After falling one win short of state each of the past three seasons, the Snohomish High School football program broke through and cleared that final hurdle.
The Panthers are back in the state playoffs.
Snohomish earned its first state berth since 2007 with a 42-35 win over Garfield in the Week 10 playoffs last Friday.
“You had kids that were in tears of joy,” first-year Panthers coach Joey Hammer said. “… To see that raw emotion is pretty amazing. It makes it all worth it.”
One-time powerhouse Snohomish won two state titles in the 1970s and was a regular state-playoff participant for much of the 1980s and 1990s. But after last reaching state in 2007, the program fell into a 10-year state drought, including six consecutive losing seasons from 2009 to 2014.
The Panthers (8-2) made strides the past three years, then took the next step this season in reaching state.
“We’re excited for where we’re at, where we’re going and what the program is all about,” said Hammer, a 1998 Snohomish graduate.
Up next for the No. 13-seeded Panthers is a first-round Class 3A state-playoff game against No. 4 seed Bellevue on Friday night at Bellevue High School.
The perennial power Wolverines, who claimed 11 state titles from 2001 to 2013, are back in the state playoffs for the second straight year since serving a postseason ban for committing wide-ranging violations of Washington Interscholastic Activities Association rules.
Bellevue (10-0) is led by its signature Wing-T rushing attack and a defense that yields less than 11 points per game.
“You wouldn’t want it any other way,” Hammer said of facing the Wolverines. “When you get down to the final 16, you’re not going to get a bad opponent.
“We have to stay true to who we are,” he added. “You don’t get here and then abandon and think you’ve gotta do something different. … We’ve gotta stay true, we’ve gotta stay accountable (and) we’ve gotta stay willing to do everything it takes to conquer our roles.”
Below are capsules for this week’s postseason matchups involving local prep football teams.
4A STATE FIRST ROUND
No. 3 Lake Stevens vs. No. 14 Curtis
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Lake Stevens H.S.
Radio: KRKO 1380 AM
Implications: The winner advances to face either No. 6 seed Graham-Kapowsin or No. 11 seed Mead in the 4A state quarterfinals.
Lake Stevens: 10-0 overall, 7-0 Wesco 4A; beat Kentlake 56-0 in Week 10 playoffs
About the Vikings: Lake Stevens outscored opponents by 37 points per game en route to its seventh state appearance in eight years. The high-scoring Vikings are led by a powerful offensive line, which paves the way for a rushing attack that averages eight yards per carry and more than 250 yards per contest. Tre Long directs an efficient passing attack, having completed 73 percent of his throws while tossing 24 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Kasen Kinchen has a team-high 698 yards receiving and 10 touchdown catches, along with seven interceptions on defense to help anchor a unit that allows less than 13 points per game. Lake Stevens is seeking its third state-quarterfinal berth in four years.
Curtis: 7-3 overall, 5-3 South Puget Sound League 4A; beat Kentwood 67-29 in Week 10 playoffs
About the Vikings: Curtis is making its first state appearance since 2010. The Vikings are led by dual-threat quarterback Kyle Russell, who has accounted for more than 2,900 total yards and 34 touchdowns. In last week’s rout of Kentwood, Russell ran for 256 yards and five touchdowns and threw for 227 yards and three scores. Curtis finished in a three-way tie for third place in the SPSL 4A, trailing state-bound teams Puyallup and Graham-Kapowsin. The Vikings suffered a 55-6 loss to Puyallup, but hung with G-K in a 27-26 defeat.
Herald pick: Lake Stevens
3A STATE FIRST ROUND
No. 4 Bellevue vs. No. 13 Snohomish
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Bellevue H.S.
Implications: The winner advances to face either No. 5 seed Lakes or No. 12 seed Yelm in the 3A state quarterfinals.
Bellevue: 10-0 overall, 5-0 KingCo 3A/2A; beat Shorecrest 34-7 in Week 10 playoffs
About the Wolverines: Perennial powerhouse Bellevue has posted four shutouts and limited seven of its 10 opponents to seven points or less. The Wolverines entered the postseason having forced 19 turnovers on defense, including five interceptions and a forced fumble by Jalen Love. Bellevue, which averages less than two pass attempts per game, relies on a Wing-T rushing attack that totals more than 325 yards per contest. Alex Reid leads the Wolverines’ stable of backs with 1,000-plus yards rushing.
Snohomish: 8-2 overall, 6-0 Wesco 3A South; beat Garfield 42-35 in Week 10 playoffs
About the Panthers: Snohomish is making its first state appearance since 2007. Behind a powerful offensive line, the one-two punch of Tyler Massena and Tyler Larson lead a rushing attack that averages 6.9 yards per carry and nearly 290 yards per game. Massena has totaled 1,796 yards from scrimmage and 29 offensive touchdowns, and Larson has added 1,012 yards rushing and seven scoring runs. The Panthers, winners of eight straight, are seeking their first trip to the state quarterfinals since 1998.
Herald pick: Bellevue
Darrington vs. Quilcene
When: 5 p.m. Friday
Where: Silverdale Stadium (Bremerton)
Implications: The winner advances to the eight-team 1B state tournament.
Darrington: 3-7 overall, 0-6 conference; beat Evergreen Lutheran 55-26 in quad-district first round
About the Loggers: Darrington, which moved to eight-man football this season to combat low participation numbers, advanced to the winner-to-state round by routing Evergreen Lutheran last week for the second time this season.
Quilcene: 9-0 overall, 5-0 Sea-Tac; bye in quad-district first round
About the Rangers: Quilcene averages 56.5 points per game and allows just 19.5. The Rangers have scored at least 48 points in every contest.
Herald pick: Quilcene