Can we call the Lake Stevens High School football team a dynasty now?
After Lake Stevens pummeled Graham-Kapowsin 31-6 Saturday night at Husky Stadium in Seattle to claim the Class 4A state championship, I think the Vikings crossed the threshold.
The state title was Lake Stevens’ second straight, and the Vikings reached the state championship game the season before that. I believe that reaches the criteria for a dynasty, as Lake Stevens has established a multi-year stretch of dominance while winning multiple titles.
And reaching dynasty level places coach Tom Tri’s Lake Stevens in an exclusive group in Snohomish County history.
Honestly, there haven’t been many dynasties in county history. There have been great teams, but few that sustained that excellence over the course of three years or more.
Let’s take the 2016 Archbishop Murphy Wildcats as an example. That may have been the best team ever assembled in county history. Archbishop Murphy had two players who are current NFL starters in Kyler Gordon and Abraham Lucas, plus a raft of others who played at NCAA Division I colleges. The Wildcats went 14-0, outscored their opponents 463-44, created national controversy by being so good that five league opponents chose to forfeit rather than play them, and romped 56-14 over Liberty in the Class 2A state title game. I have no doubt Archbishop Murphy would have handled the bigger schools that year, too.
But as good as that team was, it only won state once during that period. It reached the semifinals in both 2015 and 2017, but that falls short of dynasty level, at least in my mind. The Wildcats from their Class 1A era, when they won back-to-back state titles in 2002 and 2003, have a greater claim on dynasty status, though at just the fourth tier of state athletics.
But Lake Stevens ticks all the boxes. The Vikings have two championship trophies, played for the title three straight years, continued to dominate despite roster turnover, and did it in the state’s largest classification. That’s a dynasty.
That puts Lake Stevens in rare air. I’d say that prior to Lake Stevens there were just two true football dynasties in county history.
The first, and probably the greatest, was Everett High School from 1919-21, highlighted by the unofficial 1920 national champions. Coached by Enoch “Baggy” Bagshaw and led by two-way star George “The Wildcat” Wilson, the Seagulls went 9-0-1 against mostly college teams and top opponents from other states, culminating with a 16-7 victory over East Technical High School from Cleveland in a de facto national championship game. That team also tied for the unofficial national championship in 1919 and won the state title in 1921.
It will be difficult for any team to unseat Everett as the greatest dynasty in county history. But that was also a different era, one that should perhaps be judged by its own standards.
The county’s second dynasty, and a better comparison for Lake Stevens, was Snohomish High School from 1976-78. The Panthers, coached by the legendary Dick Armstrong and featuring future Super Bowl winner Curt Marsh, finished as undefeated AAA (largest classification) state champions in both 1976 and 1978, and the year between they reached the state semifinals. In the WIAA era Snohomish set the standard for the county, one that no other school could match.
One can argue that Lake Stevens is still a hair shy of Snohomish’s accomplishments, as the Vikings didn’t go undefeated in any of the past three seasons. However, Lake Stevens has only gotten stronger as its dynasty has progressed: losing handily in the state championship game to Graham-Kapowsin in 2021, winning a tight one against Kennedy Catholic last year, then blowing past Graham-Kapowsin this year. This year the Vikings also beat eventual Class 3A state champion Bellevue during the regular season, and their only defeat came against out-of-state competition.
And you know what? Lake Stevens may not be done. The Vikings had a senior-heavy team this year, so there are a lot of important pieces to replace. But arguably the team’s two most important players were quarterback Kolton Matson, who set the school’s single-season record with 49 passing touchdowns, and running back Jayshon Limar, who gained 1,200 all-purpose yards and scored 14 TDs despite missing four games because of injury. Both are juniors and will be back for another go next year.
Can the Vikings pull off a three-peat?
“We can definitely do it, man,” Matson said following Saturday’s victory. “I believe in every single one of my guys, the linemen who are coming back next year. With Jayshon Limar our backfield is going to be crazy, teams are going to have to respect both of us. Even our coaches, I don’t think any of them are going to leave. It’s going to be mostly the same team next year except for our skill players, but we still have a lot of skills back.”
Limar concurred: “Personally, I think that a three-peat is very likely. We’re unstoppable. We’re going to have young guys come up. A lot of the key older guys are leaving, but I feel like Lake Stevens always shows up. I feel like we can go for a three-peat.”
If Lake Stevens can pull it off, then the argument is over. These Vikings would be the greatest football dynasty in modern Snohomish County history.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.