Lakewood dual-threat quarterback Jared Taylor has amassed 2,316 total yards and 32 touchdowns this season. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Lakewood dual-threat quarterback Jared Taylor has amassed 2,316 total yards and 32 touchdowns this season. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Lakewood set for big challenge against Hockinson

Led by QB Jared Taylor, the Cougars travel to face the 2-time defending 2A state champion Saturday.

When the Lakewood High School football team takes the field for its Class 2A state quarterfinal game Saturday, it will have a chance to reach a milestone that’s been achieved only once in program history.

Lakewood made it to the state semifinals in 1983 — the school’s first year of existence — and 36 years later the Cougars (10-1) have a shot to get back to their classification’s final four when they take on two-time defending state champion Hockinson (10-1) at 1 p.m. at Battle Ground High School.

“Boy, it would be a huge step,” Lakewood coach Dan Teeter said. “… It would be forging some new ground for us. Anytime you have that kind of success, it’s something I think carries over to other programs, and then for these young guys that will be coming back, they just build on that and kind of set high expectations for the future.”

Lakewood is led by dual-threat quarterback Jared Taylor. The senior has piled up 2,316 total yards (1,071 passing, 1,245 rushing) and 32 touchdowns (14 passing, 18 rushing) as part of an offense that averages 33 points per game.

“From what we’ve seen on film from them, that’s a guy that we have to stop,” Hockinson coach Rick Steele said. “… We just have to try and keep him inside and not give him any lanes and try and contain him with our defense.”

Taylor is surrounded by plenty of weapons on offense. Junior receiver Carson Chrisman has been a reliable No. 1 option on the outside for Lakewood, racking up team highs in receptions (27), receiving yards (516) and touchdown receptions (seven). And running backs Landon Pruitt (654 yards and seven TDs) and Malik Dotson (536 yards and three TDs) have been dynamic complements to Taylor as the Cougars’ offense has racked up 2,614 rushing yards and an average of 7.8 yards per carry.

An important factor in Lakewood’s offensive success has been the health of its line. The Cougars suffered a pair of big blows early last season when left tackle Mason Anderson suffered a broken leg in Week 1 and left guard Keegan Bach suffered the same injury a week later. That caused Lakewood to become a one-dimensional team that had to rely on airing it out on offense. The result was a 5-5 season that included a winless mark in the ultra-tough Northwest 2A Sky Division.

The return of Anderson and Bach paired with the efforts of center Josh Thuringer, right guard J.R. Riley, right tackle Jaden Gomez and versatile fill-in Jakobus Seth helped the Cougars re-establish their run game this season.

“Those guys have done a fantastic job in the running game,” Teeter said. “We’re more balanced offensively and that’s carried over for our defense as well. They’re facing a team in practice that runs the ball and does a lot of things, so they see most everything.”

The carryover to the Cougars’ defense has been evident. After allowing 35.5 points per game in league play last season, Lakewood has allowed just 17.2 points per game against conference opponents and 13.9 points per game overall.

But even with stellar play on both sides of the ball, the Cougars face a tough task when they take on the Greater Saint Helens League 2A champion Hawks.

Hockinson’s high-powered offense averages 41.7 points per game and is led by dual-threat quarterback Levi Crum — a two-star recruit according to 247Sports.

The 6-foot-1 signal-caller helped lead Hockinson to a state title last season and is in the midst of an impressive senior campaign. Crum has completed 135 of 236 passes for 2,435 yards and 34 touchdowns. He’s added another 690 yards and 12 TDs on 99 carries.

“They’re very comparable athletes,” Steele said of the quarterback matchup. “… They’re probably going to try and do the same thing with their quarterback as (we do). I think it’s gonna be a matchup of two pretty good football players.”

Hockinson has been equally impressive on defense, allowing just 12.5 points per game behind an aggressive 5-2 defense that could present a challenge for Lakewood’s rushing attack.

“We like to put defenders in conflict quite a bit. That will be a big key to our running game,” Teeter said. “It’s not so much mashing it down their throat as it is executing and making the reads well.”

The Hawks have shown plenty of resilience this season.

Crum and his teammates have put the Hawks in position to three-peat as state champions despite injuries to a pair of NCAA Division-I caliber wide receivers. Three-star University of Washington commit Sawyer Racanelli has been out all year after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament before the season, and three-star Peyton Brammer’s season came to an end after he suffered a knee injury in Week 8.

“When you have two big-time Division-I wide receivers like we had, I think a lot of kids just expect them to make plays,” Steele said. “With losing them, I think our kids realize that we gotta make plays ourself without those big-time players. … They stepped up and they’ve done that.”

Hockinson has won 37 of its past 38 games. Its only loss during that span came in Week 2 of this season when Archbishop Murphy traveled to Brush Prairie and upset the Hawks, 27-21. Lakewood beat Murphy, 35-27, four weeks later.

“Obviously, that is something that doesn’t always match up perfectly in football …,” Teeter said of comparing results against common opponents, “but it definitely shows we belong on the field with them. We certainly have a lot of respect for them. I mean, they’re the two-time defending state champs, but we feel confident that if we do our jobs, we’ll play well with those guys.”

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