For the first time since 2015, a Snohomish County high school football team will claim the Wesco 3A North crown.
The league’s two Whatcom County squads — Squalicum and Ferndale — have won each of the past three Wesco 3A North titles since joining the conference as football-only members in 2016.
That trend will end Friday night, with Arlington set to host seventh-ranked Marysville Pilchuck in a de facto Wesco 3A North championship game.
“It’s a big one,” Tomahawks coach Brandon Carson said. “It’s for a league title. That’s why these kids lift the weights and go to the camps and do all that stuff — to be able to play in games like this.”
Marysville Pilchuck (7-0, 5-0 Wesco 3A North) enters Friday’s winner-take-all regular-season finale with an unblemished record, having outscored opponents by 27.6 points per game behind its high-powered rushing attack and stingy defense. Aside from a three-point non-league victory over Snohomish in their season opener, the Tomahawks have won each of their other six contests by at least 19 points.
Arlington (6-1, 4-1) sits one game behind Marysville Pilchuck in the league standings, with its only blemish a 48-28 loss to Ferndale last month. With a victory Friday night, the Eagles would move into a first-place tie with the Tomahawks and claim the Wesco 3A North crown by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“One of our goals this year was to win the Wesco (3A) North,” Arlington coach Greg Dailer said. “We put ourselves in a position to have a shot at that, so we’re pretty excited.”
The Eagles are tasked with slowing down Marysville Pilchuck’s deceptive Slot-T rushing attack — a close cousin of the Wing-T system. Led by their big offensive line and the backfield tandem of sophomore Dylan Cason and senior Jordan Justice, the Tomahawks average 8.5 yards per carry and 334 yards rushing per game.
Carson has 935 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns, including long scoring runs of 80 and 66 yards during a 269-yard performance in last week’s victory over Ferndale. Justice has 867 yards rushing and 13 TDs, averaging 10.4 yards per carry.
“They always do a great job of threatening you everywhere — inside, every gap and then on the perimeter — which really stresses you defensively and how you align,” said Squalicum coach Nick Lucey, whose team’s two Wesco 3A North losses were to Marysville Pilchuck and Arlington.
“They’ve got some quick (backs),” he added. “A couple times we’d have them dead to rights, the play well-defended, and they would just break our leverage or get our shoulders a little bit turned, reverse field and get outside of you quick. Speed is definitely a difference for them.”
The Tomahawks’ high-powered ground game will face Arlington’s best defense in more than a decade. The Eagles allow just 14.3 points per game and have held six of their seven opponents to 13 points or less.
“They really do a good job of flying around to the ball,” Brandon Carson said. “They do a good job of keeping their linebackers free and blockers off of them so they can go run around and make plays. They’ve done a nice job in their secondary, too. They’re just solid defensively.”
Arlington’s one outlier on defense came against Ferndale, when it surrendered 41 points to the Golden Eagles’ Wing-T attack. A similar run-heavy style of offense awaits Arlington in Friday’s showdown.
“We have spent the last few weeks just really cleaning up our reads and making sure that we’re aware of play recognition and just being a little more ready than we were for the Ferndale game,” Dailer said. “… We’ve gotta be much more disciplined.”
On the other side is a Marysville Pilchuck defense that’s been every bit as good as its high-powered rushing attack. The Tomahawks allow just 11.1 points per game and have held six of their seven opponents to 14 points or less.
“They have a bunch of athletes running around,” Dailer said. “They rotate several guys on the D-line, they do a really nice job at linebacker and their secondary is solid. … Sometimes it seems like they know what the play is before it’s snapped. They’re flying around and they make great reads. They’re playing great ‘D’ right now.”
After graduating standout quarterback Anthony Whitis and several talented receivers, Arlington runs the ball more often this season than some of its more pass-heavy teams of recent years. The Eagles are almost dead even between passing and rushing attempts this season.
“Their balance helps them out,” Lucey said.
Jacob Kramer, a sophomore, excelled as Arlington’s primary tailback earlier this season before sustaining a concussion a few weeks ago that Dailer said could sideline him for the rest of the year.
Jacob Roskelley, a junior, has filled in nicely. Running behind a senior-laden offensive line, Roskelley has rushed for 354 yards and six TDs over the past two games, including 237 yards and three scores in last week’s non-league rout of Everett.
“We’ve been trying to clean up our passing game a little,” Dailer said, “but we’ve been real happy to be able to lean on our senior O-line and a solid running back.”
Arlington has beaten Marysville Pilchuck each of the past two seasons, including a 17-10 victory in last year’s regular-season finale that kept the Tomahawks out of the postseason.
The Eagles are seeking their first Wesco 3A North title since 2015. The Tomahawks are aiming for their first since splitting the league crown with Oak Harbor in 2014, when they reached the Class 3A state semifinals.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Dailer said.