Jackson’s Ben Olesen stretches acrosses the goal line with Cascade’s defense looking on Friday night at Everett Memorial Stadium. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Jackson’s Ben Olesen stretches acrosses the goal line with Cascade’s defense looking on Friday night at Everett Memorial Stadium. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Prep football notebook: Week 4 analysis, observations, stars

Arlington engineers another late comeback, and Lake Stevens tested by physical Mount Vernon squad.

Week 4 of the local prep football season was highlighted by more thrilling finishes, another big victory in Shorewood’s stunning turnaround, conference openers in the new Northwest 2A Sky Division, plenty of stars and possibly the play of the year.

Here’s a look back at the Week 4 action, and a look ahead at what’s to come.

WHITIS LEADS ARLINGTON TO ANOTHER COMEBACK WIN

For the second time in the season’s first four weeks, Anthony Whitis’ fourth-quarter heroics led Arlington to a come-from-behind victory.

Facing a 12-point deficit with less than six minutes to play, the standout senior quarterback engineered back-to-back touchdown drives to rally the Eagles to a 37-34 win over visiting Ferndale on Friday night.

On the first drive, Whitis led Arlington 65 yards in just six plays, throwing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Joey Stretch to cut the deficit to 34-29 with 4:29 to play.

Then, after the Eagles’ defense forced a three-and-out, Whitis needed just two plays to lead Arlington (3-1 overall, 2-1 Wesco 3A North) into the end zone. After connecting with Griffin Gardoski for a 41-yard catch-and-run, Whitis sacrificed his body at the goal line and scored the eventual game-winner on a 5-yard option keeper with 2:49 to play.

“That’s just the competitor in me,” he said. “There wasn’t a chance in the world that I wasn’t going to score that ball. As soon as I saw that open lane, the competitor in me told me to … dive through and put my body on the line. (My teammates) are putting their body on the line for me the entire game, so I might as well put one out for them on the last play.”

Three weeks ago, Whitis tossed a game-winning 5-yard touchdown pass to Gardoski with one second to play, lifting Arlington to a 27-23 season-opening win over Mariner. The dramatic finish capped an impressive drive by Whitis, who guided the Eagles 81 yards in just under 90 seconds for the winning score.

SHOREWOOD CONTINUES IMPRESSIVE TURNAROUND

Shorewood is off to its best start in ages after a 24-0 shutout win over crosstown rival Shorecrest in a much-anticipated edition of the annual Rotary Cup rivalry.

Senior defensive back Jaro Rouse sparked the Thunderbirds on the final play of the first half, returning an interception 60 yards for a touchdown to break a scoreless tie. Shorewood (3-1 overall, 2-1 Wesco 3A South) then pulled away in the second half to beat the Scots for the first time since 2014 and earn the program’s first shutout since 2006.

This marks the first time since 2011 — and just the second time since 2004 — that the Thunderbirds have won at least two conference games in a season. With one more victory, Shorewood would reach four overall wins for the first time since at least 2004.

Midway through conference play, the Thunderbirds appear to have already played some of the league’s toughest teams. Their remaining three Wesco 3A South opponents — Everett, Lynnwood and Edmonds-Woodway — have a combined 1-11 record.

It’s been a massive turnaround for Shorewood’s long-struggling program, which took a one-year hiatus from the Wesco 3A South last season to play an independent schedule against primarily Class 2A competition.

Two weeks ago, the Thunderbirds returned to Wesco 3A South play and beat Meadowdale to snap a 17-game conference losing streak. And now, after beating the Scots, Shorewood is in the thick of the postseason picture.

Friday night was the first loss of the season for Shorecrest (3-1, 2-1), which was off to its first 3-0 start since 2005. This year’s Rotary Cup marked the first time since at least 2004 that both Shoreline schools entered the rivalry contest with winning records.

SNOHOMISH ON THE RISE

Snohomish’s Trenton Brown breaks up a pass intended for Everett’s Riley Bennett Friday night at Everett Memorial Stadium in Everett on September 21, 2018. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Snohomish’s Trenton Brown breaks up a pass intended for Everett’s Riley Bennett Friday night at Everett Memorial Stadium in Everett on September 21, 2018. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Three weeks ago, Snohomish surrendered 63 points and was gashed for more than 500 yards rushing in a season-opening loss to Marysville Pilchuck.

The Panthers’ defense has come a long way since that dismal start.

Snohomish limited Everett to just 144 yards of total offense and moved into first place in the Wesco 3A South with a 36-3 rout of the Seagulls on Friday night. The Panthers (2-2 overall, 2-0 Wesco 3A South) bottled up Everett’s offense and regularly invaded the backfield, recording seven sacks and holding the Seagulls to just 2.8 yards per play.

After opening the conference slate with a pair of convincing victories over Shorewood and Everett, Snohomish is the only team still unbeaten in Wesco 3A South play.

“With the new (coaching) staff, it was sort of just waiting for those cogs to turn and getting meshed,” Panthers senior Tyler Massena said of his team’s improved play since the season-opening loss. “And, well, I like to think we’re really on a roll right now. We’re like a train, and we’re going to keep on chugging.”

MOUNT VERNON GIVES LAKE STEVENS A TEST

In giving fifth-ranked Lake Stevens perhaps its toughest challenge to date, much-improved Mount Vernon proved it likely will be a serious factor in the Wesco 4A postseason race.

Just two seasons removed from back-to-back winless campaigns in 2015 and 2016, the Bulldogs hung with the mighty Vikings for much of Friday night’s matchup of unbeatens.

Mount Vernon took a 7-7 tie into halftime before Lake Stevens rattled off 23 unanswered second-half points for a 30-7 victory.

“I thought they were much-improved, even from last year,” Vikings coach Tom Tri said. “They were very disciplined and played hard and physical. Up front, they played six or seven guys in the box and were every bit as physical as anyone else we’ve played.”

Tri said the Bulldogs (3-1 overall, 1-1 Wesco 4A) came out in a cover-zero defense with man-to-man coverage on the outside, and were geared up to contain a powerful Lake Stevens rushing attack that entered the game averaging 286 yards per contest.

“They were physical and fast to the ball and were doing a good job of stopping our run game,” Tri said. “They were taking things away, so we had to start throwing the ball.”

Lake Stevens senior quarterback Tre Long was up to the challenge, tossing a pair of second-half touchdown passes and adding a rushing score to help the Vikings (4-0, 2-0) pull away.

“We grew tonight,” Tri said. “You don’t want to go into halftime struggling offensively like we were, but we grew when they made us change our game plan. We weren’t expecting that, and we hadn’t seen that look before. I give them all the credit in the world. … We were very impressed by the Bulldogs.”

MURPHY, LAKEWOOD OPEN WITH LOSSES IN NEW LEAGUE

Archbishop Murphy and Lakewood both were on the losing end Friday night during the opening week of conference play in the new and talent-loaded Northwest 2A Sky Division.

In a 2A top-five showdown, fifth-ranked Archbishop Murphy blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead in a 24-21 loss to third-ranked Lynden. Kobe Elsner hauled in the game-winning score on a 22-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Brock Heppner with 1:11 to play, lifting the Lions to a thrilling victory that places them in the driver’s seat of the league-title race.

It was the second consecutive loss for the youth-laden Wildcats (1-2 overall, 0-1 Northwest 2A Sky Division), who suffered a 42-13 defeat to top-ranked Hockinson two weeks ago.

Lakewood, meanwhile, suffered its first loss of the season in a 36-14 defeat to Sedro-Woolley. It doesn’t get any easier for the Cougars (3-1, 0-1), who face Lynden and Archbishop Murphy the next two weeks.

PLAY OF THE WEEK … OR THE YEAR?

Calling this the play of the week is probably a massive understatement.

On the opening snap of the second quarter in Friday night’s rout of Kamiak, Glacier Peak senior receiver David Castro ran a slant-and-go route to the corner of the right end zone and hauled in a remarkable one-handed leaping catch over his right shoulder on an 11-yard touchdown pass by Ayden Ziomas.

“It was pretty phenomenal,” Grizzlies coach Nick Bender said.

NEXT WEEK’S BIG GAMES

Mount Vernon at Monroe, 7 p.m. Friday: After a challenging three-game opening stretch, Monroe routed Mariner on Friday night for its first win of the season. Next up for the Bearcats is a key Wesco 4A clash against Mount Vernon, which is off to a 3-1 start and played fifth-ranked Lake Stevens tough in a loss Friday night.

Snohomish at Shorecrest, 7 p.m. Friday at Shoreline Stadium: After back-to-back convincing wins over Shorewood and Everett, the first-place Panthers face Shorecrest in a key Wesco 3A South matchup. The Scots are off to a 3-1 start and appear to be one of Snohomish’s primary contenders for the league title.

Monroe junior receiver Efton Chism III hauls in a pass between two defenders in the Bearcats’ 49-31 loss to Lake Stevens on Sept. 14. Monroe hosts Mount Vernon in a key Wesco 4A clash this Friday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Monroe junior receiver Efton Chism III hauls in a pass between two defenders in the Bearcats’ 49-31 loss to Lake Stevens on Sept. 14. Monroe hosts Mount Vernon in a key Wesco 4A clash this Friday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

WEEK 4 STARS

Blake Rybar, jr., Monroe

Rybar rushed for 172 yards and four touchdowns on 16 carries in the Bearcats’ rout of Mariner.

Ayden Ziomas, sr., Glacier Peak

Ziomas completed 12 of 13 passes for 218 yards and five touchdowns and added 48 yards rushing in the Grizzlies’ rout of Kamiak. Through four games, the dual-threat quarterback has totaled 1,333 yards, 20 touchdowns and just one interception.

Evan Mannes, sr., Glacier Peak

Mannes caught five passes for 133 yards and three touchdowns in the Grizzlies’ rout of Kamiak.

Jordan Harris, jr., Cascade

Harris rushed for 88 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries and also scored on a 77-yard touchdown reception in the Bruins’ loss to Jackson.

Hunter Moen, jr. Meadowdale

Moen completed 27 of 38 passes for 292 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Mavericks’ win over Edmonds-Woodway. He also rushed for 40 yards and two scores.

Capassio Cherry, sr., Edmonds-Woodway

Cherry rushed for 211 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, scoring on runs of 74 and 41 yards in the Warriors’ loss to Meadowdale.

Anthony Whitis, sr., Arlington

Whitis rallied the Eagles from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit, engineering a pair of late touchdown drives in a comeback win over Ferndale. The senior quarterback completed 16 of 29 passes for 292 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 49 yards and the game-winning score.

Joey Stretch, sr., Arlington

Stretch had five receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ win over Ferndale. The 5-foot-10 receiver’s most impressive catch was a 57-yarder that he wrestled away from Ferndale defenders at the ball’s highest point.

Griffin Gardoski, sr., Arlington

Gardoski caught six passes for 106 yards and one touchdown in the Eagles’ comeback win over Ferndale.

Daylin Pierce, sr., Arlington

Pierce had eight carries for 110 yards — including a 73-yard touchdown run — in the Eagles’ win over Ferndale.

Oak Harbor running backs

The trio of Dorian Hardin, Aaron Martinez and Caden Leckelt combined for 319 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 52 carries in a rout of Stanwood. Hardin, a senior, ran for a team-high 113 yards and two scores and also had a touchdown reception.

Snohomish defense

The Panthers limited Everett to just 144 yards of total offense and three points in a rout of the Seagulls. Snohomish recorded seven sacks and held Everett to just 2.8 yards per play.

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