Top-ranked Glacier Peak and third-ranked Lake Stevens are set to square off for the Wesco 4A title Friday night in a heavyweight showdown of state championship contenders. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Top-ranked Glacier Peak and third-ranked Lake Stevens are set to square off for the Wesco 4A title Friday night in a heavyweight showdown of state championship contenders. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Clash of the titans: A preview of No. 1 Glacier Peak vs. No. 3 Lake Stevens

Get ready for the massive Wesco 4A showdown with an in-depth look at both teams, including perspective from opposing coaches.

All season long, they’ve been on a collision course.

And now, the moment has finally arrived.

Glacier Peak. Lake Stevens. For the Wesco 4A crown.

And maybe, perhaps, a potential preview of the Class 4A state championship game?

The 4A top-ranked Grizzlies and third-ranked Vikings are set to square off Friday night at Lake Stevens High School in what’s likely one of the most anticipated regular-season matchups in Snohomish County prep football history.

“It’s a big stage for Wesco,” said Mariner coach Tyler Tuiasosopo, who faced both teams this season. “… It’s a heavyweight matchup. I mean, for crying out loud, this could be the state championship game in 4A.”

Lake Stevens, of course, is the established power. The Vikings have reached five of the past six 4A state quarterfinals and two of the past three 4A state championship games, including a runner-up finish last year. They’ve dominated Wesco 4A for the past decade, with eight consecutive conference titles and a 53-game league win streak that dates back to 2013.

Glacier Peak, meanwhile, is the talented upstart. The Grizzlies broke through to the 4A state playoffs last year and have taken another big step forward this fall, entering this de facto Wesco 4A title game as the classification’s top-ranked team.

Heading into the season, Glacier Peak (7-1, 3-0 Wesco 4A) and Lake Stevens (6-2, 3-0) were widely regarded as two of the state’s best. There were some twists and turns along the way, including an out-of-state loss for each team.

But sure enough, the stakes heading into this massive regular-season finale are just as most expected: A showdown between state-title contenders, with a league championship on the line.

“Both of these teams are really good,” said Kamiak coach Bryant Thomas, whose Knights also faced both teams this fall. “It’s gonna be a fun experience to watch (them) play.”

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

No. 1 GLACIER PEAK vs. No. 3 LAKE STEVENS

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Lake Stevens H.S.

Radio: KRKO 1380 AM

Online stream: STSPN.com

RECENT MATCHUP HISTORY

Lake Stevens has won all six of the teams’ matchups as Wesco 4A foes. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Lake Stevens has won all six of the teams’ matchups as Wesco 4A foes. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

2021: Lake Stevens 34, Glacier Peak 28

2021 spring: Lake Stevens 63, Glacier Peak 35

2019: Lake Stevens 41, Glacier Peak 3

2018: Lake Stevens 24, Glacier Peak 21

2017: Lake Stevens 63, Glacier Peak 14

2016: Lake Stevens 54, Glacier Peak 3

Since Glacier Peak moved up to Wesco 4A in 2016, Lake Stevens has won each of the teams’ six meetings. The Vikings blew out the Grizzlies in 2016, 2017 and 2019, but the other three matchups were competitive. In 2018, Lake Stevens leaned on its defense for a 24-21 triumph. In the COVID-shortened 2021 spring season finale, star tailback Jayden Limar scored five total touchdowns and helped the Vikings rattle off 28 consecutive fourth-quarter points to pull away for a 63-35 win. And in last fall’s de facto league title game, short-handed Lake Stevens rode another big performance from Limar. Playing without injured standout quarterback Grayson Murren, the Vikings pivoted to a Wildcat package with Limar as the primary back. The move worked, as Limar totaled 254 scrimmage yards and carried Lake Stevens to a gutsy 34-28 victory.

GLACIER PEAK SEASON RECAP

River Lien and the Grizzlies are unbeaten against in-state opponents. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

River Lien and the Grizzlies are unbeaten against in-state opponents. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Record: 7-1 overall, 3-0 Wesco 4A

Week 1: beat Snohomish 42-13

Week 2: beat Camas 34-28

Week 3: beat Ferndale 42-14

Week 4: lost to Rocklin (Calif.) 16-14

Week 5: beat Mariner 42-7

Week 6: beat Kamiak 47-22

Week 7: beat Marysville Pilchuck 49-18

Week 8: beat Jackson 55-0

Summary: After continuing their mastery of crosstown rival Snohomish in Week 1, the Grizzlies earned a pair of resume-boosting non-league victories. In Week 2, they traveled south and beat perennial state power Camas, rallying for a 34-28 victory over the 4A eighth-ranked Papermakers. And in Week 3, they raced past 3A 10th-ranked Ferndale for a 42-14 rout at the Seattle Seahawks’ Lumen Field. Glacier Peak’s lone loss came nearly 800 miles away from home in Northern California, where the Grizzlies fell 16-14 to a strong Sacramento-area Rocklin team. Glacier Peak took a 14-0 lead into the fourth quarter before surrendering 16 unanswered points, including a late go-ahead safety on a blocked punt. Following that lone blemish, the Grizzlies have rolled to four consecutive blowout wins, including a trio of Wesco 4A routs. Glacier Peak is 7-0 against in-state opponents, with an average victory margin of 29.9 points in those games.

LAKE STEVENS SEASON RECAP

Lake Stevens suffered a pair of losses during its ultra-tough non-league slate, but also beat defending 3A state champion Bellevue. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Lake Stevens suffered a pair of losses during its ultra-tough non-league slate, but also beat defending 3A state champion Bellevue. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Record: 6-2 overall, 3-0 Wesco 4A

Week 1: lost to Garfield 26-16

Week 2: beat Bellevue 37-28

Week 3: beat Federal Way 63-21

Week 4: lost to West Linn (Ore.) 45-6

Week 5: beat Jackson via forfeit

Week 6: beat Eastlake 41-16

Week 7: beat Mariner 48-0

Week 8: beat Kamiak 56-10

Summary: It’s been an up-and-down journey for the reigning 4A state runner-up 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. They bounced right back with an impressive 37-28 win over defending 3A state champion Bellevue, followed by a rout of Federal Way. But in Week 4, they traveled to the Portland area and got walloped by Oregon powerhouse West Linn, suffering a stunning 45-6 loss that marked their largest defeat in a decade. Yet since then, Lake Stevens has been its usual dominant self. After a forfeit win over Jackson, the Vikings routed Eastlake 41-16 in a Week 6 rematch of last year’s state semifinals. And over the past two weeks, they cruised past league foes Mariner and Kamiak by a combined 104-10 margin.

GLACIER PEAK OFFENSE

Washington State commit Trey Leckner headlines the Grizzlies’ array of talented offensive playmakers. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Washington State commit Trey Leckner headlines the Grizzlies’ array of talented offensive playmakers. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Led by a slew of skill-position talent and a physical rushing attack, the Grizzlies feature a balanced offense that averages more than 40 points and 440 total yards per game.

Standout senior River Lien has provided steady play at quarterback, completing 64% of his passes for 1,535 yards, 25 TDs and just four interceptions — including a pair of six-TD games against Ferndale and Kamiak. The two-star dual-threat recruit also has rushed for 255 yards and three scores.

Washington State commit Trey Leckner, a versatile three-star senior who can line up all over the field, highlights the unit’s wealth of playmaking talent. Leckner has totaled 650 yards and 13 TDs, including a team-high 501 yards receiving and 11 TD catches. Against Ferndale, he caught five passes for 210 yards and five scores. Leckner is complemented by another three-star senior Pac-12 recruit in Cooper Jensen, a 6-foot-5 Oregon State-bound tight end who has 312 yards receiving and five TD catches.

In the backfield, two-star senior Ryan King and junior Chrisvin Bonshe pace a rushing attack that piles up 238 yards per game. King has a team-high 564 yards rushing and 10 total TDs, while Bonshe has added 516 yards and five TDs on the ground. And paving the way for them is a big, talented and physical offensive line.

“They have so many weapons,” Tuiasosopo said. “Their quarterback does a great job of distributing the ball (and) getting it in the hands of their playmakers. … And the attitude that they have is a smashmouth, hard-nosed kind of game.”

GLACIER PEAK DEFENSE

Micah Harrelson is part of a strong defensive front for the Grizzlies. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Micah Harrelson is part of a strong defensive front for the Grizzlies. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Grizzlies allow just 14.8 points per game behind their stout defensive front and strong all-around unit. They’ve wreaked havoc with their pass rush, totaling 17 sacks. They’ve stymied opposing rushing attacks. And they’ve excelled at forcing takeaways, coming up with 12 interceptions. Leckner has a team-high four sacks, while junior linebacker Owen Gluth has a team-high five interceptions.

“What stood out for us was just how much they get after the line of scrimmage,” Tuiasosopo said. “They win the line of scrimmage every down, and it really puts offenses in a tough spot.” Thomas echoed that sentiment: “The best defensive front that we faced was Glacier Peak — without a doubt.”

GLACIER PEAK SPECIAL TEAMS

Gabe Russell, a senior, averages 30.5 yards per kickoff return and 21.8 yards per punt return. Sophomore kicker Aiden Larsen has converted 37 of 41 extra points. The Grizzlies haven’t attempted a field goal all season.

LAKE STEVENS OFFENSE

Star running back and Notre Dame commit Jayden Limar is a “game-breaker” for the Vikings. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Star running back and Notre Dame commit Jayden Limar is a “game-breaker” for the Vikings. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Vikings’ offensive numbers are down slightly from previous years, due in large part to their struggles in the out-of-state loss to West Linn. But they’re still averaging 38.1 points and 391 total yards per game, led by ultra-talented senior running back Jayden Limar. “He’s a game-breaker,” Thomas said. “As he goes, the team goes.”

Limar, a four-star Notre Dame commit, averages a whopping 9.8 yards per carry and has totaled 1,187 yards and 18 TDs in six-plus games of action. He’s had several massive performances, including 295 total yards and three TDs in the win over Bellevue. “Jayden Limar is a highlight waiting to happen,” Tuiasosopo said. “He’s a phenomenal player.”

At quarterback, sophomore Kolton Matson and junior Kaden LaPlaunt have split time throughout the season. Matson has completed 68% of his passes for 642 yards, six TDs and five interceptions, while adding 112 yards and two scores on the ground. LaPlaunt has completed 62% of his passes for 335 yards, four TDs and one interception.

Sophomore receiver Cassidy Bolong-Banks is a versatile playmaker both as a pass-catcher and a fly-sweep threat, with 410 total yards and four TDs. Two-star senior wideout Isaac Redford has added 254 yards receiving and two TD catches, while junior Cole Becker has 248 yards receiving and three TD catches.

“They do a great job of attacking your weakness,” Tuiasosopo said. “They do a good job of making in-game adjustments, and they have great counterpunches to a team’s counterpunch.”

LAKE STEVENS DEFENSE

Lake Stevens has allowed just 26 points combined over its past three games. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Lake Stevens has allowed just 26 points combined over its past three games. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Vikings allow 20.9 points per game, but that number decreases to 16.8 when excluding the out-of-state loss to West Linn. And they’ve been particularly stingy over the past three weeks, yielding just 26 points combined to Eastlake, Mariner and Kamiak.

Redford anchors the secondary as a shutdown cornerback, with four interceptions in seven games. “He’s the best corner in the league,” Thomas said. Up front, Lake Stevens has a deep and experienced line. And in the middle, senior Joe McGinnis and junior Mason Turner form a strong linebacking duo. “Their linebacking corps does a phenomenal job of setting up their defense, getting guys in the right place and just flying around and being ball hawks,” Tuiasosopo said.

LAKE STEVENS SPECIAL TEAMS

Senior kicker Macray Flanders has converted 33 of 36 extra points and 2 of 3 field goals, with a long of 42 yards. He has big-game experience, with a 37-yard field goal in last year’s state semifinal.

PREDICTIONS

Lake Stevens 31, Glacier Peak 28

This game has the feel of a true tossup. So, I’ll defer to a rule I learned the hard way early on at The Herald: Don’t pick against Lake Stevens. The Vikings took some lumps in September during their brutal non-league slate, but that should only benefit them for moments like this. And while Glacier Peak has the advantage at quarterback, Lake Stevens has Jayden Limar. When you combine his electrifying talent with the Vikings’ knack for creatively scheming their playmakers into advantageous positions, a few big plays from Limar might be the difference.

— Cameron Van Til

Glacier Peak 34, Lake Stevens 31

In big games that come down to a few plays, it’s beneficial to have the more proven and experienced quarterback. The Grizzlies have that with River Lien, who can beat teams with his arm and his legs. The weapons surrounding him are as talented as any team in the state. Don’t forget about the O-line either. The Grizzlies are massive up front and have plenty of experience. Can the defense stop Jayden Limar? Probably not. But the Grizzlies have been stout against the run all year and should at least be able to stop him from taking over the game.

— Zac Hereth

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