Archbishop Murphy is one of many contenders in Northwest 2A. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Archbishop Murphy is one of many contenders in Northwest 2A. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Northwest 2A, Emerald Sound high school football preview

The coaches polls, favorites, contenders, 3 things to know, players to watch and games to watch.

COACHES POLL

The predicted order of finish, as voted on by the league’s coaches. Included is the average placing for each team, with the number of first-place votes in parentheses.

NORTHWEST 2A

1. Squalicum (5) — 1.2

2. Lakewood (2) — 2.3

3. Lynden — 2.5

4. Archbishop Murphy — 3.2

5. Sehome — 5

6. Sedro-Woolley — 5.2

7. Burlington-Edison — 5.3

NOTE: Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.

EMERALD SOUND CONFERENCE

1. King’s (3) — 1

2. Cedar Park Christian (1) — 1.8

3. Granite Falls — 3

4. Sultan — 3.3

5. South Whidbey — 3.7

NOTES: Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team. One coach did not participate in the voting.

FAVORITES

NORTHWEST 2A

Squalicum

The Storm look to make an immediate impact as they return to the Northwest Conference football league after dropping from Class 3A to 2A during the latest statewide reclassification cycle. Squalicum was a regular contender during its four-year stint in Wesco 3A North, making the state playoffs three times in four seasons and winning two league titles. The Storm went 4-1 during the spring season, losing only to 2A powerhouse Lynden.

Squalicum is led by one of the top running backs in the state in Washington State University-bound Djouvensky Schlenbaker. The talented 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior is a three-star running back ranked as the 10th best class of 2022 recruit in the state by 247sports. His supporting cast includes new quarterback Leyton Smithson, a transfer from Mountain View High School in Idaho, and two-star senior linebacker Bryce Lamb. The Storm, ranked sixth in the Associated Press Washington state preseason high school football poll, appear to have the potential to contend for a state title this season.

EMERALD SOUND CONFERENCE

King’s

The Knights are looking for a three-peat after winning the Emerald Sound Conference during the spring season and the North Sound Conference in 2019. King’s returns seven starters on offense and six on defense led by a dynamic playmaker at quarterback in reigning league MVP senior Hayden Teeter. Massive 6-foot-4, 290-pound senior lineman Jackson Locke, senior lineman William Marquart and junior all-purpose threat Royce Coleman highlight a bevy of all-league returners. A conference title would mean a return to the state playoffs for the Knights for the first time since 2015 when they qualified for the seventh straight season.

CONTENDERS

NORTHWEST 2A

Lakewood is one of many contenders in Northwest 2A. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Lakewood is one of many contenders in Northwest 2A. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Lakewood, Lynden and Archbishop Murphy

A trio of 2A powerhouses that would be clear favorites in many other leagues in the state figure to all be in the middle of the league-title hunt this season. In fact, all of these teams likely have their eyes set on deep postseason runs, too.

The Cougars are coming of an impressive 5-0 spring season filled with lopsided victories while playing in Wesco. Lakewood, ranked No. 3 in 2A, outscored opponents by a staggering 46.8 points per game while often times taking its foot off the gas in the second half after mounting leads as high as 77 points. But the schedule will be much tougher for the Cougars this year. All but one team Lakewood faces this season has made the state playoffs since 2016, and the schedule features teams with a combined 27 state playoff appearances, four state-title game appearances and two state championships since 2014. The Cougars have plenty of reason to believe that they’re up for the test, which includes road games against their three biggest challengers in Northwest 2A. They return six starters on offense and five on defense. Washington State-bound two-way lineman Jakobus Seth, the 23rd-ranked senior recruit in the state, and juniors Aaron Parker and Eric Hernandez lead a stout group in the trenches, and senior dual-threat quarterback Justice Taylor is the team’s x-factor on offense. Senior linebacker Andrew Molloy highlights the returners on defense.

The Lions went 4-2 during the spring season, including a 9-6 win over league favorite Squalicum, and are regularly one of the premier programs at the 2A level. Lynden, ranked second in 2A, has won the past two league titles and hasn’t missed the state playoffs since 2015. The Lions’ strength this year appears to be on defense where they returns nine starters.

The Wildcats, ranked No. 9 in 2A, return nearly their entire starting lineup from the spring with nine returners on offense and eight on defense. Archbishop Murphy went 2-3 in the spring with the losses coming to 4A powerhouse Lake Stevens, Lakewood and 4A Glacier Peak. Similar to Lakewood, the Wildcats play a grueling schedule with non-league games against 3A favorite Seattle Prep, 2A playoff contender Yelm and Lake Stevens. The team ends the season with huge four-week stretch that will likely decide their playoff fate with games against league favorites Squalicum (Oct. 8), Lynden (Oct. 22) and Lakewood (Oct. 29). Archbishop Murphy has two solid options at quarterback with junior Kai Lewis and senior Colton Johnson. Returning 6-foot-2, 305-pound two-way lineman Issiah Smith, a first-team all-league selection on both sides of the ball, leads the team up front, and first-team all-league linebacker Colby Glennon highlights the defense.

EMERALD SOUND CONFERENCE

Cedar Park Christian

The Eagles went 3-2 in the spring and 3-1 in league play, falling just short in a 13-10 loss to King’s for the Emerald Sound Conference championship. Cedar Park Christian was dominant in its other two league games, beating Granite Falls and Sultan by a combined score of 107-0. The Eagles are tasked with replacing the production of leading rushers Brandon Parrish and Johny Petrus and five other all-league players.

THREE THINGS TO KNOW

Northwest 2A will probably have the best 2A team in the state that doesn’t make the playoffs

The ultra-tough Northwest 2A football league features four preseason top-10 teams. Squalicum, Lakewood, Lynden and Archbishop Murphy all figure to be squads that can make deep postseason runs, and it’s likely that one or more of those teams won’t get the chance to do it.

It’s still unclear how many state berths District 1 will get for 2A, but the number will likely be just two or three. Just about every game in this stacked league will have major postseason implications for the team’s involved. One slip up could be the difference between playing and watching football deep into November.

Two Emerald Sound Conference teams will make the state playoffs

After years of struggles in 1A District 1 winner-to-state playoff games against teams from the Northwest Conference, the five former North Sound Conference members who make up the Emerald Sound Conference football league are now in District 2 and no longer have to worry about the 1A powerhouses up north.

Northwest 1A Conference teams won all eight district games over the past two full-length seasons by an average of 46.5 points per contest with the closest game being Lynden Christian’s 42-14 win over King’s in 2018. Those numbers don’t matter much now though. This season the league’s top two finishers are automatic state-playoff qualifiers.

That could mean the end of lengthy droughts for Granite Falls, Sultan and South Whidbey. The Tigers last made it in 1990, the Turks in 2000 and the Falcons in 1992. But the favorites to claim those spots are King’s and Cedar Park Christian. The Knights last made it in 2015 and the Eagles in 2011.

Northwest 2A is no longer a tiered football league

The Sky and Lake Divisions are no more as all seven teams competing in league play this season will be in just one division. Previously, the conference’s top teams played in the Sky Division and its bottom teams the Lake Division. Three teams in Northwest 2A — Cedarcrest, Bellingham and Anacortes — are playing independent football schedules. They’ll have a path to the postseason that includes going unbeaten.

LOCAL PLAYERS TO WATCH

Chaz Bush, sr., OL, Sultan

Bush is a team captain and leader up front for the Turks. He was a second-team all-league selection last season.

Colby Glennon, sr., TE/LB, Archbishop Murphy

Glennon was a first-team all-league selection at linebacker last season. The 6-foot-3, 24o-pound senior had 24 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack over four games.

Riley Hoople, sr., QB/DB, Granite Falls

The senior is a two-year starter at quarterback for the Tigers.

Kai Lewis, jr., QB, Archbishop Murphy

Lewis complete 23-of-41 passes (56.1%) for 456 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions over just three games during the spring season. He was a first-team all-league selection.

Andrew Molloy, sr., LB, Lakewood

Molloy recorded 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, one interception and one forced fumble during the spring season. He was a first-team all-league selection.

Aaron Parker, jr., OL/DL, Lakewood

Parker is a 6-foot-3, 290-pound two-way lineman who was selected first-team all-league on offense in the spring.

Jakobus Seth, sr., OL/DL, Lakewood

The Washington State-bound lineman is entering his fourth year as a starter for a talented Cougars squad. Seth is an athletic 6-foot-3, 281-pound two-way standout that checks all the boxes needed to be a high-level Division-I recruit. The Lakewood senior is a three-star prospect and the highest rated player in Snohomish County for the class of 2022. Seth was a first-team all-league selection in both his sophomore and junior seasons. He’s also been selected to The Herald’s All-Area teams twice.

Issiah Smith, jr., OL/DL, Archbishop Murphy

Smith is a massive 6-foot-2, 305-pound two-way lineman who was a first-team all-league pick on both sides of the ball in the spring.

Justice Taylor, sr., QB/S, Lakewood

Taylor took over the reins at quarterback as a junior last season and displayed the same playmaking ability that made his older brother, Jared, one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks at the 2A level. The left-hander completed 45-of-81 passes (55.6%) for 643 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception during the shortened five-game season. He also rushed for 420 yards and six scores on a team-high 51 carries.

LOCAL GAMES TO WATCH

North Creek at Lakewood, 7 p.m., Sept. 3

The Cougars get an early test when they host the 4A Jaguars in the season opener. Lakewood made the 2A state quarterfinals during the last full-length season.

Seattle Prep at Archbishop Murphy, 7 p.m., Sept. 3

The 3A Panthers and Wildcats square off in a season opener between private schools that figure to be forces in their respective classifications. Seattle Prep had an impressive 5-2 spring season that featured wins over Metro League powerhouses O’Dea and Eastside Catholic.

Lakewood at Lynden Christian, 7 p.m., Sept. 10

The Cougars’ gauntlet of a schedule continues in Week 2 when they travel north to face Lynden Christian. The Lyncs were the runner-up in 1A in 2019.

Archbishop Murphy at Fife, 7 p.m., Sept. 10

The Wildcats continue their tough slate of opponents when they travel south to take on Fife. The Trojans went 4-2 in the spring and made the 2A state semifinals in 2018.

Lakewood vs. Squalicum at Civic Stadium, 7 p.m., Sept. 24

The Cougars get their first shot at one of the Northwest 2A favorites when they visit Squalicum. Both teams feature Washington State-bound seniors — Lakewood’s Jakobus Seth and Squalicum’s Djouvensky Schlenbaker.

Archbishop Murphy at Lake Stevens, 7 p.m., Sept. 24

Archbishop Murphy gets its toughest test of the season when it travels to Lake Stevens. The Vikings won 26-7 in their spring matchup.

Granite Falls has won three straight Black and Blue Bowls. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Granite Falls has won three straight Black and Blue Bowls. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Sultan at Granite Falls, 7 p.m., Oct. 8

The Turks and Tigers open conference play with their annual Black and Blue Bowl rivalry matchup. Granite Falls has won three straight in this series, including a 22-20 overtime victory in the first prep football game to take place in Snohomish County after high school sports returned to play in the spring.

Lakewood at Lynden, 7 p.m., Oct. 8

Lakewood faces two-time defending champion Lynden in a pivotal midseason bout for both squads. The Lyncs won the last meeting between the teams, 37-6, in 2019.

Archbishop Murphy vs. Squalicum at Civic Field, 5 p.m., Oct. 8

The Wildcats start a stretch of three games in four weeks against Northwest 2A preseason favorites when they face the Storm. This is the first matchup between the teams since a 44-16 Squalicum victory in a 2014 district playoff game.

Lakewood at Ellensburg, 7 p.m., Oct. 15

The Cougars head to eastern Washington to take on Ellensburg, a state playoff qualifier in six of seven seasons from 2013-19.

Archbishop Murphy at Lynden, 7 p.m., Oct. 22

This matchup of 2A powerhouses has a deep history as the Wildcats and Lyncs have met countless times in either district playoff, state tournament and league games over the years. Archbishop Murphy has gone 0-2 against Lynden since joining Northwest 2A as a football-only member in 2018.

King’s at Granite Falls, 7 p.m., Oct. 22

Granite Falls is the favorite to finish as the first team out of the state playoffs in the two-bid Emerald Sound Conference. The Tigers could change that with a win against the league-favorite Knights. Granite Falls was able to pull off a 16-7 upset over King’s in 2019, but the Knights cruised to a 42-14 victory in the spring season.

Lakewood at Archbishop Murphy, 7 p.m., Oct. 29

Lakewood and Archbishop Murphy close their regular seasons in what’s become one of the more entertaining rivalries in Snohomish County. The Cougars have won six of the past 10 games in this series, including the past two.

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