massive offensive line, the Eagles have run all over opposing defenses. (Pete Caster / Tacoma News Tribune)

Graham-Kapowsin has a bit of a throwback offense. Led by their overpowering offensive line, the Eagles line up and run the ball right at opposing defenses. But they also have a Division I-bound quarterback and a talented group of skill-position players.

It’s all led to a nearly unstoppable attack for G-K, which averages 46.5 points per game. The Eagles have scored at least 34 points in every contest and more than 40 points in all but two.

“They do something that people aren’t used to,” said longtime Sumner coach Keith Ross, whose eventual 4A state quarterfinal team fell to the Eagles 41-14 in Week 7. “They still line up with a fullback and a tight end, and they just want to run north and south and bash through you. And teams don’t do that anymore. Teams are geared to stop spread teams. And then all of a sudden, here comes G-K.”

The Eagles’ powerful rushing attack starts with their massive offensive line. The unit is highlighted by 6-foot-4, 320-pound senior Vega Ioane, who is a three-star recruit and a University of Washington commit. The line also features the Hill twins — 6-foot-2, 270-pound Hunter Hill and 6-foot-3, 290-pound Curtis Hill — who both are committed to Idaho State as three-star senior defensive linemen.

“They just are big and physical and tough kids,” Ross said. “That’s what really sets them apart. … They’re big maulers. And that’s what (the Eagles) live and die on.”

G-K’s bruising offensive line paves the way for a rushing attack that averages 274 yards per game and 8.1 yards per carry.

The Eagles sport a three-headed monster at running back with senior Zack Lee, junior Khalil Yarbo and junior Jalen Davenport. Lee is the lead back, with 980 yards rushing and nine TDs. Yarbo has run for 621 yards and seven TDs, while Davenport has added 577 yards and 13 TDs.

G-K also has a wrecking ball at fullback in junior Michael Toa, who rumbled for a season-high 86 yards and a TD on eight carries in last week’s state semifinal.

“G-K just brings a completely different package to the game. And you’ve gotta be able to stop their 21 personnel,” said Ross, referencing formations with two running backs and one tight end. “I mean, if you can’t do that, it’s gonna be a long night. And nobody’s been able to stop ‘em.”

As if that’s not enough, the Eagles also have an elite dual-threat quarterback in Eastern Washington University commit Joshua Wood. The three-star senior has completed 71.4% of his passes for 2,193 yards, 31 TDs and five interceptions. He also is a key part of the run game, with 364 yards and eight TDs on the ground.

“That quarterback’s special,” Ross said. “He’s a smooth operator. We’ve played against really good quarterbacks over the years, but he just seems to turn it on even more in big games.”

G-K passes the ball on just one-third of its plays. But when Wood does throw it, his top target is Idaho State University commit Julian Mason. The three-star senior has 873 yards receiving and seven TD catches. Senior tight end Andrew Savaiinaea, a three-star Pac-12 defensive lineman recruit, has a team-high nine TD receptions.

“I’m super impressed by their versatility on offense,” Tri said.

GRAHAM-KAPOWSIN DEFENSE

The Eagles have been every bit as dominant on defense. G-K allows just 5.2 points per game, including an average of just 2.5 points through the first three quarters of its contests.

The Eagles have yielded more than 14 points only once all season. They’ve held 10 of 13 opponents to seven points or fewer. And they’ve posted seven shutouts — including last week’s state semifinal blanking of a Kamiakin team that was averaging 46 points per game.

Just like on offense, G-K’s defensive success starts up front. With Savaiinaea and the Hill twins, the Eagles have three of the top six senior defensive lineman recruits in the state, according to 247Sports. Their dominant defensive front also includes Toa and the 320-pound Ioane.

Davenport anchors the linebacking corps, while senior defensive backs Myles Haywood and Stephen Mars highlight the secondary.

G-K’s punishing defense has totaled 16 sacks, 73 tackles for loss, 12 interceptions and nine forced fumbles.

“Their D-line is phenomenal,” Ross said. “It’s very hard to run the ball against them or get any consistent run game. And they’re tough, they’re physical, they run around and they want to hit people.”

GRAHAM-KAPOWSIN SPECIAL TEAMS

Junior kickers Vinicio Hansen and Kolby White-Gibson have shared the extra-point duties. Hansen is 35 of 39 on extra-point attempts, while White-Gibson is 13 of 18. G-K hasn’t attempted a field goal this season.

LAKE STEVENS OFFENSE

Standout receiver Drew Carter is one of several big-time offensive playmakers for the Vikings. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Standout receiver Drew Carter is one of several big-time offensive playmakers for the Vikings. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Year in and year out, Lake Stevens sports a balanced and high-scoring spread attack. And this year is no different. Led by an array of talented playmakers, the Vikings average 47.3 points per game and have scored at least 34 points in all but one contest.

Lake Stevens has been highly effective both on the ground and through the air, averaging 248 rushing yards and 221 passing yards per game. The Vikings keep opposing defenses off-balance with bevy of fakes and misdirection. And they excel at stretching defenses horizontally, forcing them to defend the whole width of the field with their numerous outside runs and screen passes.

“They run their scheme well,” said Gonzaga Prep coach David McKenna, whose team lost to Lake Stevens 35-14 in the state quarterfinals. “And if you take one thing away, they have an answer to it and they’re really good at it. It’s not like they’re only good at one thing. They’re good at everything they do.”

Lake Stevens averages 7.5 yards per carry, led by four-star junior running back Jayden Limar. The elite recruit — who has offers from the likes of Michigan, Notre Dame and Texas A&M — has rushed for 1,478 yards, 20 TDs and 7.7 yards per carry. He also has 366 yards receiving and four TD receptions.

“He’s just absolutely special,” said Glacier Peak coach Shane Keck, whose defense surrendered 254 total yards to Limar in Week 9.

Limar was sidelined for most of the second half last week. He was dealing with an illness and took a hard hit to the ribs, according to Tri. Freshman running back and University of Arizona recruit Jayshon Limar, Jayden’s younger brother, filled in and ran for 74 yards and three TDs on 13 carries. For the season, Jayshon Limar has rushed for 560 yards and 12 TDs.

The Vikings’ top receiver is Eastern Washington University commit Drew Carter. The three-star senior has 1,113 yards receiving and 15 TD catches — including 13 receptions for 166 yards and two TDs in last week’s state semifinal.

Speedy senior Trayce Hanks, who moved from running back to receiver prior to the season, is a versatile weapon. He has totaled 1,186 yards from scrimmage and 13 offensive TDs, including 161 yards on 18 offensive touches last week. He has 608 yards receiving and six TD catches, along with 578 yards rushing and seven TD runs as a dangerous fly-sweep threat.

“Coach Tri does a really good job of getting (playmakers) the ball … in different ways and out in space,” said Eastlake coach Kyle Snell, whose team lost to Lake Stevens 45-28 in last week’s state semifinals. “It puts a lot of pressure on any defense, but especially those guys on the edge or on the perimeter.”

Standout senior quarterback Grayson Murren has completed 72.5% of his passes for 1,846 yards, 20 TDs and three interceptions in eight-plus games of action. Murren took a hard hit on a TD pass last week and was sidelined for his team’s final two offensive series.

Backup freshman quarterback Kolton Matson — who started the Vikings’ first two playoff games while Murren was sidelined by a leg injury — has completed 24 of 28 passes for 455 yards, five TDs and no interceptions.

“They just have some dynamic athletes outside that they get the ball in space to,” Kurle said. “And Tom (Tri), he’s creative in getting them the ball, so you’ve gotta tackle in space and the perimeter against them. They try to get you with short, little things, and then they’ll try to go up top and get big plays in the passing game.”

LAKE STEVENS DEFENSE

The Vikings have held opponents to just 247 total yards per game. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The Vikings have held opponents to just 247 total yards per game. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The Vikings’ defense — though not quite as dominant as Graham-Kapowsin’s — has also been strong.

Lake Stevens allows just 14.7 points per game and hasn’t surrendered more than 28 points all season. The Vikings have limited opponents to just 247 total yards per contest, 4.9 yards per play and 3.4 yards per carry.

Lake Stevens opened the season by holding perennial 3A power O’Dea and its rushing attack to just three points. In the state quarterfinals, the Vikings held Gonzaga Prep’s high-powered triple-option attack to a season-low 14 points and 233 total yards. And in last week’s state semifinal, they limited Eastlake’s offense to 21 points and 268 total yards.

Senior defensive lineman Dylan Slezak is a force up front with 6.0 sacks. Madison Wynkoop, another senior, anchors the linebacking corps and is the team’s leading tackler.

And in the secondary, Lake Stevens has a pair of elite defensive backs in Carter and Hanks. Carter, a versatile safety who excels against both the run and pass, has three sacks and an interception. Hanks, a shutdown cornerback, has four interceptions.

“They are solid, I think, everywhere,” Kurle said. “But their linebacker (Wynkoop) is a pretty special linebacker. (So is) Drew Carter and the Hanks kid.

“And everywhere else, they’re good high school football players. And they don’t make mistakes. They’re in the right spots, they read their reads and play downhill, and the linemen sink and do what they need to do.”

LAKE STEVENS SPECIAL TEAMS

Hanks is a major threat in the return game, with two punt return TDs. Jayden Limar also has a kickoff return TD.

Junior kicker Macray Flanders has converted 68 of 72 extra-point attempts and 2 of 3 field-goal attempts. He hit a 37-yard field goal in last week’s state semifinal.

Lake Stevens has recovered two onside kicks — one in its state opener and another in the following week’s state quarterfinal.

The Vikings surrendered a blocked punt last week, which led to an Eastlake TD.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

The Vikings will try to find ways to get playmakers like Trayce Hanks into open space. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The Vikings will try to find ways to get playmakers like Trayce Hanks into open space. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Lake Stevens’ offense vs. Graham-Kapowsin’s defense. Graham-Kapowsin’s massive defensive line, as it’s done all season, will try to wreak havoc up front. Lake Stevens, undoubtedly, will try to stretch the field horizontally and get its talented playmakers into open space. “We’re gonna have to use our speed and athleticism to try and create as many mismatches as possible against their big, physical group,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said. This fascinating clash of strengths — the Eagles’ size and brute force versus the Vikings’ speed and athleticism — is at the crux of the matchup between these two teams. “We’re trying to (figure out) if Lake Stevens is gonna be able to have some success with their screens and quick (passes) and things like that,” Sumner coach Keith Ross said. “It’s gonna be interesting. I’m pretty excited to see the game. I mean, if you’re gonna beat ‘em, that’s how you beat ‘em. You’re not gonna line up and go mano y mano against (G-K). That’s not gonna work.”

PREDICTIONS

Graham-Kapowsin 35, Lake Stevens 24

— Cameron Van Til, Herald writer

Graham-Kapowsin 35, Lake Stevens 24

— Zac Hereth, Herald writer

Graham-Kapowsin 42, Lake Stevens 24

— Steve Willits, Prep Sports Weekly co-host

Graham-Kapowsin 28, Lake Stevens 17

— Tom Lafferty, KRKO Radio

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