LAKE STEVENS — This year, Lake Stevens had to go through a top-ranked team to keep its run of Wesco 4A dominance alive.
The streak lives on. The Vikings are still the kings of Wesco 4A.
And with an emphatic beatdown of their league rival, they sent a strong message to the rest of the state.
Third-ranked Lake Stevens unleashed a barrage of 43 second-half points and captured its ninth consecutive Wesco 4A title with a runaway 57-17 rout of top-ranked Glacier Peak in a heavyweight clash of 4A top-five teams Friday night.
“Our kids just executed on both sides of the ball really well,” Vikings coach Tom Tri said. “We just played really hard and good things happened. And we found a way to put a lot of points on the board and beat a really good football team.”
With both teams widely considered to be among the best in 4A, this regular-season finale was one of the most anticipated matchups in recent Snohomish County prep football history.
Lake Stevens turned it into a lopsided affair.
After trailing 10-0 early in the second quarter, the Vikings outscored Glacier Peak 57-7 the rest of the way and extended their Wesco 4A win streak to 54 games. They haven’t lost a league contest since 2013.
“To keep it alive, that’s something special,” Lake Stevens sophomore Cassidy Bolong-Banks said of the streak. “Especially (for) this senior class.”
The game’s turning point came on either side of the halftime break.
In the final minute of the first half, Glacier Peak had the ball at midfield and was looking to extend its 10-7 lead. But the Vikings (7-2, 4-0 Wesco 4A) got pressure from their pass rush and forced an off-balanced throw, which standout senior cornerback Isaac Redford snatched for his fifth interception of the season.
And on the very next play, Bolong-Banks ran a deep post route and hauled in a perfectly placed 58-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Kolton Matson to give Lake Stevens a 14-10 halftime lead.
“All week at practice we (were) practicing that same play,” Matson said.
Right after the break, Bolong-Banks struck again. On the fourth snap of the second half, the speedy receiver took a sweep around the left edge and raced down the sideline for a 50-yard TD to make it 21-10.
Earlier in the game, Bolong-Banks dropped a potential TD reception on a deep fourth-down pass. But he shook off the drop and finished with 111 total yards on five offensive touches, including the pair of long game-changing scores.
“He was obviously upset (after the drop),” Tri said. “And I just rememeber going up to him and saying, ‘Cass, I know it sucks, but don’t worry about it, because we’re gonna need you later. We’re gonna call plays for you. … You’re gonna have some more opportunities.’ (And) he went out and took advantage of them.”
Bolong-Banks’ two long scores helped kickstart a run of six consecutive Lake Stevens TD drives.
Star senior running back Jayden Limar had another big night for the Vikings, rushing for 122 yards and four TDs on 19 carries. But with Glacier Peak (7-2, 3-1) trying to slow down the ultra-talented Notre Dame-bound tailback, Lake Stevens’ passing attack rose to the occasion and took a significant step forward after some inconsistent play earlier this season.
Matson made several big-time throws and finished an efficient 11-of-15 passing for 190 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. His top target was Redford, who hauled in four catches for 98 yards and one TD.
“In my mind, (Kolton) was the player of the game,” Tri said. “Kolton really stepped up and made some huge plays. … He’s a sophomore, but he looked like a savvy veteran playing quarterback tonight.”
On the other side, Lake Stevens’ defense held the Grizzlies and their bevy of talented playmakers to just 271 total yards.
Glacier Peak opened the game with a pair of long, run-heavy scoring drives. But after that, the Grizzlies scored on only one of their final nine possessions. Tri said the biggest adjustment was bringing in an extra defensive lineman on running downs.
“We went to a five-man defensive line to try to stop the inside run, because they were getting us pretty good with inside runs,” Tri said. “And that really helped. … It really started with (that) package.”
Glacier Peak senior dual-threat quarterback River Lien ran for 102 yards and one TD on 13 attempts. But the Vikings held the Grizzlies’ running backs to just 91 yards on 24 carries. And they limited Lien to just 6-of-14 passing for 78 yards, one TD and two interceptions.
As Lake Stevens pulled away with its second-half onslaught, Glacier Peak had to deviate from its run game and put the ball in the air more often. That played into the hands of the Vikings, who finished with three sacks and four defensive takeaways.
“We put a little pressure on the quarterback, got a few turnovers, and then the momentum just kept going our way,” Tri said.
Limar put the Vikings on the board with a 7-yard TD run in the second quarter and Bolong-Banks added his two long TDs to give Lake Stevens a 21-10 advantage early in the third.
The Vikings then forced a three-and-out on defense and followed with a 75-yard scoring drive, which Limar capped with a 3-yard TD run to stretch the margin to 27-10.
Glacier Peak answered with a big play from standout senior receiver Trey Leckner. The Washington State commit hauled in a pass from Lien, broke a tackle and raced for a 35-yard score to trim the deficit to 27-17 with less than five minutes left in the third quarter.
But that was as close as the Grizzlies would come.
Just four plays later, Matson rolled out and tossed a 27-yard TD pass to Redford to widen the gap. Matson hit Redford again early in the fourth quarter, connecting for a 26-yard completion on fourth down to set up a 1-yard Limar TD plunge.
Both of those key completions to Redford came despite Matson having to make a quick, off-balanced throw with a defender closing in.
“He had enormous pressure in his face and he put it right on the numbers,” Tri said.
Soon after, Limar added a 17-yard scoring run to stretch the lead to 48-17. Lake Stevens’ defense then put the finishing touches on the blowout with a safety and a late defensive fumble recovery in the end zone.
“They are a good team. They really are,” Tri said of Glacier Peak. “I think we just did a really good job of executing our plays offensively and then slowing them down enough on defense to kind of force them to make some adjustments. And then when they made their adjustments, I though we did a good job of taking advantage of that.”
Next up for both teams is the Week 10 winner-to-state round.
After reaching two of the past three 4A state championship games — including a run to the title game last year — the Vikings are taking aim at their first-ever state crown.
“There’s some good 4A teams,” Tri said. “But if we can find a way to execute and continue to keep getting better, I think we have as good a shot as anybody in 4A right now.”