The Marysville Pilchuck football team’s 4-0 start to its’ 2023 schedule has the Wesco 3A North conference in a mid-season jumble.
The Tomahawks currently sit atop the league standings with Arlington (4-0, 3-0) as they prepare for perhaps their toughest stretch of the year in the coming weeks.
Pilchuck’s Week 5 league matchup against Ferndale (3-1, 1-1) this Friday should provide the Tomahawks with some clarity moving forward as they attempt to stave off the rest of the top-heavy division.
With an unblemished start and the No. 1 spot in the latest WIAA RPI rankings, second-year head coach Dalton Schwetz and his crew aren’t about to listen to the outside noise.
“I think we’re proud about where we’re at, and a lot of hard work has went into these first four weeks,” Schwetz said. “It’s been kinda an eight-month process to get to where we’re at. But, with that being said, our heads understand that we haven’t done anything yet. We have a lot left that we want to accomplish as a program. We have a great opponent in Ferndale this week, and that’s our full focus.”
Senior quarterback Luke Shoemaker has emerged as one of the area’s top signal-callers in the initial stages of the year, heading a spread offense that’s produced 31.3 points per game.
The Tomahawks’ potent backfield duo of Kenai Sinaphet and Joseph Davis have kept the offense chopping in the rush game and offered two-way capabilities. Senior tight end Shane Nelson and sophomore receivers Marcus Gaffney and Maksim Tchelouchkin have given Shoemaker reliable targets.
In 2021, before Schwetz’s tenure with Marysville Pilchuck, the Tomahawks wielded a run-heavy offensive attack that helped shoulder a trip into the Class 3A state semifinals. After a middling 5-5 record in Schwetz’s first year at the helm in 2022, some of the dividends of a new scheme have started to pay off.
“From Day 1, we wanted to be balanced on offense,” Schwetz said. “It took us a little while to get there. We still pride ourselves on being really physical up front with a downhill run game. We’ve got two really good tailbacks and a really talented offensive line, but if we can stay balanced and attack people through the air and use every inch of the field, we feel like that’s what will allow us to be the best version of ourselves.”
The timeshare between Sinaphet and Davis has allowed each to play both ends of the field at a high level. Sinaphet, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior, chalked up 345 yards on 8.0 yards per carry in the first three contests, including a 172-yard, three-touchdown effort in Pilchuck’s Week 2 league win over Stanwood (3-1, 2-1). He’s added 18.5 tackles, including six for a loss, from the linebacker spot. As a team, Pilchuck has allowed a league-low 9.8 points per game.
“It’s been working pretty good for us,” Sinaphet said. “We’re both getting our breaks in, running the field, and still able to attack offense and defense.”
Davis, a junior, slots in as the Tomahawks’ strong safety in addition to his share of the ball-carrying duties. Davis went for 142 yards on the ground and three TDs in a 40-14 blowout win over Edmonds-Woodway in Week 1. When Davis had to sit out in Week 3, Sinaphet laid out 108 yards on 23 carries.
“Honestly, it’s great for me,” Davis said. “Us being able to play both sides of the ball. .. I can obviously trust Kenai to go in when I need a break on offense, and we still get that heavy run game up front.”
Shoemaker, who transferred from Arlington before the 2022 season, has blended right into the role as a full-time starter.
Shoemaker was an efficient 50-for-66 on his passes through the first three weeks. Gaffney, who broke out 120-plus yard receiving games in Week 1 and 3, has been his leading target.
“Making that transition from a pretty pass-heavy offense (at Arlington), and then coming down here and splitting it up, it’s been good,” Shoemaker said.
The Tomahawks’ junior-heavy offensive line, headlined by Cyrus Broers, a 6-foot-2, 285-pound returning all-league guard, has been rock solid in giving Shoemaker space to operate.
“I think that they’ve done a tremendous job at that this year,” Shoemaker said. “Very young, still a lot to learn. … It’s not a single person. Everyone’s been doing their job.”
With a big on-the-road test against Ferndale looming in a pivotal Week 5, followed by bouts against Arlington and Glacier Peak in the following weeks, the group said they’re only looking at one week at a time.
“For us, every week it’s 0 and 0,” Davis said. “So, every week we bring that intensity at practice, bring that intensity on Fridays and a fresh start every week, new opponent every week.”