Vikings seek to finish business in state tournament

By AARON COE

Herald Writer

LAKE STEVENS – The moment Lake Stevens quarterback Nolan Perkl has dreamed about during his high school football career is near.

The senior has waited four years to take the field in a state playoff game, and he and the rest of the Vikings will realize that dream tonight against a potent Mercer Island team.

“The feeling is unexplainable,” said Perkl, who helped Lake Stevens to an 8-1 record and the Western Conference 3A title.

“It’s a feeling that you never want to end. We’re ready to go.”

Lake Stevens will be the home team in a 7 p.m. Edmonds Stadium game tonight against the Islanders, the Kingco 3A runner-up. The Vikings hope to send Mercer Island back to the middle of the big lake without a life preserver and move on to the state quarterfinals.

Winning the conference championship and earning a state playoff berth accomplished two of the Vikings’ goals. But they’ve set their sights higher now.

“Sure, we’re happy and excited to be here,” said Perkl, who has thrown for more than 1,000 yards this season. “But we still have unfinished business. Our major goal is to not just make it, but to win a state championship.”

The business starts with the smaller, but perhaps equally talented Islanders, whose only loss came in triple overtime to second-ranked Skyline. Mercer Island, ranked 10th in the state poll, runs a balanced offense featuring David Kirtman, who has rushed for more than 1,200 yards and amassed nearly 500 receiving yards. Quarterback Justin Hogan is second in the Kingco 3A with more than 1,400 yards.

Hogan’s favorite target is Justin McCullum, son of former Seattle Seahawks Sam McCullum. The senior receiver has caught 38 passes for 593 yards and has grabbed the attention of college recruiters along the way.

“Our job is to slow them down,” said Lake Stevens coach Ken Collins, who led the Vikings to the state playoffs three-straight years from 1993-95, including the state championship game in ‘94.

“Nobody has really stopped them all year, but our defense is pretty good.”

The Vikings counter with a size advantage on the offensive and defensive lines. Lake Stevens also has the speed to stay with McCullum and Kirtman. Running back Matt Williams has compiled 1,270 yards rushing. He and twin brother, receiver Nik Williams, who averages 24 yards per reception, have the type of speed that can break defenses.

“I think it’ll be a good game,” Collins said. “I don’t think we’re going to go in wide-eyed.”

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