STANWOOD — The Stanwood High School football team has a meme.
In the wake of the Spartans’ 40-35 victory over Lincoln last Friday, when Stanwood upset a heavily favored Abes team ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press 3A state poll, an image began circulating over social media displaying various reactions to the result with three words interspersed:
“Shock the state.”
— Stanwood Spartan Football (@StanwoodSpartan) November 7, 2021
“One-hundred percent,” senior receiver/defensive back Isaiah Hughes said when asked if the team is adopting the phrase. “We definitely know we’re underdogs in a lot of situations. So we just have to go out there and prove we are who we say we are.”
Now Stanwood is hoping to pull off another shock when the Spartans (6-4) face the Eastside Catholic Crusaders in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs Friday night at Seattle Memorial Stadium.
Success on the football field has been a long time coming for Stanwood, which was a perennial Wesco 3A also-ran and hadn’t recorded a winning season in more than a decade. But the Spartans’ victory over Lincoln in the Week 10 winner-to-state game earned Stanwood its first state berth since 1996 and just the third state berth in school history.
Early on the season shaped up much like any other Stanwood season of recent memory, as the Spartans started 1-3 and were on the wrong side of some lopsided scores. However, first-year head coach Jeff Scoma was slowly changing the culture as Stanwood adjusted to running the wing-T offense — a schedule that saw the Spartans face playoff teams Kamiak, Marysville Pilchuck and Arlington among their first four opponents didn’t help a team trying to learn new systems, either. A 49-0 victory over Marysville Getchell on Oct. 1 began a run of four wins in five games as the Spartans claimed a Week 10 playoff spot.
Yet few gave the Spartans any kind of chance against a Lincoln squad filled with college-level talent and possessing a track record of success at state. Most predicted a blowout.
All Stanwood did was rush for 428 yards — junior fullback Ryder Bumgarner led the way with 279 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns — and score on every single one of its possessions except when the Spartans kneeled down at the end of the game.
“We were very fast off the ball, and we were physical,” Scoma explained about Stanwood’s running attack. “I think it shocked Lincoln a little bit, that a bunch of kids from Stanwood could play smashmouth football like that.”
“We just played low and fast,” added Bumgarner, who broke the school records for rushing yards in a game and in a season (he now has 1,512) against the Abes. “We hit them deep on the pass a few times, too, caught them sleeping.”
For all of Stanwood’s success on offense, it was a play on defense that proved decisive. The teams traded touchdowns throughout the game, and Lincoln was driving late with a chance to reclaim the lead. However, Hughes came up with a huge interception deep in Stanwood territory to preserve Stanwood’s advantage.
“I knew (Lincoln quarterback Gabarri Johnson) liked the deep threat,” Hughes said. “They were running hitches before, and I saw him pointing up field and I was like, ‘If he really throws this, this might be the game-sealer here.’ It was a hitch route, I sat on it, he threw it and I went over the top and got that.”
Johnson hadn’t thrown an interception all season. The Spartans picked him off twice. Stanwood later converted a fourth-and-7 via a 10-yard pass from junior quarterback Michael Mascotti to junior tight end Tripp Loertscher, which allowed the Spartans to run out the clock and “shock the state.”
Stanwood gets another chance to “shock the state” when it faces Eastside Catholic on Friday night. The Crusaders (7-1) were given the No. 2 seed to the Spartans’ No. 15 seed and are coming off a 42-0 dismantling of Juanita in the Week 10 playoffs, so another victory would constitute another massive upset.
And while the Spartans have embraced the “shock the state” message, Scoma has his own three-word phrase he espouses:
“We ain’t done.”
“I think we have a very high chance (of pulling off another upset),” Bumgarner said. “I think they’re beatable and I think we’re going to be underestimated again. They’re bigger than us, but we’re going to play low, play fast and we’re just going to come off hot. I think we’re prepared, we just need to play our game, play like we did last week.”
If they do, the Spartans might just “shock the state” one more time.