LAKE STEVENS — Throughout the state playoffs, Lake Stevens has proven to be the most dominant squad in the 4A classification.
In a state semifinal setting on Saturday, the Vikings didn’t show any signs of faltering.
The second-seeded Vikings dismantled sixth-seeded Kamiakin 48-7 and secured their third straight trip to the state final and fourth in the past five postseasons.
With the win, Lake Stevens (12-1) has outscored opponents 187-28 since the Week 10 playoffs. The Vikings are set to face top-seeded Graham-Kapowsin (13-0) for a chance at a second consecutive state crown next Saturday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m. at Husky Stadium.
“Amazing,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said. “All the hard work we’ve been putting in all year long, to come out here and perform like that in a state semifinal game and have the right to go play for a state championship. … It feels great to be here and have a chance to go win it all.”
The Vikings scored on their first drive and were off to the races after, much like the first-half showcase the unit put on in last week’s quarterfinal rout of Kennedy Catholic.
Junior quarterback Kolton Matson produced another highly efficient outing against the Braves (10-3). He totaled 299 yards on 18-for-20 passing with four first-half touchdown passes as Lake Stevens was nearly unstoppable in the opening two frames.
Junior tailback Jayshon Limar stuffed the stat sheet with 87 rushing yards on eight carries, 48 receiving yards and four total TDs.
“The last couple of weeks, I don’t know, we’ve turned it up a couple of notches,” Matson said. “… Our mindset I think really is the mindset of not losing. I think that’s been coming into our minds a lot, and for our seniors to come out here tonight and it to be their last game on this field, I think it meant a lot to them.”
After forcing a three-and-out on the Braves’ first possession, it took just four snaps for the Vikings to muster 77 yards for their first score.
Matson found senior tight end Jaxson Lewis up the middle for a 39-yard gain, then hit Limar in the flat for a 16-yard score early in the first. Lewis finished with a team-high 82 yards on three receptions.
After forcing another three-and-out, the Lake Stevens offense pushed through again.
Facing third-and-21, Matson targeted Limar for a 23-yard grab-and-go to set up a 14-yard TD run on a direct snap to Limar midway through the first.
“As an offensive philosophy, we try to make the defense cover the entire field,” Tri said. “Sideline to sideline and between the tackles, we want to throw the ball vertically and force teams to defend and try to keep them on their heels. … We want to keep teams guessing so we can be the attacking team, and I think we did a real good job of that today.”
The Vikings kept it rolling in the second period, as Limar offered his third TD early in the second when he ripped off a 36-yard run to make it 20-0.
After junior Keagan Howard came through with a third-down sack of Braves quarterback Trent Woodhouse, the Vikings took over near midfield and crafted an eight-play, 55-yard scoring drive. Matson found senior Paul Varela for a 25-yard gain and for a 14-yard TD as the Vikings leaped ahead 27-0.
Howard went on to reel in a 37-yard TD from Matson on Lake Stevens’ following drive for a 34-0 lead with 2:58 left in the half.
The connection was Matson’s 44th TD pass of the season and broke the program’s previous single-season record of 43 set by Jacob Eason.
“He’s just a fantastic quarterback,” Howard said. “… I’m super proud of him. He’s come a long way from Little League. He’s been progressing and is just a great player.”
Senior defensive back Gabe Kylany picked off Woodhouse near midfield on Kamiakin’s next drive, and Lake Stevens took advantage with 57 seconds left until the intermission. Matson lofted a pass to Lewis for 57 yards, then hit Limar for a 3-yard pass for a commanding 41-0 advantage with 32 seconds left in the half.
With a running clock in motion in the second half, Lake Stevens tacked on another score on its opening series. Senior running back Talha Rai went to work, pumping out 58 of his 66 rushing yards on the drive, including a 26-yard burst. He capped the Vikings’ seven-play, 71-yard drive with a 6-yard plunge and Lake Stevens led 48-0 midway through the third.
Braves senior running back Camden Schmidt gave Kamiakin a concession score with 9:28 left in the fourth, pushing through for a 1-yard TD after junior David Kuku set things up with a 36-yard grab.
With a prized opportunity to compete at Husky Stadium for more championship hardware, the Vikings’ players were ecstatic.
“Every single senior on this team loves (the chance) to cap off a career playing at Husky Stadium,” senior lineman Bryce Slezak said. “It’s a special experience for everybody.”
However, they also know the journey isn’t complete.
“Business isn’t finished yet,” Slezak said. “We’ll celebrate for a little bit, but it’s not completely done until we hoist that (state championship) trophy up.”