At Husky Stadium under the Saturday night lights, the Lake Stevens Vikings will look to secure back-to-back state championships when they face the Graham-Kapowsin Eagles for the third consecutive year in the postseason.
The Herald spoke with coaches from around the area and others who have faced at least one of the two teams for their takes on Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game.
Archbishop Murphy head coach Joe Cronin worked as the defensive coordinator for Lake Stevens for several years alongside head coach Tom Tri. Cronin said Tri excels at passing concepts and moving players to create one-on-one matchups while utilizing the horizontal and vertical spaces on the field, requiring the opposing defense to defend every inch of real estate.
“You got to defend the whole field and mix your coverages,” he said. “You got to rush the quarterback, but the problem is getting pressure on the quarterback, you’re vulnerable to the screen game, and I think Tom does a good job as anybody running screens, whether it’s jailbreak, tunnel screens or bubbles.”
Cronin believes Saturday’s title game will come down to four factors.
“In state championship games, it really comes down to turnovers, penalties, making less mistakes and [more] explosive plays,” he said. “It sounds cliché, but it really comes down to that.”
Arlington head coach Greg Dailer, whose team made it to the quarterfinals of the 3A state tournament before falling to Bellevue, was particulary impressed with the Vikings’ win over the Wolverines.
“Coach Tri does a great job with those guys. You look at them and think they’re going to be a spread team, but they really spread the field to run it. Their running game is what gives them longevity in the playoffs,” Dailer said. “There’s a good chance Bellevue is going to win the 3A state championship, and [Lake Stevens] beat Bellevue.”
He believes Lake Stevens sits in a great spot.
“Based on [Lake Stevens’] experience,” Dailer said, “they [have an expereinced] quarterback, they have one of the top running backs in the state and obviously the defense is playing great, that’s a recipe for success.”
Olympia head coach Nick Mullen expereinced facing both Lake Stevens and G-K this season. Olympia lost to G-K 27-13 in the regular season and 54-0 to Lake Stevens in the Week 10 playoffs.
He said G-K needs to recognize Tri’s formations, adjust accordingly and maintain its gap integrity. Graham-Kapowsin’s quarterback, senior Daveon Superales, can also stretch the field and make plays to his wide receivers, so Mullen said this game could end up being a high-scoring affair.
Mullen faced Lake Stevens when he was the head coach at Timberline and former star quarterback Jacob Eason was a junior for the Vikings. He felt Lake Stevens was more predictable then because his team knew the offense run through Eason’s arm, but the wrinkles the Vikings have added over the years makes their offense tough to scheme for.
First-year Kamiak head coach Ivan McLennan said Lake Stevens is “very sound in what they do.” Lake Stevens beat McLennan’s Knights 54-7 in late October.
“One word that sticks out to my mind when I think of Lake Stevens is culture,” McLennan said. “Them being able to … establish this program, dominate Wesco and, the last year or two, be state representatives. … [They have] just a positive winning culture.”
Kamiak also faced G-K in its Week 10 playoff game, a 63-15 win for the Eagles.
McLennan said keeping Superales on the field will give G-K the best chance to win due to his dual-threat capabilities. He added that G-K has several Division-I players, whereas Lake Stevens doesn’t have as many touted recruits.
“When I think of Graham-Kapowsin, I think dynamic. From Jabez Woods to Malachi Durant, the quarterback they got back there throwing the ball and Noah Fox-Flores the tight end, they have a really dynamic group of offensive weapons,” McLennan said. “So I’m quite interested to see how Lake Stevens matches up with that. But knowing Tri, he’s got something in store for sure.”