Lake Stevens players celebrate during a game between Lake Stevens and Kennedy Catholic at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. Lake Stevens won, 44-21. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Lake Stevens players celebrate during a game between Lake Stevens and Kennedy Catholic at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. Lake Stevens won, 44-21. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Lake Stevens sends strong statement, dominates Kennedy

The Vikings raced to a 44-0 halftime lead in their 4A state quarterfinal victory over the Lancers.

LAKE STEVENS — State championship rematch? More like state quarterfinal mismatch.

The Lake Stevens High School football team made a huge statement of intent in its quest for a repeat state championship, blowing out the Kennedy Catholic Lancers 44-21 in a Class 4A state quarterfinal on Friday night at Lake Stevens High School.

Lake Stevens dominated every phase of the game in the first half and led 44-0 at halftime. The Vikings’ first-team offense never saw the field in the second half, and Kennedy scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns against Lake Stevens’ second string to make the final score look far more generous to the Lancers than it could have.

“The statement we made tonight shows everybody we can score on all platforms,” Lake Stevens junior quarterback Kolton Matson said. “Our defense was kicking butt tonight, I couldn’t be more proud of my guys on defense for getting the offense the ball back. We proved to the whole state of Washington that we can get to Husky Stadium (the site of this year’s state championship games).”

This was supposed to be round two between Lake Stevens and Kennedy Catholic, which played an exciting state championship game last year when the Vikings eked out a 24-22 victory to lift their first state championship trophy. But this time around it was more like the varsity scrimmaging against the JV.

Just how dominant was Lake Stevens? There can’t be many examples of the second half of a state quarterfinal beginning with a running clock.

”It really should have been like this last year,” said senior linebacker Mason Turner, who was part of a Lake Stevens defense that lived in the Kennedy Catholic backfield. “We just made some mistakes on offense, some mistakes on defense. We really prepared for them this time, we were more prepared for what they were bringing and were just ready for it.”

Matson was immaculate, going 15-for-18 for 281 yards and four touchdowns as second-seeded Lake Stevens (11-1) advanced to host No. 6 Kamiakin in the semifinals next weekend.

Tenth-seeded Kennedy Catholic finished its season 10-2.

“That’s a great football team,” Kennedy Catholic coach Pat Jones said about the Vikings. “They just played with a lot of heart and played fast. It’s why they’re the defending state champs.”

It wasn’t a perfect first half of football by Lake Stevens — the Vikings had a field-goal attempt blocked and lost a fumble. Yet somehow it may have been even better than perfect.

Lake Stevens hit the scoreboard just 1 minute, 53 seconds into the game, scored on the last play of the half, and in between outgained Kennedy Catholic 381-10. Matson, after his first pass of the game fell incomplete, completed 12 straight to six different receivers, including two touchdowns to Keagan Howard and TDs to David Brown and Paul Varela. In total Lake Stevens’ offense found the end zone six times in the opening 24 minutes, while the defense held the Lancers without a first down. It was a comprehensive beatdown.

“I was excited because we played so well,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said. “We had a good scheme. We didn’t put together a very good game plan in the state championship, they did a really good job of stopping our offense. We felt like we had to come out and prove something tonight. Granted, we won the game last year, but I thought it was our defense that won it for us. We challenged our offense tonight to do a better job of executing. In that first half we were just firing on all cylinders. We were running the ball well, we were throwing the ball well, Kolton was making good decisions, our O-line was giving great pass protection, our receivers were high-pointing the ball. I was just really excited for our guys, just to see us play that way.”

It was one-way traffic from the game’s first play. Lake Stevens received the opening kickoff and needed just five plays to open the scoring, Jayshon Limar getting around the left end on a sweep for an 18-yard touchdown run, giving the Vikings a quick 7-0 lead.

There was a short blip when the Lancers staged a goal-line stand and blocked a 20-yard field-goal attempt, but the Vikings’ defense compensated two plays later when Jaxson Lewis sacked Kennedy Catholic quarterback Devon Forehand in the end zone for a safety. Another efficient series saw Lake Stevens go 41 yards on six plays, culminating in Matson’s 10-yard play-action pass to Howard that made it 16-0.

From there it was off to the races. Talha Rai scored on a 2-yard plunge after Varela returned a punt to the 2. Matson threw 7- and 64-yard touchdown passes to Howard and Brown, respectively. And putting a cherry on top, on the final play of the half Matson sent a Hail Mary to the end zone, where it was tipped into the air and fell into the hands of Varela standing alone in the end zone for a 34-yard TD, making it 44-0.

“I was feeling it, yeah,” Matson said. “Our receivers were feeling it, too. They helped me out tremendously tonight. I got in my groove early on, kind of kept that through the half. I’m proud of myself and my guys.”

Forehand, who lost more yardage in sacks (four for 21 yards) than he had in completions (four for 8 yards) in the first half, salvaged his passing stats in the fourth quarter thanks to an 84-yard touchdown pass to JoJo Paaga and a 90-yarder to Mason Moriarty. Forehand finished the game 7-for-13 for 215 yards and two TDs.

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