Landscape has changed plenty for this season

Are you ready for some prep football?

Good, so am I.

But before we get started, let’s go over the ground rules. There have been some significant changes since last fall.

As a result of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s classification process (take note, there’ll be more on this later), only two Class 3A schools remain in Snohomish County: Lynnwood and Meadowdale. Consequently, the Western Conference has been re-formed into two 4A divisions with the two 3A schools playing in the 10-team South.

The other South schools are Shorecrest, Shorewood, Edmonds-Woodway, Mountlake Terrace, Kamiak, Mariner, Everett and Jackson. The North is composed of Cascade, Snohomish, Monroe, Lake Stevens, Marysville-Pilchuck, Arlington, Stanwood, Oak Harbor and Mount Vernon.

Did you catch that? Mount Vernon has switched places with Sehome. Now a 4A school, the Bulldogs have moved from the 3A Northwest League to the Wesco, while Sehome, now a 3A school, has moved to the Northwest League.

Even though they are playing in a 4A league, the two 3A Edmonds District schools have not opted up. That means they will compete for postseason play in Class 3A.

How’s that going to work, you ask?

Here’s how: If either team finishes with a record of 6-3 or better, it will play off against the second-place team from the Northwest League for a first-round state playoff berth.

Meanwhile, the 17 4A schools will compete for three state playoff berths. The first three teams in each division will play each other on the Tuesday following the final regular season game with the winners advancing to the first round of the state playoffs. The first-place teams will play the third-place teames, while the two second-place teams play each other.

Presumably, if either Lynnwood or Meadowdale fills one of those top three slots, the next 4A team in line will move up.

There were no changes in the 2A North Cascades Conference. Whew!

In Class A, Archbishop Murphy, which played a non-league schedule last year in its first season of football, will join the Northwest A League. The Wildcats essentially replace Darrington, which contrary to the growth trend, got smaller and is once again a Class B school. Since it is the only B school in the Northwest District fielding a football team, the Loggers will play an independent schedule. Their last two games will be home and away against Neah Bay with the winner of the series qualifying for the state playoffs. In the event of a split, a third game will be played.

Now back to the classification process. The WIAA in its infinite wisdom has decided to do it all over again this fall. The governing body for high school sports wants Washington to be on the same page as neighboring states, which classify in even-numbered years based upon counts taken in odd-numbered years.

Wesco athletic directors don’t expect any changes, however. In fact, Lynnwood, Meadowdale or both may actually become 4A as a result.

OK. Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, we can tee it up and play some ball.

Here’s a look at some dandy Week 1 matchups:

Kickoff: 7:30 tonight at Snohomish Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Last year: Did not meet. South Kitsap was 8-2 and lost 42-20 to Kamiak in the first round of the 4A state playoffs. Snohomish was 9-1 and lost 26-20 to Kentwood in the first round of the 4A playoffs.

Players to watch: Senior running back Ryan Cole rushed for more than 2,000 yards and scored 30 touchdowns last season for South Kitsap.

If the score is close, returning all-Wesco placekicker Derek Bennion might make all the difference for Snohomish.

Breaking down the game: Snohomish coach Mark Perry said the strength of his team lies in its offensive and defensive lines. It had better if the Panthers hope to stop the vaunted South Kitsap running game. The Wolves will likely run away from returning all-Wesco defensive lineman Matt Sigurdson. But that will put pressure on the rest of the defenders.

The Panthers are untested at the skill positions, but Perry said his novice running backs have breakaway speed.

Little-known fact: Former Lakewood coach Jay Adams, the son of longtime Snohomish basketball coach Jim Adams, is now an assistant on Mark Perry’s staff at Snohomish.

Pick: South Kitsap 35-14.

Kickoff: 7:30 tonight at Lake Stevens High School.

Last year: Did not meet. Cascade was 4-5 and lost its last five games in a row after coach Rollie Wilson had to take a medical leave of absence. Lake Stevens was 9-2, won the Wesco 3A championship and reached the state quarterfinals before losing 18-6 to O’Dea.

Players to watch: Six-foot-four, 285-pound Jesse Calderon, an accomplished heavyweight wrestler, anchors the Bruins offensive and defensive lines.

Fullback Joey Daube returns for his third season as a starter in the Vikings’ backfield.

Breaking down the game: Cascade has too much talent to have two losing seasons in a row. But it won’t be easy stopping the Bruins’ losing streak against Lake Stevens, even with its graduation losses at quarterback and running back. Both programs have winning traditions and a history of recent successes. Something has to give.

Little-known fact: Cascade missed the state playoffs the past two seasons after reaching them 10 years in a row. Lake Stevens went to state last year for the first time since 1995.

Pick: Cascade 21-7.

Kickoff: 7:30 tonight at Goddard Stadium.

Last year: Kamiak won 35-21. Kamiak finished 11-2, was second in the Wesco 4A and reached the state semifinals before losing 28-21 to Bethel. Mariner was 2-7.

Players to watch: Running back Markee Broussard is expected to lead a resurgence at Mariner.

Kamiak is the preseason favorite in the Wesco South Division in large part because of the potential of running back Justin Washington.

Breaking down the game: It’s hard on both teams to begin against a district rival. Emotions typically run high for this encounter and can play as big a part in the game as talent levels.

Kamiak’s fortunes may turn on how quickly new quarterback John Mack picks up where Ryan Jones left off.

Mariner has been plagued by turnovers in recent Kamiak contests. But the Marauders come into this one a little more experienced than they have been in the past.

Little-known fact: Both teams have reached the state semifinals within the past three seasons. Kamiak did it last year. Mariner did it and won before losing in the 1998 3A final.

Pick: Kamiak 28-27

Wesco North: Oak Harbor at Arlington, Marysville-Pilchuck at Stanwood, 7:30 p.m.

Wesco South: Shorewood vs. Lynnwood at Edmonds Stadium, 5 p.m.; Edmonds-Woodway vs. Everett at Everett Memorial Stadium, Meadowdale vs. Shorecrest at Shoreline Stadium, 7:30 p.m.; Jackson vs. Mountlake Terrace at Edmonds Stadium, 8 p.m.

North Cascades: Mount Baker at Lynden Christian, South Whidbey at Nooksack Valley, Sultan at Meridian, Granite Falls at Lakewood, 7:30 p.m.

Kingco 4A: Bothell vs. Roosevelt at Seattle Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m.; Lake Washington vs. Woodinville at Pop Keeney Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

Non-conference: Friday Harbor at Charles Wright, 5 p.m.; Coupeville at King’s, Notre Dame, B.C., at Blaine, 7:30 p.m.

Wesco North: Mount Vernon at Monroe, 2 p.m.

Non-conference: John Barsby, B.C., at Orcas Island, 11:30 a.m.; Concrete at Snohomish sophs, 1:30 p.m.; Darrington vs. Life Christian at Lakewood Stadium, Tacoma, 7 p.m.

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