Marysville Pilchuck’s Dillon Kuk makes a catch during practice on Aug. 28, 2019, at Quil Ceda Stadium in Marysville. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Marysville Pilchuck’s Dillon Kuk makes a catch during practice on Aug. 28, 2019, at Quil Ceda Stadium in Marysville. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Wesco 3A North football preview: MP ‘hungry’ to take next step

After tough losses derailed their playoff hopes last year, the Tomahawks are ready to show they belong.

Marysville Pilchuck senior lineman Lukas Ramos summed up the Tomahawks’ 2018 football season in ten words.

“Our highs were high, but our lows were pretty low,” he said.

MP certainly did have highs last season. The Tomahawks opened the season with a 63-34 blowout win over Wesco 3A South champion and Class 3A state qualifier Snohomish in Week 1. In Week 3, MP handed Wesco 3A North champion Squalicum its only conference loss. The following week was a 28-0 win over another 3A state qualifier, Lake Washington. And a 33-3 victory in Week 6 over Marysville Getchell was yet another dominant performance in the Tomahawks’ run of eight straight Berry Bowl victories over their Marysville School District rival.

Then there were the lows. After an impressive Week 1 win, MP found itself on the wrong side of a 28-0 thumping from Oak Harbor. Then, after running off four straight wins, a Week 7 42-21 loss to Ferndale, which entered the game 1-5, put a Tomahawks team that had been in the thick of the league-title race in a situation where it may not even make the postseason. Unfortunately for MP, that situation occurred. A 17-10 loss to Arlington paired with a Ferndale win over Stanwood had the Tomahawks on the outside looking in due to the tiebreaker advantage Ferndale earned in Week 7, and MP had to settle for a Week 9 crossover game with no postseason implications.

“Coming up short last year, 7-3, and seeing those teams we beat make the playoffs, it just really makes us more hungry to get out there and make those strides and beat those teams,” said senior running back/linebacker Jordan Justice, a first-team all-league selection on defense.

A 7-3 mark was a big step forward for a program coming off a two-win season, but falling short of a postseason berth wasn’t what the Tomahawks had envisioned. And although the final result was disappointing, there was plenty for a strong core of juniors to take away as they prepared for their final year on the gridiron at the high school level.

“(We know) what it takes to win tough, tight ball games,” MP head coach Brandon Carson said. “We won a couple tough, tight ones and we dropped a couple of them. I think they know what the difference is. It’s the little things and I think that experience is going to help those guys on Friday nights.”

The players said that in order to avoid the letdowns that proved to be pitfalls last season, they need to be more prepared each week, eliminate the mental mistakes and learn to persevere when things aren’t going the team’s way.

Perhaps most important is that MP’s players realize that no matter who is on the field, the Tomahawks can certainly compete.

“The takeaway I had from last year is that we can play with anybody,” senior wide receiver/defensive back Dillon Kuk said. “We beat the two teams that were playing in the (Week 9 crossover game between Wesco 3A North and South champions), and it was just those bad losses we had kept us out of the playoffs.

“I feel like we’re really good. We’ve got a lot of talent and we’ve got a lot of guys back, and I just feel like we can hang with anybody. We just gotta go show it.”

MP will have to answer a couple questions on the offensive side of the ball in order to “show it.” The biggest question: How to replace the production of the talented running back tandem of Trenton Hurst and Bryan Sanders? Hurst ran for 1,375 yards and 12 TDs, and Sanders provided a reliable second option in MP’s run-heavy offense. Justice returns as the most experienced running back, and the Tomahawks return starting quarterback Jake Elwood and No. 1 receiver Kuk, a first-team all-league selection at wide receiver and defensive back.

Carson wasn’t quick to say whether or not the team would be airing the ball out a bit more this season.

“We don’t know. We’ll see,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out right now — what we can and can’t do. Our emphasis is: Yeah, we’re going to try and run the ball, but we know we’ve got a couple of good receivers that we can actually get the ball to. We’ll see how it works out.”

Regardless of how the Tomahawks do it, a postseason appearance is the goal for MP and its senior class that hasn’t gotten the taste of a meaningful Week 10 matchup.

“It would mean a lot to us and the rest of the seniors because we’ve been on the varsity team ever since we were sophomores and we’ve been going through this the last couple years,” Ramos, a second-team all-league selection at offensive line, said. “ We’re hungry for it. We want it, and I’m sure everybody else on this team wants it, too.”

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