LAKE STEVENS — It’s not often that defensive linemen get to demonstrate their catching ability.
Ryan Sander showed off his soft hands twice Friday night.
The Lake Stevens senior defensive end intercepted two tipped passes in the first half and returned one for a touchdown, highlighting another dominant performance by the Vikings.
Lake Stevens reached the end zone on each of its first five possessions and scored 42 first-half points, rolling to a 49-7 running-clock victory over visiting Jackson that extended the Vikings’ Wesco 4A winning streak to 27 games.
Sander set the tone with an interception on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Later in the half, he tipped an interception to himself that he returned for a pick-six.
The latter is something Sander and fellow defensive end Matt Sevao have often joked about with each other.
“We’ll just (say), ‘OK, this week we’re getting a pick-six,’” Sander said. “We always kid about that. But for it to actually happen, it’s crazy to think about it. I can’t even imagine it actually just happened.”
Lake Stevens (4-1 overall, 3-0 league) forced three first-half turnovers, with each leading to a Vikings touchdown.
Senior receiver Austin Murren hauled in three first-half touchdown passes and led Lake Stevens with five catches for 79 yards. It was the second consecutive three-touchdown receiving game for Murren, who now has eight touchdown catches this season.
“He knows how to get open in space, he knows how to run the short crossing routes (and) he can run the deep route,” Vikings coach Tom Tri said. “He does a great job of just finding grass and getting some (yards after) the catch.”
On the first play from scrimmage, Lake Stevens defensive lineman Jevon Morris tipped a pass into the air. Sander grabbed it for an interception, setting up 1st-and-goal for the Vikings from the 9-yard line.
Facing 4th-and-goal three plays later, Lake Stevens senior quarterback Conor Bardue rolled right and found Murren for a 6-yard touchdown pass that gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead just 71 seconds into the game.
Lake Stevens drove 51 yards on its next possession, which Murren capped with an 8-yard touchdown reception.
Then on the second play of Jackson’s ensuing drive, the Vikings stripped the ball from receiver Nick Walsh and recovered the fumble at the Timberwolves’ 21-yard line.
Five plays later, Bardue scored on a 1-yard quarterback keeper that stretched the lead to 21-0 less than nine minutes into the contest.
Three minutes into the second quarter, Bardue and Murren connected for a 5-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-0. Bardue finished 13-of-20 passing for 187 yards and four touchdowns.
Lake Stevens junior running back Tom Lewis then added a 2-yard scoring run for the Vikings’ fifth touchdown in as many possessions.
Soon after, Sander’s 23-yard interception-return score stretched the lead to 42-7 with 4:18 left in the half.
“He does a really good job of tipping the ball in practice,” Tri said. “It drives Conor crazy. Some screens and things that we throw off the edge, Ryan is constantly (tipping) balls in practice.
“We’ve seen Ryan do that a few times, but to actually do it in a game (is) awesome.”
Sander, Sevao and the rest of Lake Stevens’ defensive line inflicted heavy pressure on Jackson junior quarterback Ben Olesen throughout the night. Sevao recorded three of the Vikings’ seven sacks.
“You had Matt on the left end and Ryan on the right end, and all night (Olesen) was worried about where those two were coming,” Tri said. “Those two put pressure all night long.
“That really limits what they’re trying to do offensively, and really gives us an advantage on defense.”
Less than two minutes into the third quarter, Bardue found junior receiver Tre Long wide-open down the left sideline for a 49-yard touchdown pass that made it 49-7 and put a running clock into effect.
It was the second consecutive running-clock win for Lake Stevens, which routed Mount Vernon 72-14 last week. The Vikings have won three straight since suffering a 26-point non-league loss to Arlington on Sept. 8.
“That loss hurt us pretty good,” Tri said. “The locker room was silent. We had a few seniors step up and give some speeches after that game. And quite honestly, our practices have been quite a bit better for the past few weeks.
“We’re just young,” he added, “and it took us a few weeks to get going and get everyone firing on all cylinders and playing full speed.”
Jackson senior receiver Daniel Arias, a University of Colorado commit, supplied the bulk of the Timberwolves’ offense. The 6-foot-4 standout had nine catches for 139 yards and the lone touchdown for Jackson (1-3, 1-2).
Lake Stevens star receiver Anthony Hutchinson returned to action for the first time since suffering a leg injury in the team’s preseason jamboree that sidelined him for the first four games of the season.
Hutchinson, who led the team in receiving yards last year, had one catch for 12 yards.