SNOHOMISH — It wasn’t the eye-popping rout that it was last year.
But hey, a win’s a win.
For the second consecutive year, Marysville Pilchuck started its season with a win over Snohomish, following last year’s 63-34 triumph at Quil Ceda Stadium in 2018 with a gritty 17-14 win on Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“We knew coming in it would be a pretty tough game,” Marysville Pilchuck head coach Brandon Carson said. “Snohomish has a pretty good team and I knew we’d have to do pretty well to win. I thought at times we did some pretty good things.”
After Edgar Martinez put the Tomahawks up 17-7 with a 31-yard field goal early in the third quarter, Snohomish cut the lead to 17-14 with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter after junior wide receiver Caden Keithley broke free down the home sideline for an 84-yard touchdown reception.
Despite some golden opportunities, the Panthers couldn’t take the lead in the third.
The best chance for Snohomish came midway through the fourth, as Jacob Brandvold’s interception gifted the Panthers the ball with 5:21 remaining.
Snohomish drove the ball into Marysville Pilchuck territory, but an incompletion on fourth-and-2 at the Tomahawks’ 28-yard line squelched the drive.
Marysville Pilchuck picked up three first downs, the last one on Jordan Justice’s 34-yard run on third-and-5, and sealed the game.
“I’m proud of our fight, I’m proud of our grit,” Snohomish head coach Joey Hammer said. “We played to the last whistle. Marysville came out and made a couple more plays than we did. We have to keep our heads high and get that continued growth and keep that fire stoked.”
There’s just something about the opening kickoff against Snohomish for the Tomahawks.
A season after Bryan Sanders returned the opening kick for a touchdown against the Panthers at Marysville Pilchuck, senior wide receiver Dillon Kuk broke open the scoring right away with a 90-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff, putting the Tomahawks up 7-0 within the game’s first 10 seconds.
“It’s kind of like a tradition,” Kuk said.
Kuk burst through a seam down the visitor’s sideline and weaved through the remaining defenders for the score.
It was a tremendous momentum swing for both teams right away.
“It just takes the wind right out of your chest,” Hammer said. “Thankfully, we got it fixed on the next kickoff, but we have to stop it at the beginning.”
The two rush-happy squads are still in a phase of transition.
Both MP and Snohomish lost several senior starters from imposing offensive lines from last season and key feature backs from last season — Bryan Sanders and Trenton Hurst for the Tomahawks and Tyler Massena for the Panthers.
“We’re still going to run the football and we have a couple guys on the edge that we think that can catch it,” Carson said. “We’re still seeing what sticks right now.”
Marysville Pilchuck still had plenty returning at running back and Friday night demonstrated that. Justice in particular found success out of the backfield, rushing for 149 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown to lead the Tomahawks.
“He’s our guy,” Carson said. “He’s a really big, talented back and he’s a good one. We’re happy with him.”
Sophomore Dylan Carson added 86 yards on 16 carries for Marysville Pilchuck, which rushed for 260 yards total.
Snohomish, however, opened up the playbook a bit more without Massena in the fold. Tyler Larson, a senior tailback that formed a vicious one-two punch with Massena last season, still got his touches — 18 carries for 54 yards — but sophomore Silas Strehle threw the ball 22 times, completing 14 for 211 yards. The Panthers threw the ball over 20 times just four times last season, two coming in blowout losses.
“I think they keyed on trying to stop (Larson),” Hammer said. “They were bringing some hot blitzes, they were playing really, really aggressive with their inside backers, going downhill. They wanted to take the run game away.”
Without the threat of Massena, that may be a necessity for the Panthers.
Marysville Pilchuck: Justice 19 rushed for 149 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Snohomish: Senior wideout Brandvold caught seven passes for 79 yards for the Panthers.
“I was really impressed with our defense. Aside form a couple scramble plays from their quarterback, I thought we were able to hold them in check pretty well. I’m really happy with where we’re at right there.” — Marysville Pilchuck coach Brandon Carson.
Marysville Pilchuck will host Oak Harbor for its home opener next Friday in Week 2.
Snohomish welcomes archrival Glacier Peak to Veterans Memorial Stadium for its Week 2 tilt.