Marysville Getchell’s Dylan Rice is tackled out of bounds as he reaches for the end zone during the game on Oct. 5, 2018 in Marysville. The Chargers are looking for their first Berry Bowl victory after losing the first seven contests with rival Marysville Pilchuck. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Marysville Getchell’s Dylan Rice is tackled out of bounds as he reaches for the end zone during the game on Oct. 5, 2018 in Marysville. The Chargers are looking for their first Berry Bowl victory after losing the first seven contests with rival Marysville Pilchuck. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Wesco 3A North football preview: Coaches poll and storylines

The Whatcom County schools are favored again, and two conference teams could use a rivalry-game win.

COACHES POLL

The predicted order of finish, as voted on by the league’s coaches. Included are the average points per vote, with first-place votes in parentheses.

1. Squalicum (4) — 5.7

2. Ferndale (2) — 5

3. Arlington — 4.4

4. Marysville Pilchuck — 3

5. Oak Harbor — 2.8

T-6. Marysville Getchell — 1.6

T-6. Stanwood — 1.6

Note: Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team. One coach chose not to participate in the voting.

FAVORITE: Squalicum. The Storm are coming off their fourth state-playoff appearance in the past five seasons and are the early favorite to earn a third Wesco 3A North title in the past four seasons. Squalicum has posted a 13-5 record in league play since joining the conference for football only after moving up from Class 2A during the 2016-2020 reclassification cycle. The Storm return four all-conference selctions from a team that outscored opponents 36.3 to 17.5 while going 5-1 against conference foes. Squalicum had just 11 seniors on its 2018 roster.

CONTENDER: Ferndale. The Golden Eagles have also enjoyed their short run in Wesco 3A North since 2016. Ferndale won a league title in 2017 and have an even better league record than Squalicum over three seasons at 14-4. The Golden Eagles have made the state playoffs in two of the past three seasons and have made it to a Week 10 playoff matchup the past four years. Ferndale has the league’s toughest non-conference schedule and will certainly be battle tested when it opens league play at Marysville Getchell on Sept. 20.

STORYLINES TO WATCH

Will a local team dethrone the schools from up North?

Since joining Wesco as football-only members in 2016, Squalicum and Ferndale have found much success while combining to win all three Wesco 3A North league titles from 2016-18. Squalicum finished atop the standings in 2016 with an unbeaten conference record, handing Ferndale its lone loss in league play. In 2017, the Storm took a step back and went 2-4 in league play as Ferndale ran through the conference unbeaten. Last season, Squalicum regained its league supremacy while posting a 5-1 record as Ferndale dropped back to 3-3. Both squads appear to be prominent contenders for a league title this season, and if a local team is going to end the reign of the schools up north, it will likely be a squad that exceeds preseason expectations.

Arlington graduated a slew of talented offensive playmakers, who helped the Eagles pull out a number of wild finishes en route to a 4-2 conference record and a Week 10 playoff berth. Oak Harbor, which also finished a game behind Squalicum in 2018, is seemingly in a transition year after the departure of longtime coach Jay Turner and the introduction of an entirely new offensive scheme. Marysville Pilchuck’s two-back tandem that piled up the bulk of the Tomahawks’ yardage on offense has graduated. Marysville Getchell is coming off its third-ever five-win season, but must replace its offensive centerpiece at quarterback, and Stanwood was outscored by an average of 20.7 points while going 0-6 in Wesco 3A North matchups last season.

Can one of these teams get on the winning side of their one-sided rivalry games?

It’s been nearly a decade since Stanwood beat Arlington in the battle for the Stilly Cup. Marysville Getchell has never topped Marysville Pilchuck in the Berry Bowl. At some point, something’s gotta give, right?

Arlington was completely dominant during the first two-thirds of its nine-game Stilly Cup winning streak. The Eagles outscored the Spartans 260-54 over their first six victories while shutting Stanwood out three times and posting 50 or more points three times. The past three seasons, though, the Spartans have closed the gap, but can’t quite get one over on their Stillaguamish River rival. A late fourth-quarter interception on a potential game-winning drive doomed Stanwood in 2016’s 28-26 loss. A blocked field goal as time expired allowed Arlington to hold on for a 28-27 win in 2017, and last season Stanwood couldn’t get the stop it needed to get a chance to complete a late comeback attempt and send the game into overtime in a 21-13 loss.

The Berry Bowl hasn’t been quite as dramatic. MP has simply outclassed the rival Chargers on the gridiron since MG’s program started in 2011. While the Chargers were working to build their program from scratch early in the decade, the Tomahawks were a strong, established program in the midst of making four state playoff appearances in five seasons from 2009-2013 and winning five league titles over seven seasons from 2008-2014. So early dominance from the Tomahawks was to be expected. The Chargers just haven’t been able to close the gap while their rival’s success on the field has tempered. The teams started playing in 2012, and MP has won all seven contests, six by 30 or more points.

“Obviously I think that’s kind of a monkey we’ve been trying to get off our back,” Marysville Getchell coach Davis Lura said. “I think, in all honesty, it would alleviate a lot of pressure. … I think that’s just one of those games that kids want to win so bad that I think after we get a win (against) them, they can relax a little bit.”

New era, new look for Oak Harbor

Marcus Hughes takes over the Wildcats’ program after longtime head coach Jay Turner stepped down after 12 seasons, a 2007 conference title and three state playoff appearances. Hughes is bringing a new-look spread offense to an Oak Harbor squad that for years has been associated with a powerful Wing-T rushing attack.

“Going to a school that’s ran the Wing-T for basically almost the last two decades, the biggest thing to me is there wasn’t a lot of skill development,” Hughes said. “… When you walk into a program that’s run the spread for several years, you’ve got guys that understand certain concepts that have been running routes and doing stuff. Here it’s like brand-new foreign concepts to the majority of these guys. They’ve done a really good job of picking it up. Obviously with me coming in late, we’re already behind the eight-ball. We’re playing catch-up. I think we’re going to get better each week.

“Like I said, the kids have been great. The one good thing about it is that there’s a lot of athletes here, so it’s just putting kids in the right position to be successful and finding out who can do what and who’s gonna be good at what.”

Hughes said the team is young, which is ample for introducing the new scheme and developing it in the program. And although this may be somewhat of a transitional period for the Wildcats — who have only one varsity assistant returning from the prior coaching regime — Hughes still feels the squad will be competitive in the league.

“It’s a big change,” Hughes said. “We’ll definitely have growing pains like with anything, but I’m excited about the future and I’m excited about the kids and what we’ve got going on.”

Talk to us

More in Sports

Granite Falls' Kaleb Roberts rushes with Sultan's Kaden Harwick closing Friday night in Sultan on February 26, 2021 (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Friday night lights finally back on

Granite Falls beats rival Sultan in OT in the area’s first prep football game in more than 15 months.

Seattle Mariners' Julio Rodriguez waits to bat during spring training baseball practice Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Mariners prospect learning from Seattle icon

Julio Rodriguez, just barely 20 years old, is relishing an opportunity to work with Ichiro Suzuki.

Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin (0), left, and center Christian Koloko (35) smother Washington forward Nate Roberts (1) as they fight for a loose ball goes to the ground in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, in Tucson, Ariz. (Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
Huskies edged by Arizona in regular-season finale

Washington’s difficult regular season comes to an end with a hard-fought 75-74 loss on the road.

High School football teams across Snohomish County are closing in on their first game in over a year. (Herald file photos)
Prep football: Key games and the area’s complete schedule

The first H.S. football game in the county in over a year is set to take place this coming Friday.

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, right, talks to quarterback Russell Wilson (3) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Seahawks defeated the Dolphins 31-23.(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Reports show growing divide between Wilson, Seahawks

But despite the star quarterback’s apparent unhappiness, a trade in 2021 remains unlikely.

Austin Johnson, 26 years-old, trains on the Centennial Trail in Lake Stevens and is planning to do a 24-hour run to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
24 hours, 80 miles, $23k raised for mental health

Austin Johnson completes a 24-hour run along the Centennial Trail to raise money for suicide prevention.

Quarterback Tanner Jellison runs a play with running backs Jay Roughton, left, and Trayce Hanks as the Lake Stevens High School football team conducts its first practice, marking the first day of practice for fall sports in the Wesco division, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Lake Stevens, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Wesco high school sports teams’ long layoff finally ends

For the first time in more than 450 days, Wesco fall athletes gathered for official practices.

Everett Silvertips' Jake Christiansen takes a shot on goal during the game on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Silvertips release abbreviated 24-game schedule

Everett will open its season against Spokane at Angel of the Winds Arena on March 20.

Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert passes the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against San Diego in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
Gonzaga’s Kispert finalist for Erving Award

The Edmonds native is among the final five to be the top small forward in college basketball.

A law enforcement officer looks over a damaged vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes suburb of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
L.A. sheriff calls Tiger Woods crash ‘purely an accident’

Deputies saw no evidence the golf star was impaired by drugs or alcohol after Tuesday’s rollover.

Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto talks about the suspension of second baseman Robinson Cano, before the team's baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, in Seattle. Cano was suspended 80 games for violating baseball's joint drug agreement. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Mariners doing damage control with players after Mather’s video

GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais say the players involved have every right to be upset.

Arizona Diamondbacks' Travis Snider singles against the Texas Rangers during a spring training baseball game Thursday, March 5, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Community sports roundup: Ex-Jackson star Snider joins Braves

Plus, a former Monroe QB is excelling at Whitworth, the Silvertips sign a former T-bird, and more.