SNOHOMISH — Since moving up to Class 4A at the start of the 2016 season, the Glacier Peak High School football team has fallen just short of the state playoffs time and time again.
The Grizzlies made the Week 10 playoffs each season from 2016-19, but they couldn’t figure out a way to get over the hump.
On Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium, Glacier Peak finally got the monkey of its back.
The Grizzlies’ defense allowed just 26 yards in the first half and scored on an interception and a fumble recovery, Trey Leckner churned out 145 yards on the ground and Glacier Peak captured its first state playoff berth as a 4A school with a 49-21 thumping of Skyline.
“For us, I think it’s kind of our first step to help the program grow and climb in the right direction,” Grizzlies coach Shane Keck said. “Super happy for the kids. Super happy for everyone that’s come along and gotten us here. At the end of the day, it’s exactly where you wanna be.”
Glacier Peak’s defense led the way early as the offense took some time to get in rhythm. The Grizzlies forced three three-and-outs, had an interception and allowed just one first down in the first half.
In the second half, the defense came up with more big plays, including Jacob Erickson’s 65-yard scoop and score on a fumble and Ashton Olson’s 50-yard interception return for a TD.
“All my defensive players, they’re all dogs,” said senior Torey Watkins, who had an interception on Skyline’s first drive of the game. “(You) can’t count us out. That’s all I’m gonna say. (You) can’t count us out.”
On offense, it was a signature performance for Glacier Peak (7-2) once it started to get things going.
Leckner ripped off big runs, including a 68-yarder that set up a touchdown in the second quarter and a 44-yard scoring run on the Grizzlies’ first possession of the second half. He needed just 13 carries to reach 145 yards.
“Your dudes gotta be dudes, right?” Keck said. “I think that’s what makes Trey special and it makes him one of the best backs in Wesco and maybe one of the best backs in the state. We just know that if we get him enough carries that he’s gonna be able to pop one off.”
Leckner was complemented by hard runs by Ryan King (38 yards) and Matt Lillich (25 yards), and quarterback River Lien joined in on the ground attack with a spectacular 35-yard scramble on third-and-16 in the first quarter. He finished with 48 yards on five carries.
Lien was also effective through the air, completing 10 of 16 passes for 90 yards and one TD despite some early drops by his receivers. Watkins hauled in a 21-yard pass from Lien that tied the game at 7-7 with 5:57 left in the first half.
“It’s huge you know. It’s playoffs,” Watkins said. “Any little thing can happen. I’m just happy to get the ball, happy to get that interception.”
The Spartans (4-6) scored first on what appeared to be a momentum-shifting play to start the second quarter. After a pair of three-and-outs to start the game, Glacier Peak got the ball inside Skyline’s 10-yard line with a prime chance to take the lead. The Spartans forced the Grizzlies into a field-goal try that was blocked and picked up by standout TJ Crandall. The junior defensive back sprinted down the sideline for a 93-yard TD that made it 7-0 with 11:53 left in second quarter.
Glacier Peak responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Lien’s TD pass to Watkins.
The Grizzlies took the lead on their next drive after Leckner delivered his 68-yard run and Lillich scored on a 1-yard plunge to make it 14-7, a lead that Glacier Peak wouldn’t relinquish.
Leckner made it 21-7 with his 44-yard score at the 10:20 mark of the third. King increased the lead to 28-7 with a 1-yard TD run on the next drive.
Erickson and Olson’s defensive touchdowns followed and Jadon Claps capped Glacier Peak’s scoring with a 1-yard run with 9:18 left in regulation.
Aidyn Clark hauled in 13 passes for 128 yards to lead Skyline on offense, but much of that came in the second half as the Grizzlies were in firm control. Nate Fischer added a touchdown reception and Bronson Tepstra a rushing TD in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Joaquin Valdez completed 23 of 44 passes for 204 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
The Grizzlies were without standout junior pass-catcher Cooper Jensen, an Oregon State University commit. Jensen was a game-time decision and was held out due to a tight hamstring. Keck said he expects to have Jensen back next week.
Glacier Peak made the state playoffs four times as a 3A school, most recently in 2015.
The Grizzlies won’t know their opponent for the first round of the state tournament until Sunday when a committee will determine the seeding.
“It’s a playoff win,” Watkins said. “This is gonna be a very memorable game. It meant a lot to us. We didn’t want to lose this game.”