LAKE STEVENS — Early in Friday night’s game, Mariner running back KeiVarae Russell, a sophomore sensation, put on a dazzling show against Lake Stevens, racking up 144 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the opening period alone.
From that point on, Lake Stevens’ game plan was clear. To win, they had to find a way to contain Russell.
Contain him they did, giving the young Mariner speedster just 35 rushing yards on 13 carries the rest of the way. And the Lake Stevens offense did its part, overcoming Mariner’s early 14-7 lead with enough scoring for an 18-14 Western Conference 4A football victory.
“At halftime, defensively, we made some adjustments,” said Vikings coach Tom Tri. “But really our main adjustment was, ‘No. 5 (Russell) is moving around on the field, so let’s find him. They’re moving him all over the place … and if we can stop 5, I think we’re going to win the game.’
“I thought we did a better job — not a great job, but a better job — of that in the second half.
“He’s a great football player. He’s fast, he sees the field well, he’s got a big offensive line and (the Marauders) are a good football team. But our defense came up big when they needed to.”
Lake Stevens was led offensively by junior quarterback Bryson Daggett, who completed 15 of 26 passing attempts for 210 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions.
The Vikings opened the scoring on their first play from scrimmage. Running back Brennan Frost swept the left end, curled to the middle, then made a nifty cut near midfield to elude the last tackler and go untouched the rest of the way to the end zone, an 80-yard dash.
Russell scored his first touchdown one minute later, taking an inside handoff and bursting through the line of scrimmage to score from 44 yards out. Minutes later he ran even farther, taking a pitch around right end and exploding into the secondary for a 72-yard touchdown.
Lake Stevens finally went ahead to stay in the second quarter as Daggett dropped back to pass, and with good protection spotted wide receiver Brandon Preslar streaking absolutely open down the left sideline. The pass caught him in stride for a 53-yard touchdown, making the score 14-13.
The Vikings lined up to kick the PAT, but a high snap forced Daggett, the holder, to scramble left. He then reversed his field and, in danger of being sacked, spotted kicker Arvid Isaksen to his right. Isaksen caught the backfield pass and darted through the defense for the two-point conversion, giving Lake Stevens a 15-14 margin that held up to halftime.
In the third quarter, the Vikings put up the game’s final points on a 20-yard field goal by Isaksen.
“We could tell it was the first game,” Tri said. “Lots of mistakes. That being said, our guys played hard. … And we made some big plays when we needed to, and I really thought that was the difference in the ballgame.”
Lake Stevens lost some key players to injuries before the season, but Tri is still optimistic about his team’s prospects.
“I think if we stay healthy, we have a lot of speed and we have some size,” he said. “I like our speed and athleticism. We don’t have much depth … but if we stay healthy I think we have a good shot at being a pretty good team this year.”
Mariner coach John Ondriezek said his team “didn’t do things the way we practiced. … Not to take anything away from Lake Stevens because their kids played hard. They made a lot of plays. We didn’t make plays, and we made too many mistakes to win against a good football team.”
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Russell, who also had a 40-yard punt return, “is an impact player, a breakaway back,” Ondriezek added. “But we can’t just depend on KeiVarae to carry the load this year. Other people are going to have to step up.”
At Lake Stevens High School
Lake Stevens – Frost 80 run (Isaksen kick)
Mariner – Russell 44 run (Rynkiewicz kick)
Mariner – Russell 72 run (Rynkiewicz kick)
Lake Stevens – Preslar 53 pass from Daggett (Isaksen pass from Daggett)
Lake Stevens – Isaksen 20 field goal