With nearly its entire starting lineup returning from the spring season, defending Wesco 3A champion Marysville Pilchuck could be primed for another big year. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

With nearly its entire starting lineup returning from the spring season, defending Wesco 3A champion Marysville Pilchuck could be primed for another big year. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Wesco 3A North high school football preview

The coaches poll, favorites, contenders, 3 things to know, players to watch and games to watch.

COACHES POLL

The predicted order of finish, as voted on by the league’s coaches. Included is the average placing for each team, with the number of first-place votes in parentheses.

1. Marysville Pilchuck (4) — 1.3

2. Ferndale (3) — 1.5

3. Arlington — 2.7

4. Mount Vernon — 4.0

T5. Marysville Getchell — 4.8

T5. Oak Harbor — 4.8

7. Stanwood — 5.3

NOTE: Coaches weren’t allowed to vote for their own teams.

FAVORITES

Led by star running back Dylan Carson and a powerful rushing attack, Marysville Pilchuck is eyeing a second consecutive Wesco 3A North title. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Led by star running back Dylan Carson and a powerful rushing attack, Marysville Pilchuck is eyeing a second consecutive Wesco 3A North title. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Marysville Pilchuck

Two years ago, the Tomahawks steamrolled to the Wesco 3A title and took an unbeaten record to the Class 3A state quarterfinals before running into a star-laden Lincoln team. Marysville Pilchuck wasn’t able to replicate that success in the win column this spring, but don’t be fooled by its 2-3 mark during the abbreviated season. The Tomahawks played a daunting schedule, with their three losses coming to a trio of high-caliber 4A programs in Lake Stevens, Union and Glacier Peak. And they gave perennial power Lake Stevens a rare test, rallying to tie the mighty Vikings in the fourth quarter before losing by just seven points.

That spring experience should pay dividends for Marysville Pilchuck this fall. The Tomahawks bring back nearly their entire starting lineup, with nine returning starters on both sides of the ball. And once again, expect their deceptive and high-powered Slot-T ground attack to give defenses headaches. Nate Elwood, Blake Jones and Kaleb Potts headline a big, talented and senior-laden offensive line that returns four of its five starters. They will again pave the way for standout senior and home-run threat Dylan Carson, who is poised to put up more massive numbers after eclipsing 1,400 yards rushing as a sophomore and 900 yards this spring as a junior. Speedy senior Jordan Velasquez provides another ball-carrying weapon on offense and doubles as a two-star safety on defense, where he and junior linebacker Noah Faber anchor a unit that figures to benefit from so much continuity.

The road to back-to-back league titles looks more difficult this time around, with a tough Ferndale team standing in the way. But Marysville Pilchuck appears more than capable of defending its Wesco 3A North crown and making another state run. With a slew of returning talent, the pieces are in place for another special season.

Ferndale

The Golden Eagles have been a perennial Wesco 3A North contender in recent years, highlighted by their 2017 team that captured the league title and took an unbeaten record into the 3A state quarterfinals. And with a wealth of returning experience this fall, Ferndale just might have the talent to make a similar type of run. Like Marysville Pilchuck, the Golden Eagles bring back nearly their entire starting lineup from the spring, with nine returning starters on offense and 10 on defense.

Ferndale is led by a pair of highly touted juniors in two-way lineman Landen Hatchett and running back/linebacker Isaiah Carlson, both of whom are ranked by 247Sports as top-10 prospects in the state for their class. Hatchett, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound center, already has offers from Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington and more. Carlson, ranked nationally as the No. 13 junior linebacker and No. 132 overall junior recruit, has four Pac-12 offers. Also returning are talented senior backs Thomas Broselle and Ryan Pelton, who provide additional weapons in what figures to be a powerful Wing-T rushing attack. And defensively, Carlson headlines a defense that allowed just 15.6 points per game this spring.

Ferndale’s young team went 4-1 in the abbreviated season, including a win over 2A power Lynden and decisive victories over league foes Mount Vernon and Oak Harbor. The one setback was a loss to Sehome. But with top-end talent and so much experience coming back, the Golden Eagles look poised to challenge Marysville Pilchuck for the Wesco 3A title.

CONTENDER

Standout quarterback Trent Nobach leads an Arlington team that’s looking to bounce back from a rough spring season. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Standout quarterback Trent Nobach leads an Arlington team that’s looking to bounce back from a rough spring season. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Arlington

The Eagles are coming off a rough 2-3 spring season that included a shutout loss to Monroe and blowout losses to Marysville Pilchuck and Snohomish. But there’s plenty of reason to believe Arlington can bounce back this fall. After suffering a broken collarbone in the opening game of the spring season, standout senior Trent Nobach is back at quarterback for the Eagles. Nobach had a quality sophomore year in 2019 and appears primed to be one of the top quarterbacks in the state this fall. He’s surrounded by a promising group of receivers, led by seniors Levi Younger, Gage Price and Elisha Jackson. And on defense, three-star linebacker and Tennessee recruit Quintin Yon-Wagner returns to the field after missing the spring season with an ACL injury. With a pair of game changers back from injury and a combined 12 returning starters on both sides of the ball, Arlington looks poised to move on from a forgettable spring and once again be in the upper portion of the Wesco 3A North mix.

3 THINGS TO KNOW

Mount Vernon replaces Squalicum in the league

After four seasons as a Wesco 3A North member from 2016 through 2019, Squalicum returns to the 2A level following the recent statewide reclassification. The Storm had a highly successful stint in the Wesco 3A North, winning league titles in 2016 and 2018. Squalicum is replaced by former Wesco 4A member Mount Vernon, which moved down to 3A in the reclassification. The Bulldogs experienced a massive transformation in recent years under former coach Nic Vasilchek, going from back-to-back winless seasons in 2015 and 2016 to a 4A state playoff appearance in 2018. Vasilchek has since retired, with former Marysville Pilchuck defensive coordinator Ken Alexander taking the reins of Mount Vernon’s program. The Bulldogs are a projected middle-of-the-pack team in the league this fall, after returning about half their starting lineup from a group that went 2-4 this spring.

Wesco 3A North has dominated the South

In recent years, the Wesco 3A North has trampled the Wesco 3A South in the pivotal Week 9 crossover games between the two leagues, which determine seedings and berths for the Week 10 winner-to-state playoffs. Over the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the North went 13-1 in the crossover round, including 7-1 in games with postseason implications. The North outscored the South by 27.3 points per game in those 14 contests, including a clean sweep in 2019 while winning all seven crossover games that year by at least 21 points.

And due to a tweak in formatting for the Week 9 crossover games this season, the North could potentially steal an extra Week 10 playoff berth from the South. In years past, the top three teams from the North and South squared off in Week 9 for seeding purposes only, with all six teams advancing to the Week 10. The No. 4 teams from the North and South, meanwhile, played for Wesco 3A’s seventh and final Week 10 spot.

This season, just the top two North teams and the top two South teams are guaranteed Week 10 berths. The next three teams from each league will meet in win-or-go-home games — with North No. 3 facing South No. 5, North No. 4 facing South No. 4, and North No. 5 facing South No. 3. That means if the North’s dominance continues, the league could potentially take five of Wesco 3A’s seven Week 10 playoff spots.

It could be a tight battle for the final postseason berth

Marysville Pilchuck and Ferndale are the clear-cut favorites in the Wesco 3A North. Arlington and Mount Vernon appear to be the next two teams in the league hierarchy. But it could be a close race between Marysville Getchell, Oak Harbor and Stanwood for the league’s fifth and final Week 9 playoff spot. Marysville Getchell and Oak Harbor, who each return a total of seven starters, tied for fifth in the league’s coaches poll. And though Stanwood went just 1-11 in league play over the past two full-length seasons, the Spartans bring back 13 total starters from the spring. Stanwood also is under the direction of a new coach in Jeff Scoma, who previously was the head coach at 2B La Conner.

LOCAL PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jordan Velasquez is a key two-way player for Marysville Pilchuck. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jordan Velasquez is a key two-way player for Marysville Pilchuck. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Ryder Bumgarner, jr., RB/WR/DB, Stanwood

Bumgarner is a playmaker on both sides of the ball for the Spartans. He had four touchdown catches and a rushing score in just three games during this spring’s abbreviated season.

Dylan Carson, sr., RB/DB, Marysville Pilchuck

Carson topped 1,400 yards rushing as a sophomore in 2019. He followed that with 911 yards and 14 TDs in just five games as a junior this spring, while averaging 9.6 yards per carry and rattling off five scores of 45-plus yards. And with a big, talented and experienced offensive line to run behind this fall, the senior back is primed for another massive year in the Tomahawks’ Slot-T ground attack. Carson is a two-star running back and the No. 90 overall senior recruit in the state, according to 247Sports.

Nate Elwood, sr., OL/DL, Marysville Pilchuck

The 6-foot-3, 270-pound guard and two-time all-league offensive lineman has been a key force in paving the way for the Tomahawks’ high-powered rushing attack the past two seasons. Expect more of the same this fall from Elwood, who is one of four returning starters on a senior-laden offensive line. The two-star lineman is the No. 112 overall senior recruit in the state, according to 247Sports.

Blake Jones, sr., OL/DL, Marysville Pilchuck

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound senior is another returning starter on a big, talented and experienced offensive line that figures to pose major problems for opposing defenses.

Trent Nobach, sr., QB, Arlington

After suffering a broken collarbone in the first game of the abbreviated spring season, Nobach returns to quarterback for the Eagles this fall. As a sophomore in 2019, he completed 59% of his passes for 1,653 yards, 18 TDs and nine interceptions. Earlier this month, he finished fourth in the senior division of the Northwest 9 Showcase quarterback competition. The 6-foot-2 passer is a two-star prospect and the No. 98 overall senior recruit in the state, according to 247Sports.

Kaleb Potts, sr., OL, Marysville Pilchuck

The 6-foot-6, 270-pound offensive tackle is another returning starter and massive force on the Tomahawks’ senior-laden offensive line.

Riley Riba, sr., RB/LB, Marysville Getchell

Riba, a second-team all-league selection last season, is a centerpiece on both sides of the ball for the Chargers.

Jordan Velasquez, sr., RB/DB, Marysville Pilchuck

Velasquez intercepted three passes this spring and is a two-star prospect at safety, ranked by 247Sports as the No. 64 overall senior recruit in the state. He also provides a speedy complement to Carson in the Tomahawks’ Slot-T rushing attack after running for 343 yards this spring.

Quintin Yon-Wagner, sr., LB, Arlington

After missing the spring season with an ACL injury, Yon-Wagner returns to anchor the Eagles’ defense this fall. The three-star linebacker received an offer from Tennessee as a freshman and is the No. 63 overall senior recruit in the state, according to 247Sports.

Levi Younger, sr., WR/DB, Arlington

Younger, a first-team all-league selection this spring, is part of a promising receiving corps for the Eagles.

LOCAL GAMES TO WATCH

The midseason showdown between Marysville Pilchuck and Ferndale could very well determine the Wesco 3A North title. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The midseason showdown between Marysville Pilchuck and Ferndale could very well determine the Wesco 3A North title. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Arlington at Edmonds-Woodway, Sept. 3, 5 p.m.

The Eagles get tested right out of the gate with a season-opening non-league matchup against Wesco 3A South favorite Edmonds-Woodway, which is coming off a 5-0 spring season. This could provide an early hint at how the Wesco 3A North and Wesco 3A South stack up against each other this year.

Marysville Getchell at Marysville Pilchuck, Sept. 17, 7 p.m.

The Tomahawks look to go a perfect 10-0 over their crosstown rival in the Berry Bowl. Since the rivalry began in 2012, Marysville Pilchuck has won all nine matchups by an average of 33.7 points.

Arlington vs. Ferndale at Blaine H.S., Sept. 17, 7 p.m.

The Eagles travel north to face a tough Ferndale team that’s a co-favorite with Marysville Pilchuck to claim the Wesco 3A North title. Ferndale has won three of the past four meetings between these teams.

Marysville Pilchuck vs. Glacier Peak at Veterans Memorial Stadium, Sept. 24, 7 p.m.

The Tomahawks’ first major test of the season comes in this Week 4 non-league showdown against a potential 4A state-caliber Glacier Peak team. Marysville Pilchuck will look to avenge a 35-7 loss to the Grizzlies in this spring’s season opener.

Arlington at Stanwood, Sept. 24, 7 p.m.

The Eagles look to extend their 11-game win streak in the annual Stilly Cup. Their rivalry game this spring went down to the wire, with Arlington holding on for a 17-14 win.

Oak Harbor vs. Marysville Getchell at Quil Ceda Stadium, Sept. 24, 7 p.m.

These two teams tied for fifth in the league’s coaches poll. If those predictions are in the ballpark, this matchup could go a long way to determining the league’s fifth and final postseason spot in the Week 9 crossover round.

Ferndale at Marysville Pilchuck, Oct. 1, 7 p.m.

The two Wesco 3A North co-favorites square off in a midseason showdown that could very well determine the league title. It figures to be a fascinating battle between high-powered rushing attacks, with both teams featuring a physical offensive line and talented backfield.

Mount Vernon at Arlington, Oct. 1, 7 p.m.

This marks the first meeting between these teams since 2013, back when they were Wesco 4A North foes. It could have significant seeding implications, with Arlington picked to finish third in the league’s coaches poll and Mount Vernon picked fourth.

Marysville Pilchuck at Arlington, Oct. 15, 7 p.m.

The past two matchups between these perennial Wesco 3A North contenders have been all Marysville Pilchuck. In 2019, the Tomahawks rolled to a 42-14 win in what was a de facto league-title game. And this spring, they raced to a 42-point lead in a 42-19 running-clock rout.

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