Thomason, Johnson help Lake Stevens win

By Joe Johnson

Herald Writer

SNOHOMISH – Things weren’t quite business as usual for Western Conference North champion Lake Stevens in its Northwest District playoff game against Shorewood, as the Vikings were without the services of leading rusher Justin Balunsat.

But it didn’t take long for senior Nate Thomason to prove he could handle the rushing duties for the Vikings quite effectively, as he ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries to lead Lake Stevens to a 27-14 victory over the Thunderbirds Tuesday at Snohomish High School.

Balunsat’s defensive replacement also chipped in, as cornerback David Johnson returned a fourth quarter interception 67 yards for a score to give his team a 21-point lead.

With the win, Lake Stevens advances to the first round of the state playoffs on Saturday, and improved its overall record to 8-1. Shorewood finished the year with a 6-4 record.

Along with Thomason’s efforts, the Vikings also got a strong game from quarterback Ken Canham, who completed nine-of-11 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown.

“Thomason needed to have a big game for us and he came through,” Lake Stevens coach Ken Collins said. “And Canham really did a nice job of finding the open receivers and making good throws, especially when we got loose for some big gains. I’m proud of how the whole team played, and this is a good win for us and gets us to state for the second straight year.”

Shorewood took advantage of Lake Stevens’ mistakes to hang close in the first half, but in the third quarter the Vikings got a 3-yard touchdown run from Thomason and a 55-yard touchdown pass from Canham to Johnson to open up a 20-3 advantage.

Collins felt the third quarter was a solid turnaround for his team. “We should have had 21 points at the half,” he said, “and we started to take care of the ball and avoid crucial penalties after halftime. That got us going in the right direction.”

Lake Stevens went to Thomason early and often on its game-opening possession, and the senior responded with 80 yards on four carries, including a 53-yard touchdown run up the middle. Mitch Canham’s PAT put the Vikings up 7-0 at the 9:20 mark of the first quarter.

The Vikings threatened to add to their lead three different times in the first half, but an ill-timed penalty and two turnovers kept Lake Stevens from increasing its advantage.

The first miscue came on Lake Stevens’ second possession, when a holding penalty on fourth down nullified a short touchdown pass. Canham then came up short on a 37-yard field goal attempt following the penalty.

In the second quarter, the Vikings twice drove deep into Shorewood territory, only to fumble the ball away each time. The first turnover came at the Shorewood 16-yard line after a short run by Thomason, and the second came after a pass completion to Kevin Hutchinson to the Shorewood 19-yard line.

The Thunderbirds were able to take advantage of the second turnover. Sophomore running back Seth Setterberg (131 yards on 27 carries) ran for 42 yards on four carries to get the ball past midfield, then quarterback Kevin Young completed two passes for 24 yards to get the ball to the Vikings’ 23-yard line. Two plays later, Kyle Massy booted a 40-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, and Shorewood was within four, down 7-3 at the break.

After being shutout 13-0 in the third quarter, Shorewood cut the Vikings’ lead to 20-6 on a 25-yard field goal by Massy with 8:27 remaining in the game.

Shorewood then held Lake Stevens and got the ball back, but Johnson’s interception return put the Vikings up 27-6. On shorewood’s next possession, Canham picked off a pass from Young to effectively end any hopes of a Shorewood miracle.

The Thunderbirds final score came in the game’s last minute on a 3-yard run by Setterberg and conversion pass from Young to Todd Rheinberger.

Lake Stevens-Thomason 53 run (Canham kick)

Shorewood-FG Massy 40

Lake Stevens-Thomason 3 run (Canham kick)

Lake Stevens-Johnson 55 pass from Canham (kick failed)

Shorewood-FG Massy 25

Lake Stevens-Johnson 67 pass interception return (Canham kick)

Shorewood-Setterberg 3 run (Rheinberger pass from Young)

Records-Lake Stevens 8-1 overall. Shorewood 6-4.

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