Jayden Limar totaled 295 yards and three touchdowns while leading Lake Stevens to a 37-28 win over defending 3A state champion Bellevue in Friday night’s showdown of perennial state powers. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Jayden Limar totaled 295 yards and three touchdowns while leading Lake Stevens to a 37-28 win over defending 3A state champion Bellevue in Friday night’s showdown of perennial state powers. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Limar leads Lake Stevens past Bellevue in clash of state powerhouses

Notre Dame commit Jayden Limar totals 295 yards and 3 TDs as the Vikings beat the defending 3A state champs 37-28.

LAKE STEVENS — Jayden Limar had quite the birthday.

And the Lake Stevens High School football team had quite the bounceback performance.

One week after a mistake-filled season-opening loss to Garfield, the reigning Class 4A state runner-up Vikings returned to form with a major statement victory.

Limar racked up 295 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, leading Lake Stevens to a 37-28 triumph over defending 3A state champion Bellevue in a colossal early-season showdown of perennial state powers Friday night.

“It just shows how resilient we are,” Limar said. “It shows we know how to learn from our mistakes. And honestly, it shows we have one heck of a coaching staff.

“Obviously, I hate losing,” he added. “But I felt like that (loss) was a great wakeup call for us. And I don’t know if we win (this) game without taking that first loss.”

This non-league clash of 4A and 3A state title favorites was one of the most anticipated games on the state’s prep football calendar this fall.

Limar stole the show.

The four-star Notre Dame-bound senior running back piled up 240 yards rushing and two TDs on 22 carries. He added five catches for 55 yards and a TD. He averaged nearly 11 yards per touch.

And he capped his spectacular night with an emphatic game-sealing score, powering in for a 1-yard TD on fourth-and-goal to give the Vikings a nine-point lead with 2:24 to play.

“Jayden is lightning, man,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said. “That guy, he’s nails. … I figured it was a fair amount, but (240 yards rushing) is amazing. That’s rarefied air, especially against a Bellevue defense.”

Limar bursts down the sideline for one of his three touchdowns. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Limar bursts down the sideline for one of his three touchdowns. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Last week, Garfield bottled up the Vikings’ run game and held Limar to just 58 yards on 16 carries. But it was a completely different story Friday night.

Lake Stevens’ offensive line paved large running lanes through Bellevue’s defense. And Limar did the rest, showcasing his elite combination of speed, power and elusiveness while breaking 11 runs of 10-plus yards.

Sophomore Pac-12 recruit Jayshon Limar — Jayden Limar’s younger brother — added 50 yards and a TD on eight carries before exiting with a fourth-quarter injury. The Vikings (1-1) finished with 322 yards rushing, at a clip of 9.5 yards per attempt.

“They were getting pancakes all over the place, opening up holes for me,” Jayden Limar said of his offensive line. “I wouldn’t have had the day I had without them.”

After extinguishing the Wolverines’ comeback hopes with his third and final TD, Jayden Limar ran over and celebrated in front of a frenzied Lake Stevens student section.

A few minutes later, the star running back landed a celebratory backflip as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

“This is all I was thinking about all day,” Jayden Limar said. “I didn’t get to enjoy my birthday before this, because I was just too focused on the game. I was in the office with Tri going over plays after school. And now I’m happy I can go celebrate with my family.”

The Vikings’ defense, meanwhile, did just enough to hold off Bellevue’s vaunted Wing-T rushing attack.

Ishaan Daniels, a speedy three-star senior cornerback recruit, led the Wolverines (0-2) with 189 scrimmage yards and three first-half TDs. He ran for 164 yards on 13 carries, while scoring on two electrifying TD runs and a short TD reception to give Bellevue a 21-17 halftime lead.

But Lake Stevens tightened up after the break, allowing just seven points on the Wolverines’ five second-half possessions.

“We made some adjustments at halftime,” Tri said. “We backed our safety up, because it gave him better vision to come down and help on the edge. … We also did a much better job with our strong safety and outside backer of not letting (Bellevue) get to the edge, and pushing them back inside where our other nine defenders were.”

Bryce Slezak and the Lake Stevens defense held Bellevue’s vaunted Wing-T rushing attack to just seven points in the second half. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Bryce Slezak and the Lake Stevens defense held Bellevue’s vaunted Wing-T rushing attack to just seven points in the second half. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

As their defense held Bellevue in check, the Vikings pulled in front and built a two-score advantage.

Lake Stevens opened the second half with an efficient scoring drive, capped by a go-ahead 5-yard TD run from Jayden Limar. And in the final minute of the third quarter, junior receiver Cole Becker hauled in a pass from sophomore Kolton Matson and stretched across the goal line for a 17-yard TD to push the Vikings’ lead to 30-21.

Yet just when it looked like Lake Stevens was about to run away with the game, the Wolverines came up with a red-zone interception. Two plays later, junior quarterback Lucas Razore tossed a 68-yard TD pass to sophomore Ryken Moon to cut the deficit to 30-28 with 7:52 to play.

But the Vikings responded with a run-heavy drive to ice the contest.

Leaning on their star running back and offensive line, they churned out 60 yards in 12 plays and sealed the victory with Jayden Limar’s 1-yard TD plunge on fourth-and-goal.

“Our O-line, just what a tremendous job,” Tri said. “They were banged up and we were gassed, and yet we still knew we had to run the ball and we found ways to get it done. And it really started up front.”

Lake Stevens’ crisp offensive execution Friday night was a major turnaround from six days prior, when it committed four second-half turnovers and a slew of costly penalties in an uncharacteristically sloppy 26-16 loss to talent-laden Garfield.

“It just shows that with a little hard work and a little bit of extra scouting report and a little extra film, you can make an adjustment like that and make a big turnaround in one week,” Tri said.

“I was super proud of our defense, our offense, our overall effort,” he added.

Lake Stevens receiver Cole Becker reaches across the goal line for a third-quarter touchdown. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Lake Stevens receiver Cole Becker reaches across the goal line for a third-quarter touchdown. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Bellevue opened the game by driving deep into Vikings territory, but Lake Stevens junior defensive back David Brown quelled the threat with a fourth-down interception in the end zone. The Vikings responded with a long scoring march, which Jayshon Limar finished with a 5-yard TD run.

A barrage of offensive fireworks followed.

Daniels took a toss around the edge and raced down the sideline for a 39-yard TD. Jayden Limar answered right back, slipping out of multiple tackles for a 44-yard gain and then taking a wide-receiver screen for a 30-yard TD. Daniels responded with another scoring run, bursting up the middle for a 34-yard TD to make it 14-14 early in the second quarter.

Then after a 42-yard field goal from Lake Stevens senior Macray Flanders, the Wolverines methodically marched downfield for their only lead of the night. Razore rolled out and found Daniels for a 6-yard TD pass with 18 seconds left in the half, giving Bellevue a 21-17 advantage at the break.

But after its halftime adjustments, Lake Stevens’ defense held the Wolverines scoreless on their next three possessions. The Vikings forced them to settle for a missed 35-yard field goal. They stopped Bellevue on a fourth-down run just inside midfield. And they came up with a three-and-out to force a punt.

“Huge defensive stops,” Tri said. “I thought (those) were really difference makers.”

David Brown (33) celebrates with his Lake Stevens teammates after intercepting a fourth-down pass in the end zone on Bellevue’s opening drive. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

David Brown (33) celebrates with his Lake Stevens teammates after intercepting a fourth-down pass in the end zone on Bellevue’s opening drive. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Junior back Blake Teets complemented Daniels with 120 yards on 17 carries for the Wolverines, who rode a dominant 14-0 campaign last year to their program’s 11th state title. Bellevue is off to a rare 0-2 start this fall after suffering a 24-23 season-opening loss to defending Oregon 6A state champion Central Catholic last week.

Matson finished 14-of-20 passing for 147 yards, two TDs and two interceptions for the Vikings, who have reached two of the past three 4A state championship games.

In five of the past six full-length seasons, Lake Stevens has taken a perfect record into the state playoffs. That won’t be the case this fall, after Garfield snapped the Vikings’ 37-game regular-season win streak.

Limar said that could be a blessing in disguise.

“Historically, Lake Stevens always goes undefeated until that last game,” Jayden Limar said. “We got that first loss out of the way. It showed us what we needed to work on.

“Now we know exactly what we have to work on to be one of the best teams.”

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