LAKE STEVENS — In last week’s winner-to-state rout of Kentlake, the Lake Stevens football team opened one of its first-quarter possessions with a double-reverse pass.
The trick play resulted in a 52-yard touchdown, giving the Vikings an early 21-0 lead. But even so, upon walking back to the sidelines, one of Lake Stevens’ offensive linemen approached head coach and offensive coordinator Tom Tri with a question.
“Why don’t we run the ball more?” the lineman asked.
Fondly recounting that moment from his office after Tuesday’s practice, Tri couldn’t help but appreciate the physical mentality of his standout offensive line. Even in the moments immediately following a trick-play touchdown, the unit was hungry for more run plays.
“That’s what you want your offensive-line guys to say when (they) come over to the sidelines — ‘Let’s go get these guys. Let’s attack them. Let’s grind them. Let’s be physical,’” Tri said.
“They’ll get it done in the pass game, but at heart, they want to physically maul you up front, grind it out and run the ball.”
The Vikings’ powerful offensive line has been a dominant force this season, paving the way for a rushing attack that churns out a whopping eight yards per carry and more than 250 yards per contest. And in the passing game, Tri said the unit has surrendered just two or three sacks all year.
Led by the bruising group of lane-clearers up front, Lake Stevens’ high-scoring offense averages more than 45 points per game.
The unbeaten and third-seeded Vikings (10-0) will make their seventh state-playoff appearance in the past eight years when they host No. 14 seed Curtis (7-3) in a first-round matchup Friday night.
“I think it’s the most dominant line we’ve had in my years here,” said Tri, who has coached in the program since 1998. “And that’s not to take away from any of the previous lines. We’ve had some really good groups, but this one is the most dominant and probably the smartest.”
Since installing a spread offense in 2008, Lake Stevens’ high-scoring attack has typically been pretty balanced between run and pass. In five of the past seven seasons, the Vikings have run the ball between 50 and 55 percent of the time.
This year, Lake Stevens’ rushing rate has climbed to 62 percent. Tri said the increase in run plays stems largely from having such a talented line.
“We could throw the ball like we have in years past,” he said. “But why throw it when you’re averaging (eight) yards a carry?”
The Vikings’ standout line features an overpowering left-side duo of 6-foot-5, 285-pound tackle Devin Kylany and 6-foot-5, 300-pound guard Logan Bruce-Jones. With so much size and strength, the two juniors help create massive openings for Lake Stevens’ backs.
“Before the running back even gets the ball, we already have three yards (of space on the left),” Vikings offensive-line coach Geoff Dishion said.
But perhaps most impressive is the line’s overall speed and athleticism. Lake Stevens’ linemen are adept at blocking downfield, a particularly important aspect for a Vikings spread offense that mixes in plenty of screen passes.
“Devin and Logan are as fast as some team’s receivers,” Dishion said.
“They’re not just run-dominated offensive linemen,” Tri said of the group. “They are physical and they will maul you, but they’ve got good feet too. And so when you combine all of those elements together, it really gives us the flexibility to do just about anything we want to do.”
Kylany, the program’s first junior team captain in at least two decades, is regarded as the unit’s leader. But the one in command at the line of scrimmage is 6-foot-1, 240-pound junior center Wyatt Hall.
Considered the smartest in an intelligent group of linemen, Hall takes on far more responsibilities than the typical high-school center. The experienced three-year starter calls out the defensive front prior to every snap, and even has the freedom to flip the direction of plays.
“He might be the smartest person on the whole team, including the coaches,” Dishion said. “He’s incredible. He is three steps ahead of everyone.”
And though Hall isn’t as big as his two linemen to the left, he’s similarly tough for opposing defenses to handle.
“He’s an animal,” Kylany said. “I don’t like it when people say, ‘Yeah, but he’s small.’ So (what)? He’ll go out and find the biggest guy you have, and he’s not going to stop until he wins.”
Manning the line’s right side are 5-foot-11, 210-pound junior guard Austyn Rembold-Hyde and 6-foot, 220-pound senior tackle Mason Gack.
After leaning on the left side of the line in play-calling earlier this season, Tri said the rushing attack is now much more balanced heading into the state playoffs.
“For the past four weeks, we’ve worked really hard to try to balance ourselves out and run right,” Tri said. “And to Austyn’s and Mason’s credit, I feel like we haven’t skipped a beat. … Now we (can) go left, right, middle — it doesn’t really matter.”
The linemen benefit from a close-knit bond and ample experience playing together. Hall, Kylany and Bruce-Jones are each returning starters, and Gack played the bulk of last year’s snaps.
“It’s allowed us to pay attention to the little details,” Tri said. “Instead of trying to coach a play and look at the big picture — you’ve got him, you’ve got him, you’ve got him — you’re (focusing on aspects like) attacking a guy’s outside shoulder. They are paying attention to the little details, and that has allowed us to progress even further.”
Tri also highlighted the line’s passion for the game and how it spreads throughout the team.
“That group together really energizes our whole offense, and really the whole team,” he said. “These guys like being (offensive) linemen. … They like the physicality and they like the camaraderie of working together as five guys.”
The five linemen have been central to Lake Stevens’ success this season, and figure to play instrumental roles as the Vikings begin what they hope is a deep playoff run.
“They’re big, they’re disciplined (and) they do a great job of combo-blocking and getting to that second level,” Monroe coach Michael Bumpus said after his team faced Lake Stevens earlier this season.
“(Dishion) does a hell of a job with those boys every year,” he added. “And now you mix that in with the size and speed that they have, I see them going a long way.”