By AARON COE
LAKE STEVENS – The play has been eating at them for a year.
Twenty-two seconds left. McCormack to Faries, 57 yards. 21-19 Arlington.
Goodbye, Western Conference 3A title.
Reminders of the play are all over the Lake Stevens campus. The motto, which can be seen on the backs of players all over the Vikings practice field, is “Unfinished Business” – a direct reference to that game. That play.
“That’s what I think about when I work out, and when I run,” said Lake Stevens running back Matt Williams, who has rushed for 543 yards in three games this season. “I think about watching that pass in the air. Watching that guy catch it.
“And just sitting there.”
The Vikings will be searching for redemption tonight at 7:30 at Arlington.
Williams was on the other side of the field when Kevin McCormack, who is back this year to lead the Eagles passing attack, threw the pass between two Lake Stevens defenders and hit Joel Faries in stride for the winning touchdown. The play was the only blemish on the Vikings’ 8-1 regular season, and allowed the Eagles to finish with a perfect conference record.
Arlington coach John Boitano credits the play for saving the 1999 season. The Eagles began the 1999 campaign with two nonconference losses, and would have been 1-3 without the play.
“The play turns the whole season around,” Boitano said. “It opens up the possibilities, where as otherwise, it could have closed the door.”
As in most close games involving rivals, there are two sides to the game story.
The Vikings are quick to point out that all of Arlington’s points came on “fluke” plays. The play at the end came against a blown prevent defense coverage. A halfback pass and a long interception return accounted for the rest of Arlington’s scoring.
The Eagles say the game should have never been that close to begin with. They nearly destroyed themselves with eight turnovers. And Boitano’s wife, Carol, and their son, Arlington running back Joseph, had been involved in a car accident, a head-on collision only three days earlier, causing the coach to miss two practices that week.
Both sides expect tonight’s game to be as close as last year’s contest.
Lake Stevens (1-0 in conference, 2-1 overall) had trouble breaking the plane of the goal line in last Friday’s 14-7 overtime victory over Meadowdale, which has not won a game since the ‘98 season. The Vikings, however, have averaged 450 yards of offense in their three games.
Arlington (1-0, 3-0) appears even more dominant that it was last year, having outscored its opponents 100-26.
Lake Stevens is known for its speed, but is hurt by the loss of two-way player Ryan McKinney, who will miss the rest of the season after shoulder surgery.
Arlington can run, too. Boitano says he has six of the fastest guys he’s ever had, and can match the Vikings’ speed.
Players from both teams believe this game will decide the conference championship.
“This is the biggest game of all of our lives,” Lake Stevens quarterback Nolan Perkl said. “This is the biggest week of our lives.”
Sometimes coaches don’t like to hear words like those. They often prefer the all-games-are-created-equal approach.
But not Lake Stevens coach Ken Collins, a former NFL player who has heard every cliche and probably uttered many himself. This game is different.
“I want them to feel that way about this game,” Collins said. “If they didn’t, I wouldn’t want them playing for me.”
Williams feels that way. He’s bitter, and he’s mad. The image of the ball floating through the air consumes him.
“You see a million balls in the air at the end of a game,” Williams said. “And how many times do they actually complete one?
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