BOTHELL — Two weeks ago, when the Glacier Peak football team beat crosstown rival Snohomish 35-19 in its season opener, head coach Shane Keck was clear that he didn’t think his squad played well enough.
He said it was “just ugly football.”
And the Grizzlies coach felt his team didn’t play its best game the next week when it topped Monroe, 50-21.
But on Thursday night at Pop Keeney Stadium, it was a far different story for Glacier Peak against perennial Class 4A playoff contender Woodinville.
The Grizzlies, ranked eighth in 4A, asserted themselves early with a bruising running game, forced four turnovers on defense and made an emphatic statement to the rest of the state with a dominant 49-7 victory over the Falcons.
“The last two weeks, we kind of played not very good football,” Keck said after Thursday’s victory. “You know, we’re a young team. We have a lot of starters that are new first-year starters this year. Obviously (we’ve got) some talent, but ultimately we came out (tonight), we executed well and the results showed.”
The result was a massive non-league victory for Glacier Peak (3-0) over a Woodinville (2-1) squad that has made five straight 4A state playoff appearances. It was also the Grizzlies’ first win over a KingCo team in 14 tries.
Glacier Peak looked every bit the part of a state-playoff contender from the start, led on offense by the two-headed rushing attack of juniors Trey Leckner and Ryan King.
The Grizzlies scored touchdowns on their first two drives while almost strictly sticking to the run. The first drive, an 85 yarder, featured runs on 10 of 12 plays and was capped by a 16-yard scoring strike from junior quarterback River Lien to senior receiver Ashton Olson.
Glacier Peak’s ensuing 14-play, 95-yard march came entirely on the ground and was finished off with a 1-yard TD plunge by Leckner.
“We’ve got a good (offensive) line,” Leckner said. “All those boys were blocking good. … Everyone played well. It’s a big win.”
Leckner finished with 183 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries and King added 98 yards on 17 rushes.
Woodinville’s third drive started out promising. The Falcons, trailing 14-0, quickly moved from their own 27 to the Glacier Peak 16 after solid runs by senior Henry Nichols, a 15-yard defensive penalty for an illegal hit and a 16-yard pass from quarterback Theo Grothen to receiver Max Finney.
But that’s when the Glacier Peak defense forced the first of four turnovers.
Defensive lineman Baxter Cox came up with a spectacular interception. The 6-foot-3, 270-pound junior reached up and nabbed a pass over the middle that looked like it would have otherwise went for a completion.
“Bax is a great athlete honestly,” Keck said. “He could probably be a tight end for somebody else, but for us he’s a fantastic offensive and defensive lineman. … What a cool play for our kid. Baxter has been a hard worker in the program and done some nice things. So I’m really happy for him.”
Glacier Peak couldn’t capitalize on the turnover, but instead recovered from a botched snap on a punt to pin the Falcons inside their own 1.
On the next play, senior Jadon Claps wrestled the ball away from a Woodinville receiver for the second of three Glacier Peak interceptions. Lien found senior Torey Watkins for a 15-yard TD connection four plays later that put the Grizzlies up 21-0 with 45 second remaining in the first half.
Woodinville got on the board at the 7:07 mark of the third when Nichols took an inside handoff, bounced left to emerge from a crowd of defenders and scored on a 28-yard touchdown run.
But that’s all the Falcons would get.
Glacier Peak answered with a 48-yard run touchdown by Leckner, and junior defensive lineman Konner Meyer ended Woodinville’s next drive with a strip sack that was recovered by junior Adam Troxel.
The Grizzlies turned that Falcons miscue into seven points with an eight-play, 69-yard touchdown drive, with Lien finding Claps for a 4-yard touchdown pass that made it 35-7 with 10:45 left in the game.
King returned an interception 45 yards for a score on Woodinville’s next drive, and Glacier Peak made it a running-clock game when Lien hit Jack Fullerton for a 38-yard TD pass with 5:26 left to play.
Lien finished 9-of-13 passing for 99 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions.
“We’re going in the right direction for sure,” Leckner said of the offense’s performance. “(It’s) only up from here.”
The 42-point loss was Woodinville’s worst regular-season defeat since a 46-3 loss to Bothell in 2014.
Nichols finished with 115 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries.
The Grizzlies get another big test next Friday when they host 3A No. 7 Marysville Pilchuck (2-0) at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“They’re so talented and so well-coached,” Keck said of Marysville Pilchuck. “I’ve got so much respect for Brandon Carson and what he’s done up there consistently. I think the (Slot-T) the way they run it is really difficult to defend. We’re gonna have to do the basics, which is: don’t turn the ball over, don’t make mistakes and make them go the whole field.
“… Kind of do the same things we did tonight. Hopefully we can ride some of this momentum and get better, because those guys do a great job.”