It was a busy week of action in Snohomish County high school football, highlighted by a pair of major statement wins by Lake Stevens and Glacier Peak. Here are five takeaways from The Herald’s sportswriters after a loaded Week 3 slate:
Lake Stevens looks like a bona fide state title contender after beating O’Dea
After waiting an extra two weeks to kick off their season, the Vikings finally took the field last Friday night. And, boy, did they make a statement. In a non-league showdown of perennial state powerhouses, Class 4A seventh-ranked Lake Stevens shut down 3A top-ranked O’Dea for a season-opening 20-3 win at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium. It was an enormously impressive performance in itself, given the talent and pedigree of O’Dea’s juggernaut program, which has reached each of the past four 3A state title games. But it was even more impressive considering these were the Vikings’ first live reps against an opponent this season. Lake Stevens was coming off a COVID-related program shutdown from Aug. 24 through Sept. 3, which wiped out its preseason jamboree and its first two games. “It’s just really satisfying to come out and see it all come together and produce on the field against what I think is one of the best teams in the state,” Vikings coach Tom Tri said.
Lake Stevens rode an extraordinary effort from its defense, which pulled off an incredible feat in holding the Fighting Irish and their fearsome rushing attack to just three points. O’Dea had opened its season with a combined 84 points in wins over preseason 4A top-10 teams Union and Kennedy Catholic, led by a high-powered ground game featuring electric tailback Jason Brown and 330-pound linemen Mark Nabou and Isendre Ahfua. All three players are big-time college recruits — highlighted by Ahfua, who has an offer from Alabama and is ranked by 247Sports as the nation’s top sophomore offensive lineman. But after the Fighting Irish struck first with an opening-drive field goal, the Vikings blanked them the rest of the way. “Pretty damn impressed with our defense tonight,” Tri said. “… I thought we punished them. I mean, they have to be the biggest team in the state. They’re huge up front. But we found a way to get off blocks and then provide a little bit of giddy-up at the point of contact.”
O’Dea moved the ball and racked up 411 total yards, including 201 yards on 29 carries from Brown. But for the most part, Lake Stevens kept Brown from getting loose for big gains. And when it mattered most, the Vikings’ defense held strong. The Fighting Irish drove inside the Lake Stevens 35-yard line on each of their first three possessions of the second half, but failed to score all three times. The Vikings turned them away with a fourth-down incompletion, a fourth-and-1 stop and a third-down interception. Tri gave a lot of credit to defensive coordinator Eric Dinwiddie, who he called a “mad scientist” for his role in shutting down the O’Dea attack. “He put an incredible game plan together to stop their run,” Tri said. “We had about three different fronts that we were switching in and out of on defense. We were in all three of them, just mixing it up drive by drive. They couldn’t figure out exactly what we were doing, and we shut their offense down, which is pretty hard to do.”
On offense, speedy senior Trayce Hanks was the difference-maker for Lake Stevens. Hanks, who moved from running back to receiver this season, scored two 70-yard touchdowns and finished with 184 yards from scrimmage on just six offensive touches in a breakout performance. He showcased his speed on the first long score, racing past defenders on a fly sweep around the edge. And he showed his receiving skills on the second long score, making a tough contested catch over the middle before sprinting the rest of the way to the end zone. Entering the season, much of the attention surrounding the Vikings’ offense was on Jayden Limar, one of the top junior running back recruits in the nation. In fact, it was Limar’s presence that ultimately prompted Hanks’ move to receiver — so that Lake Stevens could get both players on the field at the same time. And on Friday, Hanks showed that he, too, can be a game-changing playmaker.
For the seven-time defending Wesco 4A champion Vikings, this was essentially their Week 1. It’s still awfully early. But after earning likely the most impressive victory of any team in the state so far, it’s clear this Lake Stevens squad has the potential to make a special run. “We’re young (and) don’t have a lot of experience,” Tri said. “But boy, we’re talented. And our chemistry is there.” Tri acknowledged that there’s still a long way to go before the postseason — and that they have to make it there first. “But we’ve got a good shot at making a real deep run and going and trying to play for a state championship,” he added. “We’ve got a good team.”
— Cameron Van Til
Glacier Peak played its best game against Woodinville and made a statement
After falling just short of the 4A state playoffs in each of the past four full-length seasons, the Grizzlies appear to be poised to make their first trip to the 4A state tournament after a convincing 49-7 thrashing of Woodinville this past Thursday at Pop Keeney Stadium.
Glacier Peak set the tone early against one of 4A’s traditional powerhouse programs, running the ball on 24 of 26 plays during two long touchdown drives to open the game, including a 14-play, 95-yard march that came entirely on the ground. It was perfect execution of an offensive game plan that proved to be an exact recipe for Glacier Peak success. “We knew they were a little bit smaller up front and we just needed to get it done on the line,” running back Trey Leckner said. The Grizzlies, ranked eighth in 4A, finished with 330 yards rushing on 54 carries, with Leckner rumbling for 183 yards and Ryan King 98.
The Glacier Peak defense was just as good. The Grizzlies forced four turnovers — three interceptions and one fumble recovery — and largely contained Falcons running back Henry Nichols, who finished with 115 yards rushing but had just three carries that went for 10 yards or more. Nichols averaged 149.5 yards rushing in Woodinville’s first two games, including a 219-yard performance in the Falcons’ opener.
“We thought if we could stop the run and make them throw, we were gonna be in pretty good shape,” third-year Glacier Peak coach Shane Keck said. “I think we did a fairly decent job. Their running back is really good. We knew we had our hands full with him. What we didn’t do is we didn’t give up the big play. They scored down here on about a 30-yard run, but other than that we just made them go the whole length of the field, and I think that was a big key to success for us.”
It was a statement victory for Glacier Peak (3-0) and a much-needed signature win that the program had been lacking in recent years. The Grizzlies went 24-14 from 2016-19 while making four straight Week 10 playoff games, including an 8-1 regular season in 2018. But most of those wins came against lesser competition. Glacier Peak went 1-13 against 4A state playoff teams over that stretch while being outscored by an average of 28.0 points per contest.
Those woes against upper-echelon teams appear to be over after last week, and the Grizzlies will get a couple more chances to solidify themselves among the state’s elite during the regular season. They host 3A No. 7 Marysville Pilchuck on Friday, and their regular-season finale against Lake Stevens on Oct. 29 will likely be for a Wesco 4A championship. The Vikings, which beat 3A top-ranked O’Dea 20-3 last week, won last year’s matchup 63-35 after pulling away with 28 unanswered fourth-quarter points.
— Zac Hereth
Despite loss, Arlington proves it’s a major factor in the Wesco 3A North
After opening with a pair of blowout wins over Edmonds-Woodway and Oak Harbor, the Eagles received their first big test last Friday when they traveled north to face 3A eighth-ranked Ferndale in Blaine. Arlington suffered a heartbreaking 18-17 loss, falling in agonizing fashion after Ferndale rallied for a 35-yard touchdown pass and ensuing game-winning 2-point conversion in the final minute. But in going toe-to-toe with Ferndale — a state-ranked team and the co-favorite with Marysville Pilchuck in the preseason Wesco 3A North coaches poll — the Eagles proved they’re a legitimate contender for the league title and a state playoff berth. “It was a tough loss,” Arlington coach Greg Dailer said. “There were a lot of tears. But we said, ‘Well, what we found tonight is we can play with anyone.’”
According to Dailer, the game was significantly impacted by the rainy and windy weather. He said it affected the Eagles’ pass-oriented offense, which leans heavily on standout senior quarterback Trent Nobach and a talented receiving corps. And Ferndale, meanwhile, lost a handful of fumbles. Both offenses were held to less than 300 yards in the sloppy conditions. “The weather was probably the worst that I’ve ever coached in,” Dailer said. “That storm blew right through Blaine, and the wind was howling and it was pouring the entire game. And honestly, I think that really affected us offensively. We still did all right, but it was tough to throw the ball, and that’s kind of our bread and butter. We can handle normal rain, but it was pretty rough.”
Arlington kicked itself in the foot with several mistakes and squandered opportunities. The Eagles had a bad snap on a failed extra-point attempt. They settled for a field goal after driving inside the 5-yard line. And with less than two minutes to play, they missed a field goal that would’ve given them a 10-point lead and all but iced the game. But as Dailer said, despite the tough nature of this loss, Arlington showed that it should be a major factor down the stretch — both in the Wesco 3A North title race and the state playoff picture. The Eagles are expected to be heavy favorites in their next three league games before hosting 3A seventh-ranked Marysville Pilchuck on Oct. 15 in another pivotal Wesco 3A North clash.
— Cameron Van Til
Snohomish takes inside track in Wesco 3A South race
The two-time defending Wesco 3A South champions opened league play last Friday with a key 21-14 victory over preseason conference favorite Edmonds-Woodway. The Panthers (2-0, 1-0 Wesco 3A South) got it done with a stingy defensive performance, allowing just 198 offensive yards while racking up six sacks. Senior running back Josh Vandergriend scored all three Snohomish touchdowns in the third quarter and now has 173 yards rushing and 145 yards receiving through two games.
The victory puts Snohomish in the driver’s seat in Wesco 3A South, which has seen a number of teams struggle so far this season. Four of the league’s seven teams are still winless and nobody has more than one win. So there’s little reason to believe the Panthers will have much of a challenge in conference play until their regular-season finale at Monroe, which is also 1-0 in league play.
Snohomish’s defense looks like it will be the key to thwarting off any potential upsets along the way. Senior linebacker Brayden Ulrich, a two-time Herald All-Area selection, has continued to be a menace to opposing offenses, the Panthers have 13 sacks in two games and they held Glacier Peak to its worst offense performance this season in Week 1.
— Zac Hereth
Lakewood loses standout QB in stunning blowout loss to Sedro-Woolley
The most stunning result of the week, by far, was the 2A fifth-ranked Cougars’ 44-0 loss to Sedro-Woolley in their Northwest Conference opener last Friday night. And while the final score was certainly jarring for Lakewood, its biggest concern going forward is the health of dual-threat senior quarterback Justice Taylor.
Taylor, who accounted for 556 total yards and 72.8% of the Cougars’ total offense in their first two games, suffered an injury on his team’s second series and was sidelined the rest of the night. And without its standout quarterback, Lakewood struggled to do much of anything on offense. The Cougars finished with just 128 total yards and averaged a mere 2.5 yards per play. “Losing Taylor, who kind of is the straw that stirs our drink, that was significant for us,” Lakewood coach Dan Teeter said. “And so I think that probably took (away) a little bit of steam, and then we just didn’t get the same production from that position. And it kind of just went from there.”
Teeter said they’re still waiting to figure out Taylor’s status going forward. “We’re kind of planning with or without him at this point as we game plan — and whether that’s this week, week to week, or longer, we’re not sure yet,” he said. To make another 2A state playoff run, the Cougars undoubtedly will need a healthy Taylor at quarterback. And they also will need to do a better job defensively than they did Friday night, when they allowed 355 yards rushing and 10.8 yards per carry to Sedro-Woolley’s high-powered ground attack. “We felt like our defensive line handled things pretty well, but in the back end of things we were missing some opportunities there,” Teeter said. “I think (with) the inexperience in some of the positions that graduated, kids are learning on the fly. And you do that against a good team and they’re gonna expose you.”
Sedro-Woolley, indeed, looks like a very good team. The Cubs have outscored their first three opponents — 3A Mount Vernon, 1A La Salle and Lakewood — by a combined 139-0 margin. But as good as Sedro-Woolley appears, things won’t get any easier for the Cougars in the rugged Northwest Conference. This week, Lakewood travels north to face 2A No. 2-ranked Squalicum. And later on, the Cougars have league road games against 2A No. 3 Lynden and 2A No. 8 Archbishop Murphy. “We’re still in this thing, for sure,” Teeter said. “One league loss does not put you out. But we now have a bit of an uphill climb, so we’re gonna have to battle and fight and see what we’re made of.”
— Cameron Van Til