Senior Ryan Black (34) returns this season as a dynamic two-way star for Glacier Peak. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Senior Ryan Black (34) returns this season as a dynamic two-way star for Glacier Peak. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Prep football preview: Storylines, teams, players, games to watch

Everything you need to know about Snohomish County high school football during this shortened season.

After being sidelined last fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, Snohomish County high school football is back.

Wesco teams get underway Saturday, when they kick off a condensed five-week season that’s limited to matchups against one another. The shortened campaign won’t include a postseason, and schedules have been designed to create competitive matchups and limit travel.

Here are some storylines, teams, players and games to watch throughout the five-week slate:

STORYLINES TO WATCH

Lake Stevens aims to continue area dominance

Seven-time defending Wesco 4A champion Lake Stevens is 35-1 against Snohomish County teams over the last five seasons. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Seven-time defending Wesco 4A champion Lake Stevens is 35-1 against Snohomish County teams over the last five seasons. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Over the last decade, the perennial powerhouse Vikings have been the undisputed gold standard for Snohomish County prep football programs. They’ve captured seven consecutive Wesco 4A titles. They’ve won 45 consecutive Wesco 4A games, dating back to 2013. And over the last nine seasons, they’ve made eight Class 4A state playoff appearances — including five trips to the state quarterfinals, three to the state semifinals and a state championship game appearance in 2018. Lake Stevens won’t get a chance at another state playoff run this spring. But the Vikings will look to continue their area dominance while playing a slate that includes many of the county’s top programs: Archbishop Murphy, Monroe, Snohomish, Marysville Pilchuck and Arlington. Lake Stevens is 35-1 against Snohomish County teams over the last five seasons, and the Vikings won all but four of those games games by at least 25 points.

Which Wesco 3A teams will emerge as the area’s best?

Dylan Carson (5) and Marysville Pilchuck look to maintain their spot atop the Wesco 3A hierarchy. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Dylan Carson (5) and Marysville Pilchuck look to maintain their spot atop the Wesco 3A hierarchy. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Teams won’t be playing for a league championship during this condensed season. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see which Wesco 3A teams establish themselves as the cream of the crop this spring. Marysville Pilchuck dominated Wesco 3A last season and should be strong again, but the Tomahawks have to replace eight defensive all-league selections from last year’s state quarterfinal team. Monroe, which dropped down to the 3A classification, figures to remain one of the area’s top teams. Snohomish is coming off back-to-back Wesco 3A South titles and returns a good amount of talent. Arlington should remain in the mix after consecutive seven-win seasons. Edmonds-Woodway and Meadowdale can never be counted out, and Shorecrest has a senior-laden team that’s looking to build on the program’s first winning season since 2005. There won’t be an official Wesco 3A champion this spring. But it should be fascinating to see how some of these 3A teams stack up against one another.

How will Archbishop Murphy and Lakewood fare against Wesco opponents?

Archbishop Murphy and Lakewood get a rare chance to face Wesco opponents this spring. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Archbishop Murphy and Lakewood get a rare chance to face Wesco opponents this spring. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Over the years, it’s often made for an interesting debate: How would Archbishop Murphy and Lakewood stack up against the local Wesco teams from higher classifications? In a normal season, that question would be nothing more than a hypothetical, with the Wildcats and Cougars playing up north in the Northwest 2A Sky Division. But due to the unusual nature of this season, Snohomish County’s two premier 2A programs will get a crack at the local 3A and 4A teams. And it’s happening at an ideal time, with both programs coming off 2A state quarterfinal appearances and expected to be strong again. For Archbishop Murphy, this will be its first time facing Wesco opponents. Lakewood beat Shorecrest in a 2A district playoff game in 2015, but other than that, the Cougars haven’t played a Wesco team at any point in recent history. Archbishop Murphy is slated to face four Wesco teams: Lake Stevens, Meadowdale, Glacier Peak and Marysville Getchell. Lakewood has three Wesco opponents on its schedule: Marysville Getchell, Everett and Stanwood.

TEAMS TO WATCH

Senior quarterback Tanner Jellison returns to lead Lake Stevens’ high-powered offense. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Senior quarterback Tanner Jellison returns to lead Lake Stevens’ high-powered offense. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Lake Stevens: The Vikings graduated a slew of key players from last year’s juggernaut team, which steamrolled to one of the most dominant seasons in Snohomish County history before suffering a heartbreaking loss to Mount Si in the 4A state quarterfinals. But the seven-time defending Wesco 4A champions always seem to have plenty of talent in the fold — and that’s the case again this year. Lake Stevens returns four starters on both sides of the ball, including three-star quarterback Tanner Jellison, who helped lead a high-scoring attack that averaged more than 50 points per game last season.

Glacier Peak: The Grizzlies have the bulk of their starting lineup back, with seven returning starters on offense and eight on defense from a team that finished third in Wesco 4A. After being known as more of an offensive program for most of its brief history, Glacier Peak has undergone a massive transformation on defense over the last two seasons. Expect the Grizzlies to lean on their defense again, with plenty of experience back from a unit that allowed just 19.5 points per game last year.

Monroe: The Bearcats embark on a new era this spring, with longtime assistant Scott Darrow taking over as head coach. Darrow looks to build on the program’s unprecedented run of success the last five seasons under Michael Bumpus, who guided Monroe to its first-ever state quarterfinal appearance in 2017. The Bearcats are coming off a second-place finish in Wesco 4A and were competitive with eventual 4A state semifinalist Mount Si during a 14-point loss in the winner-to-state round. But Monroe has numerous key players to replace, having graduated eight of its 10 all-conference selections.

Arlington: The Eagles finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Wesco 3A North last season, but ended on a disappointing note with a shutout loss to Peninsula in the 3A winner-to-state round. Arlington figures to be among the top 3A teams in the area again this year, with five returning starters on offense and seven on defense. The Eagles graduated each of their top three receivers, but the offense should be in good hands with a potential rising star at quarterback in junior Trent Nobach.

Marysville Pilchuck: The Tomahawks are coming off a storybook season. They made a dominant run to the Wesco 3A title, prevailed for a wild state-playoff win over Prairie, and took a perfect record into the 3A state quarterfinals before falling to a star-studded Lincoln squad. On offense, Marysville Pilchuck returns five starters from last year’s powerful Slot-T rushing attack. But the Tomahawks have their work cut out on defense, where they return just two starters after graduating each of their eight all-league selections on that side of the ball.

Snohomish: The Panthers have won the Wesco 3A South each of the last two seasons since Joey Hammer took over as head coach. But after reaching the state playoffs in 2018, Snohomish fell short last year, closing its season with a pair of decisive losses to Marysville Pilchuck and Lakes. The Panthers have a healthy dose of talent coming back, with approximately seven returning starters on each side of the ball, including three returning all-league selections on both offense and defense.

Archbishop Murphy: After a rare state-playoff miss in 2018, the Wildcats made it back to the 2A state quarterfinals last season for the fourth time in five years. Archbishop Murphy is tasked with replacing three-year starting quarterback Victor Gabalis. But there’s still plenty of talent coming back for second-year coach Mark Leone, with six returning starters on both sides of the ball. The most notable is University of Virginia-bound defensive end Josh McCarron, who wreaked havoc on opposing offenses last season while anchoring a unit that allowed just 14.5 points per game.

Lakewood: The Cougars look to build on one of their best seasons in program history. They are coming off a second-place finish in the rugged Northwest 2A Sky Division and a trip to the 2A state quarterfinals, where they were on the verge of advancing to the semifinals before two-time defending state champion Hockinson mounted a late comeback. The graduation of standout dual-threat quarterback Jared Taylor leaves a massive void. But Lakewood still has a number of other key players coming back, with four returning all-conference selections on offense and three on defense.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Archbishop Murphy defensive end Josh McCarron, a University of Virginia signee, is back for his senior season after wreaking havoc on opposing offenses last year. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Archbishop Murphy defensive end Josh McCarron, a University of Virginia signee, is back for his senior season after wreaking havoc on opposing offenses last year. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Josh McCarron, sr., DL/TE, Archbishop Murphy: The University of Virginia signee was named The Herald’s defensive player of the year last season after posting an eye-popping 21 sacks, 30 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. McCarron is the No. 12 overall senior recruit in state and the No. 28 senior weak-side defensive end in the nation, according to 247Sports.

Joe Ennis, sr., DB/WR/RB, Archbishop Murphy: Ennis had two interceptions, 19 pass breakups, seven forced fumbles and two sacks last season. He also totaled 890 yards from scrimmage and 14 TDs on offense.

Tanner Jellison, sr., QB, Lake Stevens: The three-star quarterback completed 74.5% of his passes last season for 3,045 yards, 38 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has an offer from the University of San Diego and is the No. 164 senior quarterback recruit in the nation, per 247Sports.

Drew Carter, jr., WR/DB, Lake Stevens: Carter is the No. 30 overall junior recruit in state, per 247Sports. The three-star athlete had one interception, six pass breakups, one forced fumble and a blocked field goal last season. He also figures to take on a major role offensively after the Vikings graduated their top four receivers.

Max Moenoa, sr., TE/DL, Lake Stevens: The 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior has signed with Central Washington as a tight end. He caught four TD passes last season and figures to be a go-to target this spring.

Jayden Limar, soph., RB, Lake Stevens: The sophomore running back already has Pac-12 offers from Utah and Oregon State. Limar played sparingly last season as a freshman, but figures to take on an increased role this spring after the graduation of standout tailback Dallas Landeros.

Ryan Black, sr., DB/RB, Glacier Peak: Black is a dynamic two-way player both at running back and on defense, where he anchored a unit that allowed just 19.5 points per game last season.

Tyson Lang, sr., QB, Glacier Peak: The senior quarterback is set to be a preferred walk-on at Washington.

Branden Rodriguez, sr., DL, Monroe: Rodriguez posted 12.5 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, one pass breakup and a blocked field goal last season.

Trey Lane, sr., WR, Monroe: Lane had 384 yards receiving and six TD catches last season. He figures to be the go-to target this spring after the graduation of standout receiver Efton Chism III.

Dylan Carson, jr., RB/DB, Marysville Pilchuck: Carson rushed for 1,409 yards and 16 TDs last season as a sophomore while splitting carries with then-senior Jordan Justice. Carson figures to be the lead back this spring in the Tomahawks’ Slot-T ground attack.

Nate Elwood, jr., OL/DL, Marysville Pilchuck: Elwood was instrumental in helping pave the way for the Tomahawks’ high-powered rushing attack last season. He takes on a bigger role this spring after losses to graduation along the offensive line.

Trent Nobach, jr., QB, Arlington: Nobach is a potential rising star at quarterback. As a sophomore starter last season, he completed 59% of his passes for 1,653 yards, 18 TDs and nine interceptions.

Jakobus Seth, jr., DL, Lakewood: The three-star defensive lineman has multiple Ivy League offers and is the No. 26 overall junior recruit in state, per 247Sports. Seth posted 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss last season as a sophomore and owns numerous program records in the weight room.

Carson Chrisman, sr., DB/WR, Lakewood: Chrisman has signed to play defensive back at Minot State, a Division II school in North Dakota. The two-way standout intercepted three passes last season and had 29 catches for 529 yards and seven TDs.

Tanner Fahey, sr., WR, Lynnwood: Fahey is the No. 74 overall senior recruit in state, per 247Sports. He totaled 689 yards receiving and seven TD catches last season.

Brayden Ulrich, jr., LB, Snohomish: As a sophomore last season, Ulrich had seven sacks, 18 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, one interception and a safety.

Drew Stultz, sr., OL/DL, Snohomish: The 6-foot-2, 275-pound left guard and Cental Washington signee went all of last season without allowing a sack.

Bryan Henderson, sr., OL/DL, Stanwood: The 6-foot-4, 305-pound senior has signed with Central Washington as an offensive lineman.

Desmond Fox, sr., DB/WR, Shorecrest: Fox intercepted seven passes last season and returned two for TDs.

GAMES TO WATCH

Monroe is one of a handful of teams with several intriguing matchups on their schedule this spring. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Monroe is one of a handful of teams with several intriguing matchups on their schedule this spring. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Monroe at Arlington, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Monroe kicks off the Scott Darrow era against an Arlington program that figures to be one of the Bearcats’ biggest challengers for the Wesco 3A crown in coming years. These teams haven’t faced each other since 2013, back when they were Wesco 4A rivals.

Archbishop Murphy at Lake Stevens, Saturday, 7 p.m.

The area’s top public school program and the area’s top private school program meet in a highly anticipated season-opening clash. These two perennial state playoff teams are both coming off trips to their respective state quarterfinals.

Glacier Peak at Marysville Pilchuck, Saturday, 7 p.m.

Defending Wesco 3A champion Marysville Pilchuck squares off against one of the top Wesco 4A programs. It should be an intriguing matchup between the Tomahawks’ Slot-T rushing attack and Glacier Peak’s strong defense.

Lake Stevens at Monroe, March 12, 7 p.m.

This long-standing rivalry ultimately determined the Wesco 4A title in three of the last four seasons. Monroe is now a 3A school, but the teams are set to square off again for the 50th consecutive year and the 81st time overall. Lake Stevens has dominated the series in recent years, winning seven straight matchups and 11 of the last 12.

Snohomish vs. Glacier Peak, March 12, 7 p.m.

Glacier Peak aims to continue its mastery of crosstown rival Snohomish. The Grizzlies have won all eight matchups since these schools began playing in 2012, including a 24-3 win last year.

Arlington at Stanwood, March 12, 7 p.m.

Arlington looks to extend its 10-game win streak in the Stilly Cup. This rivalry has produced some tense finishes recent years, but the Eagles left no doubt last season with a 44-10 rout.

Glacier Peak at Archbishop Murphy, March 19, 7 p.m.

This marks the first-ever football matchup between these schools, who are separated by just 2 1/2 miles. It figures to be an intriguing battle between two strong defenses and two of the top teams in the area overall.

Arlington at Marysville Pilchuck, March 19, 7 p.m.

This is a rematch of last year’s de facto Wesco 3A North title game, which Marysville Pilchuck won 42-14 in commanding fashion. The league rivals have split their last 10 meetings.

Archbishop Murphy at Lakewood, March 26, 6 p.m.

This showdown of league rivals is a clash between two teams that reached the 2A state quarterfinals last season. These former Cascade Conference foes have gone back and forth over the last decade, having split their last 10 matchups. Lakewood won 35-27 last year in a key Northwest 2A Sky Division battle.

Snohomish at Arlington, March 26, 7 p.m.

Back-to-back Wesco 3A South champion Snohomish squares off against Arlington, one of the top programs in the Wesco 3A North. These teams haven’t faced each other since 2016, when the Panthers beat Arlington in a Week 10 play-in game.

Marysville Pilchuck at Lake Stevens, March 26, 7 p.m.

Seven-time defending Wesco 4A champion Lake Stevens faces defending Wesco 3A champion Marysville Pilchuck in a showdown between teams that reached their respective state quarterfinals last season. The Tomahawks are one of the rare local teams to topple mighty Lake Stevens in recent years, having beaten the Vikings in both 2013 and 2014. Lake Stevens won their most recent matchup in 2015.

Monroe at Glacier Peak, March 26, 7 p.m.

This is a rematch of Monroe’s 32-10 win over Glacier Peak last season, which ultimately determined the No. 2 seed in Wesco 4A behind Lake Stevens. The Bearcats won three of their four matchups as Wesco 4A foes — all by at least 22 points.

Lake Stevens at Arlington, April 1, 7 p.m.

Lake Stevens is 35-1 against Snohomish County teams over the last five seasons. The one loss came to Arlington, which rolled to a stunning 54-28 non-league win over the Vikings in 2017. This is the teams’ first matchup since.

Snohomish at Monroe, April 1, 7 p.m.

This is the first matchup between these former Wesco 4A rivals since 2015. Monroe has won each of the last six meetings. Snohomish’s last win in the series was in 2009.

Meadowdale at Edmonds-Woodway, April 1, 5 p.m.

The Mavericks and Warriors close the season with their annual rivalry game. Meadowdale has won six of the last nine matchups, but Edmonds-Woodway won 27-13 in last year’s meeting.

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