Jayden Limar and the Vikings square off against defending 3A state champion Bellevue on Friday night in one of the most anticipated prep football matchups in the state this season. (John Gardner / Pro Action Image)

Jayden Limar and the Vikings square off against defending 3A state champion Bellevue on Friday night in one of the most anticipated prep football matchups in the state this season. (John Gardner / Pro Action Image)

Lake Stevens set to face Bellevue in colossal clash of state powers

The reigning 4A state runner-up Vikings host the defending 3A state champs in a massive non-league showdown Friday night.

Lake Stevens has reached two of the past three Class 4A state championship games.

Bellevue’s storied program is fresh off another 3A state crown.

Both teams are considered state-title favorites in their respective classifications this fall.

And on Friday night, the two perennial state powers square off at Lake Stevens High School in a colossal early-season showdown.

It’s only Week 2, but this heavyweight non-league clash is among the most anticipated prep football games in the entire state this year.

“I’m excited for it,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said. “I think it helps promote high school football around the area. … It’s what high school football should be about.”

Given the decorated history of both programs, there’s somewhat of a late-November feel to this massive early-September matchup.

Lake Stevens has made five 4A state quarterfinal trips in the past six full-length seasons, including three state semifinal appearances and two state championship game appearances over that span. With 12 returning starters from last year’s state runner-up team, the Vikings are a popular pick to break through for their first-ever state crown this fall.

Bellevue’s juggernaut program has captured 11 state championships, including nine 3A state titles in 11 seasons from 2001 through 2011. The Wolverines also won state titles in 2012 and 2013, but those were later vacated due to recruiting violations.

Bellevue returned to the 3A mountaintop last year, capping a perfect 14-0 campaign with its first official state championship since 2011. The Wolverines won 13 of their 14 games by at least 21 points, with the lone exception being a 17-13 victory over Kennewick in the state title game. And with 10 starters back, the defending champs are once again the team to beat in 3A this fall.

“Bellevue (is) one of the best teams in the state — very well-coached, they execute with precision and timing, and they do it very well,” Tri said. “It’s gonna be a huge challenge for us. So there is definitely that sense of urgency and playoff-type attitude, even though it’s only Week 2.”

There’s likely also some added urgency for both teams after season-opening losses last week.

Lake Stevens is coming off an uncharacteristically sloppy and turnover-filled 26-16 road loss to Garfield, a talent-laden team that’s looking to make a deep 3A state playoff run. It snapped a 37-game regular-season win streak for the Vikings, whose last regular-season defeat was to Arlington in 2017.

Bellevue suffered a 24-23 home loss to defending Oregon 6A state champion Central Catholic, falling on a 22-yard field goal as time expired. It ended a 17-game win streak for the Wolverines, who blew a nine-point fourth-quarter lead in the defeat.

“They’re gonna come out fired up and ready to play,” Tri said of Bellevue. “So that just puts even more pressure … on us to make sure we come out and match them and try to exceed their effort and their execution.”

For Lake Stevens, this matchup is part of a loaded non-league gauntlet. In addition to Garfield and Bellevue, the Vikings face reigning Oregon 6A state semifinalist West Linn in Week 4 and reigning Washington 4A state semifinalist Eastlake in Week 6.

“We thought that trying to find the best teams from around the area, to play them in non-league matchups, would probably be the best thing for us in terms of challenging ourselves and trying to make preparations for a postseason run,” Tri said.


It’ll be a contrast of styles between Lake Stevens’ spread offense and Bellevue’s Wing-T rushing attack. (John Gardner / Pro Action Images)

It’ll be a contrast of styles between Lake Stevens’ spread offense and Bellevue’s Wing-T rushing attack. (John Gardner / Pro Action Images)

This showdown features not only two of the state’s premier programs, but also an intriguing contrast of offensive styles.

Lake Stevens balances the run and pass in its high-powered spread offense, which has averaged more than 43 points per game in each of the past six full-length seasons.

Bellevue, meanwhile, sports a throwback Wing-T rushing attack. The Wolverines rode their fabled Wing-T to a barrage of state titles under former longtime coach Butch Goncharoff. And they’ve continued to excel in their deceptive ground attack under fifth-year coach and former Wolverines star Michael Kneip, whose team averaged 45.7 points per game during last year’s state title run.

“You don’t really know who’s gonna get the ball, whether it’s the halfback or the fullback or the wingback,” Tri said. “They’ve got three different guys that all run well. … We have to do a great job of playing great team defense.”

Back in the early 2000s, a lot of Wesco teams ran the Wing-T. But now, it’s a rarity. Lake Stevens has faced only a few Wing-T teams in recent years, with the last time being against Marysville Pilchuck during the COVID-shortened 2021 spring season.

“It’s a different style of offense,” said Tri, who’s in his 18th season at the helm. “It’s a lot of down blocks, a lot of kickout blocks, a lot of angle-type blocking, versus power or zone-type blocking.

“So yeah, there’s some concern that we only get one week to prepare for it and try to match their speed and precision. … You’ve gotta play disciplined football and read your keys.”


Lake Stevens looks to clean up its offense after a mistake-filled opener against Garfield.

The Vikings were undone by four second-half turnovers, including a fumble at the Garfield 1-yard line. They also came away scoreless on their opening drive after three penalties and a sack pushed them from the Garfield 3 all the way back to the Garfield 38.

Lake Stevens snapped the ball inside the Garfield 5 on four separate possessions, but mustered just 10 points combined on those four drives.

“We’ve gotta do a better job of taking care of the ball, for sure,” Tri said. “We’ve gotta eliminate the mental mistakes (and) the penalties. … That’s gotta be fixed.”


Both teams are headlined by highly touted college recruits.

Lake Stevens features a prolific brother duo at running back in four-star Notre Dame-bound senior Jayden Limar and sophomore Pac-12 recruit Jayshon Limar. The Vikings also have a pair of two-star senior recruits in wide receiver Isaac Redford and offensive lineman Micah Avery.

Bellevue is highlighted by four-star junior tight end Hogan Hansen and three-star senior cornerback Ishaan Daniels. Hansen’s offer list includes the likes of Florida, Michigan and Oregon. Daniels has offers from Arizona, Air Force and Army. The Wolverines also have a pair of two-star senior recruits in linebacker George Kruger and defensive lineman Kolani Masunu.


Lake Stevens entered the season with a quarterback competition between sophomore Kolton Matson and junior Kaden LaPlaunt. Matson started the opener against Garfield, but both quarterbacks ended up playing. Matson completed 10 of 15 passes for 86 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. LaPlaunt went 7-of-9 passing for 106 yards, one TD and one interception.

Matson started three playoff games last year while filling in for injured starter Grayson Murren, including the state championship game against Graham-Kapowsin. He threw for 498 yards, six TDs and one interception in those three contests.

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