Lake Stevens players celebrate Jesse Lewis’ second-half touchdown against Graham-Kapowsin during the Class 4A state championship on Saturdayat Husky Stadium in Seattle. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Lake Stevens players celebrate Jesse Lewis’ second-half touchdown against Graham-Kapowsin during the Class 4A state championship on Saturdayat Husky Stadium in Seattle. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Back to back!: Lake Stevens wins 4A state football title

The Vikings beat Graham-Kapowsin 31-6 for their second straight Class 4A state championship.

SEATTLE — The Lake Stevens High School football team is a state champion for the second consecutive year.

And just as they’ve done throughout the season, the Vikings strong-armed their final opponent and laid down a 31-6 win over postseason rival Graham-Kapowsin on Saturday at Husky Stadium.

After beating Kennedy Catholic last year for the program’s first-ever Class 4A title, Lake Stevens earned a golden opportunity for retribution against the first-seeded Eagles, who knocked off the Vikings in 2021 for the state crown. Both squads finished the year 13-1.

“We found a way to win it all again,” longtime Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said. “We started off in September and talked about finding a way to keep getting better because we had a lot of guys that were just inexperienced. But, we also knew we had a lot of talent, so we wanted to continue getting better every week, and we did.”

After a slow offensive start, the second-seeded Vikings quickly found their groove before halftime in what was the sixth state playoff meeting in the last eight postseasons between the two schools.

“It feels amazing,” senior captain and four-year varsity lineman Bryce Slezak said. “I got super, super emotional. It’s a great way to cap off a high school career. Husky Stadium, (going) back-to-back with some of the people I’ve played with since fifth and sixth grade … I’m just really grateful.”

Lake Stevens found itself trailing 6-3 late in the first quarter as G-K senior quarterback Dave Superales muscled his way into the end zone on a 2-yard rushing score to complete a nine-play, 78-yard drive.

The Vikings got their offense rolling early in the second frame behind standout quarterback Kolton Matson. The junior shook off a 1-for-7 start, which included drops from his receivers, as he slipped a screen pass to senior Jesse Lewis for a 26-yard go-ahead touchdown for a 10-6 lead.

“We had a good game plan going into it,” Matson said. “We knew a couple of their tendencies. We didn’t execute to our full capacity in the first half, but we bounced back and grew a lot in the second. … We just knew we weren’t gonna go down losing again.”

Lake Stevens ceased full momentum before intermission, as Matson aired one out down the middle for senior Paul Varela (four catches, 86 yards) for a 45-yard TD with 19 seconds remaining to push the Vikings ahead 17-6. Senior Gabe Kylany added an interception when he picked off Superales on a deep shot as time expired.

Matson finished 13-for-25 with 231 yards and four touchdowns and added 35 yards on the ground.

Senior Jesse Lewis saved one the best all-around showings of his career in his final high school game. He ended the night supplying four receptions for a team-high 102 yards and two TDs, adding seven tackles and multiple deep pass break-ups in the secondary.

Lewis batted away two long passes on the sidelines in the second quarter, with one coming with less than a minute to go in the half.

“At this school, everyone has to wait their turn,” Lewis said. “Now that its finally my turn, I feel like I did the most I could with it … In my opinion, its the best game I’ve ever had.”

Lake Stevens’ Jesse Lewis bats away a long pass attempt while in coverage against Graham-Kapowsin during the WIAA 4A Football State Championship on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Lake Stevens’ Jesse Lewis bats away a long pass attempt while in coverage against Graham-Kapowsin during the WIAA 4A Football State Championship on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Lake Stevens tightened the screws in the second half. Superales, who rushed for 73 yards on 10 first-half carries, was held to just 16 yards on five rushes the rest of the way.

“Keeping him contained,” Tri said of the second-half defensive adjustment. “We put some pressure on him, we put in extra blitzes from different areas, mixed things up and just confuse him so we’d have a chance to get to him.”

The Vikings came up with a big defensive stop on the Eagles’ opening third-quarter possession. On fourth-and-4 at the Lake Stevens 10-yard line, Slezak ended G-K’s 10-play, 65-yard drive by stopping Jabez Woods one yard shy of a first down.

“It’s no secret, defense wins champions,” Slezak said. “Each team can score 40 or 50 points and it could still be close, defense is what’s gonna set you apart and get you that gold.”

Lake Stevens joins together for a photo after their victory over Graham-Kapowsin in the WIAA 4A Football State Championship on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Lake Stevens joins together for a photo after their victory over Graham-Kapowsin in the WIAA 4A Football State Championship on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Lewis hauled in his second touchdown midway through the third on a 61-yard bomb from Matson on third-and-10 as Lake Stevens went ahead 24-6.

On the Vikings’ following drive, Matson evaded defenders in the pocket and riffled a pass to senior David Brown for 3-yard score with 31 seconds left in the third to take a 31-6 lead.

Lake Stevens thwarted both of G-K’s fourth-quarter drives. Brown intercepted Superales early in the frame and returned it for 39 yards, and the Vikings held down the goal line on the Eagles’ next drive for a turnover on downs at the 3-yard line to snuff out a 13-play, 65-yard drive with less than five minutes to go.

Lake Stevens head coach Tom Tri hugs quarterback Kolton Matson after the Vikings’ victory against Graham-Kapowsin in the WIAA 4A Football State Championship on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Lake Stevens head coach Tom Tri hugs quarterback Kolton Matson after the Vikings’ victory against Graham-Kapowsin in the WIAA 4A Football State Championship on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

After junior running back Jayshon Limar pounded out 35 of his 98 rushing yards on their next drive, the Lake Stevens players took victory formation before hoisting their first-place trophy up to their fan section.

“I think about when we came into summer camps and in strength and conditioning about how much time we put in together,” Matson said. “As a family, we bonded together. These are my brothers out here. It feels great to win it with them, and I couldn’t be more proud of every single guy out here.”

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