Upset unbeaten Arlington, avenge 1999 heartbreaker
By AARON COE
ARLINGTON — They wanted revenge, but none of them thought they would take it this far.
The Lake Stevens Vikings shocked unbeaten Arlington 35-14 Friday night on a rain-soaked Arlington High School field in a Western Conference 3A game. With the victory, the Vikings (2-0 in conference, 3-1 overall) avenged last season’s last-minute loss to Arlington (1-1, 3-1), a game that wound up deciding the conference championship.
After Friday’s win, Lake Stevens players jumped up and down at midfield after the victory, and yelled in perfect harmony, "We came. We saw. We kicked their (rears)."
Justin Balunsat, a junior backup at running back, became the hero when Matt Williams suffered a hip pointer late in the third quarter. Balunsat, who missed several plays in the first half with an injury of his own, gained all of his 51 yards rushing in the second half, and put the game away with a 61-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"We came out fired up, with a sense of purpose," Balunsat said. "When we stepped on the field, I knew we were going to own the game."
Arlington’s Kevin McCormack completed 14 of 26 passes for 209 yards, but with the field covered in slick mud, the Eagles often found themselves losing the field position battle.
The Vikings took advantage of their better field position in the third quarter. Mitchell Canham’s 35-yard punt rolled out of bounds at the 2 to pin Arlington deep in its own territory with 8:25 remaining in the third.
After a three-and-out by the Eagles, Balunsat returned a punt to Arlington’s 20-yard-line.
Williams carried three times, then Nolan Perkl hit Kevin Hutchison for a 9-yard TD and a 21-6 Lake Stevens’ lead with 4:41 remaining in the third quarter. Perkl, a senior, completed six of nine passes for 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Vikings, who barely posted an overtime win a week ago over a Meadowdale team that hadn’t won in two years, suddenly found the missing link between moving the ball down the field and scoring touchdowns.
"I knew we were due for a big game," Lake Stevens coach Ken Collins said. "You don’t average over 400 yards without putting it in the endzone, and we finally did that tonight. Our offensive line was outstanding."
Arlington stopped the Vikings on third down at the Eagles’ 42 late in the third, but an Arlington penalty gave Lake Stevens a first down.
Arlington hurt itself with a pass interference penalty when Hutchinson was nailed by an Eagles defender on a second-and-20 play.
After a 17-yard gain by Belunsat, Joey Daube scored from two yards out for a 28-6 advantage with 9:13 remaining in the third.
Arlington rallied when McCormack found Eddie Raezer on a short pattern. Raezer, a senior, juked several defenders before being brought down at the Lake Stevens’ 2-yard-line after an 81-yard gain. Joseph Boitano’s 2-yard TD run and subsequent catch of a 2-point conversion pass from McCormack cut Arlington’s deficit to 28-14 with 9:13 remaining.
Arlington appeared to be driving toward another score when Balusat picked off an Eagles pass and scored unscathed after a 61-yard return.
"I had been beaten earlier on that same pattern, and I wasn’t going to let it happen again," Balunsat said. "After I caught it, all I saw was green, and I knew I was going to score."
Lake Stevens found a muddy end zone first, taking a 7-0 lead on a Daube 1-yard plunge late in the first quarter.
Arlington found its typical offensive groove late in the first half. McCormack kept a 7-play, 41-yard scoring drive with a 24-yard completion to Nick Yoney, who broke several tackles to pick up some extra yards.
Arlington’s Andy Carpenter recovered an Eagles teammate fumble in the endzone for the score. The extra point was missed, and Lake Stevens maintained a lead, 7-6.
Matt Williams paced the Vikings with nine carries for 55 yards in the first half.
The soggy grass field minimized Lake Stevens speed at times, but Nate Thomason found enough footing to race 70 yards on a screen pass from Perkl. Thomason raced down his left sideline, found some blockers and cut back to the middle of the field to give the Vikings a 14-6 lead with 33 second left in the half.
Lake Stevens—Daube 1 run (Canham kick)
Arlington—Carpenter fumble recovery in end zone (kick failed)
Lake Stevens—Thomason 70 pass from Perkl (Balunsat kick)
Lake Stevens—Hutchison 9 pass from Perkl (Balunsat kick)
Lake Stevens—Daube 2 run (Balunsat kick)
Arlington—Boitano 2 run (Boitano pass from McCormack)
Lake Stevens—Balunsat 61 interception return (Balunsat kick)
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