Lake Stevens’ Steven Lee (2) scores during a football game between Lake Stevens and Garfield at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023. The Vikings won 48-21. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Lake Stevens’ Steven Lee (2) scores during a football game between Lake Stevens and Garfield at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023. The Vikings won 48-21. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Kolton Matson’s 6 TD passes lead Lake Stevens past Garfield

The Vikings open their Class 4A state title defense with a 48-21 win.

LAKE STEVENS — Just a year ago the Lake Stevens High School football team’s season kicked off in inauspicious fashion.

The Vikings were sloppy, slow and not ready for a Week 1 showdown with Garfield. The result was a 26-16 loss, the program’s first defeat in a season opener in nearly a decade.

With another shot at the Bulldogs to kick off their Class 4A state title defense this fall, Lake Stevens was determined to flip the script.

The Vikings did just that with an impressive showing Friday night.

Kolton Matson lit up the scoreboard with six touchdown passes, the defense largely kept Garfield’s dangerous playmakers in check and Lake Stevens rolled to a 48-21 victory.

“Our effort was so much better tonight than it was 365 days ago,” Vikings head coach Tom Tri said. “Our ability to line up fast, execute the play at a high speed, at a high level, in my mind, was the difference. … I think this year we were much better prepared than (last year).”

Matson was dialed in from the opening drive. The junior capped Lake Stevens’ first two drives with long touchdown passes and completed his first 11 throws. After a well-executed, short touchdown drive in the final minutes of the first half that put the Vikings up 20-7, Matson was 17 of 19 for 211 yards and three touchdowns.

“He was on fire,” Tri said.

Matson tossed three more TD passes in the second half and finished 26 of 35 with 331 yards and one interception. He completed a pass to nine different receivers, including TD connections with four.

“The kid is so poised, man,” senior wide receiver/defensive back Steven Lee Jr. said. “We all love that guy, we all trust him. That’s really what’s expected from him. We know if he needs to get the ball somewhere, he’ll get it there. We just need to run our routes.”

Jesse Lewis and David Brown hauled in two touchdown receptions and Jaxson Lewis and Lee had one. Six different receivers caught at least three passes. Matson was also rarely pressured and didn’t take a sack.

Lake Steven’s Jesse Lewis (15) moves with the ball during a football game between Lake Stevens and Garfield at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023. The Vikings won 48-21. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Lake Steven’s Jesse Lewis (15) moves with the ball during a football game between Lake Stevens and Garfield at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023. The Vikings won 48-21. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

“Our chemistry was crazy tonight,” Matson said. “I was feeling myself, our receivers were feeling themselves. … I couldn’t give more props to them for catching the rock and holding on to the rock and getting some (yards after the catch). I gotta give props to my line too for letting me stay in the pocket for a bit and get the ball downfield.”

While Matson and company were rolling offensively, the Lake Stevens defense delivered against the state’s top senior quarterback recruit and his touted receiving corps.

The Vikings held three-star quarterback EJ Caminong, a University of California commit, and the Bulldogs out of the end zone on four of their first five drives and were two big plays away from completely bottling them up.

Caminong connected with four-star receiver Rahshawn Clark, a fellow California commit, on a contested catch down the sideline for a 67-yard score early in the second quarter, and three-star receiver Reggie Witherspoon III broke a screen pass for a 59-yard score late in the third.

The Vikings allowed just 105 yards on the Bulldogs’ remaining 43 plays.

“You take those two plays away, our defense played lights out tonight,” Tri said. “They were solid. I was very impressed with our effort.”

Lake Stevens appeared to be off to another slow start against Garfield after the opening kickoff was misplayed and forced the Vikings to take over at their own 3-yard line. Facing fourth-and-2 from their own 11 with the punt team on the field, the Vikings benefited from an offsides call that kept the drive going.

The punt team would never see the field again.

Lake Stevens swiftly moved to midfield and Matson launched a deep ball for Jesse Lewis, who hauled in a contested catch and raced down the sideline for a 54-yard score and 6-0 lead.

“It was all of our momentum,” Matson said of capitalizing on the second chance. “Last year we came down and didn’t score the first time, and they had the energy.”

Lake Stevens’ Steven Lee (2) dodges a tackle during a football game between Lake Stevens and Garfield at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023. The Vikings won 48-21. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Lake Stevens’ Steven Lee (2) dodges a tackle during a football game between Lake Stevens and Garfield at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023. The Vikings won 48-21. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Witherspoon put Garfield near midfield with a long kickoff return on the ensuing possession, and the Bulldogs threatened the to score as they started to march down the field near the red zone. But Bryce Slezak thwarted the drive with a sack for an 18-yard loss on first down.

“Momentum plays, that changes everything,” Lee said. “… It just takes one play to change the momentum.”

Garfield eventually settled for a 35-yard field goal that sailed wide, and Lake Stevens answered with a six-play, 82-yard drive capped by Matson’s 42-yard TD pass to Brown.

Clark’s long TD catch followed and cut the Lake Stevens lead to 13-7 with 10:39 left in the second quarter.

After a defensive stop set up a short field, Matson and Brown linked up for a 5-yard score and 20-7 lead with 12 second left in the half.

Garfield opened the second half with a three-and-out, and the Vikings proceeded with a 14-play, 76-yard TD drive that took over 5 minutes off the clock. Matson and Jesse Lewis finished it off with a 5-yard TD.

Witherspoon’s long TD came on the following drive, and Garfield began to mount a rally thanks to Romaree Fleek’s interception return to the Vikings’ 19 on the first play of the next drive. Maliqki Walker punched in a 1-yard TD that made it 27-21 with 2:08 left in the third.

Lake Stevens quickly struck back and went 70 yards on six plays. Matson connected with Brown for a 40-yard pass and later found Lee on a quick screen for a 6-yard score with 26 seconds left in the third.

“It just shows you the resilience of our guys,” Tri said. “Yeah we might be young, but they play with confidence and they just persevere.”

Brown linked up with Jaxson Lewis for a 9-yard score and Isaac Burks chipped in a 1-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

Jayshon Limar added 115 yards (92 rushing, 14 receiving, nine passing) and Jesse Lewis had a team-high 121 receiving yards on six receptions for Lake Stevens.

Caminong threw for 221 yards and Clark had a team-high 97 receiving yards for Garfield.

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