TACOMA — For much of the first half, the Lake Stevens football team traded scores and offensive fireworks with Union’s high-powered attack.
But while the Vikings’ dynamic offense eventually came undone with turnovers and an inability to sustain drives, the Titans kept on rolling.
Top-seeded Union delivered an onslaught of 38 unanswered points and dashed third-seeded Lake Stevens’ title dreams with a 52-20 victory over the Vikings in the Class 4A state championship game Saturday night in the Tacoma Dome.
“They just made plays and we didn’t,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said. “We (needed to) find a way to move the chains and take care of the ball. Those turnovers killed us, and then we broke down. … (Union) had all the momentum, and we couldn’t find a way to get it back.”
The Vikings (13-1) had no answer for Union’s diverse array of playmakers, who shredded Lake Stevens’ defense with nine plays of 20-plus yards. The Titans (14-0) amassed 552 yards of total offense, falling just 12 yards shy of the 4A title-game record.
Two-way standout Jojo Siofele totaled 291 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns on just 15 offensive touches, helping lift Union to its first state title in the 12-year history of the Vancouver school. The senior playmaker caught nine passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed for 114 yards and a score.
Senior quarterback Lincoln Victor masterfully orchestrated the Titans’ attack, completing 18 of 23 passes for 326 yards and a 4A title-game record five touchdowns. Darien Chase, a recent University of Nebraska signee, added five catches for 127 yards and a score.
“We didn’t come out and play very well tonight, but give a lot of credit to Union,” Tri said. “They came out with a great game plan. … They had size, speed and depth that we couldn’t overcome.”
After opening the game with a three-and-out, the Vikings found the end zone on three straight possessions, scoring on a pair of Dallas Landeros touchdown runs sandwiched around a perfectly designed 26-yard play-action pass from Tre Long to Kasen Kinchen. Landeros’ second touchdown gave Lake Stevens a 20-14 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter.
That was the last time the Vikings scored.
Union held Lake Stevens scoreless on each of its next eight possessions, shutting out the Vikings for the game’s final 34 minutes. Lake Stevens totaled 435 yards of offense, but was held 28 points below its season scoring average entering the night.
“We didn’t execute,” Vikings left tackle Devin Kylany said. “And then when we did, we shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers. To win a game against a good football team, we can’t do that.”
The offensive struggles began with a turnover midway through the second quarter. Long hit Ian Hanson for a 45-yard completion over the middle, but as the senior receiver was running after the catch, Union jarred the ball free and recovered the fumble. It was one of four turnovers for Lake Stevens.
“Tipped balls, dropped balls, penalties, turnovers,” Tri said. “Hard to move the chains when you’re not taking care of the ball. And that was the difference tonight. We just stopped doing what we had done all year long to get to this point.
“So I guess you’ve just gotta tip your hat to Union, because they obviously did a good job of forcing turnovers and getting us out of our game plan.”
The Vikings trailed just 24-20 at halftime and opened the third quarter with a big defensive play by freshman Drew Carter, who intercepted Victor on the first snap of the third quarter to give Lake Stevens the ball in Union territory.
However, the Vikings failed to capitalize, turning the ball over on downs. It was the first of three consecutive Lake Stevens drives that ended on failed fourth-down attempts.
“We just didn’t execute in the second half,” Long said. “We couldn’t seem to get any momentum or get into any rhythm.”
Early in the third quarter, Siofele hauled in a short pass from Victor and raced down the left sideline for a 56-yard touchdown to push Union’s lead to 31-20. It marked the first time all season Lake Stevens had faced a two-possession deficit in the second half.
The Vikings responded with a 14-play drive, but the lengthy possession stalled at the Titans 34 with another turnover on downs. Union then marched downfield and scored on a 10-yard Victor-to-Siofele touchdown pass, extending the lead to 38-20 early in the fourth quarter.
Lake Stevens later committed three fourth-quarter turnovers, and the Titans added on to put the contest firmly out of reach.
“We shot ourselves in the foot too much,” Long said, “and then they wore us down.”
The Vikings’ powerful rushing attack entered the night averaging nearly 260 yards per game and 7.8 yards per carry, but managed just 126 yards and 4.5 yards per attempt against Union’s defense.
Long finished 22-of-34 passing for 309 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Kinchen led Lake Stevens with nine catches for 123 yards and a score.
The loss marked a bitter end to a success-filled season for the Vikings, who claimed their sixth consecutive Wesco 4A crown and reached the state championship game for the first time since 1994.
It was the third runner-up finish in the state playoffs for Lake Stevens, which also suffered title-game losses in 1994 and 1985. The Vikings have never won a state-playoff title.
“It’s kind of just mixed emotions,” Lake Stevens senior defensive lineman Brandyn Roberts said. “I’m overall happy (about) the season, but it’s just tough right now.”