Snohomish’s Tyler Larson pushes off an opponent during Snohomish’s 30-27 win over Squalicum at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Oct. 26, 2018 in Snohomish. Tha Panthers enter the season as a the favorite to win the conference. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Snohomish’s Tyler Larson pushes off an opponent during Snohomish’s 30-27 win over Squalicum at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Oct. 26, 2018 in Snohomish. Tha Panthers enter the season as a the favorite to win the conference. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Wesco 3A South football preview: Coaches poll and storylines

Snohomish is favored to become the first back-to-back league champion since 2013.

COACHES POLL

The predicted order of finish, as voted on by the Wesco 3A South coaches. Included are the average points per vote, with first-place votes in parentheses.

1. Snohomish (5) — 5.8

2. Shorecrest (1) — 4.4

3. Edmonds-Woodway — 4.2

4. Meadowdale — 3.6

T-5. Everett — 2.2

T-5.Shorewood — 2.2

7. Lynnwood — 1.6

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

Favorite: Snohomish. The Panthers are the earlier favorites to defend their Wesco 3A South title and become the league’s first back-to-back champion since Glacier Peak in 2013. Snohomish produced one of the area’s most potent offenses last season with a stellar run game led by a senior-laden offensive line and the running back tandem of Tyler Massena and Tyler Larson. Massena and four of the Panthers’ starting offensive linemen graduated, but the return of Larson, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, gives Snohomish a proven workhorse in the backfield to help shoulder the offensive load. Finding success with a new-look offensive line and shoring up the defense — which allowed 32.5 points per game last season — will be key hurdles in the Panthers’ path to a repeat.

Contender: Shorecrest. The Scots have been on the rise since going winless in the 2014 season and appear to have a solid shot at claiming their first league title since 2005. Shorecrest is led in the backfield by senior quarterback Eladio Fountain, who has started since midway through his freshman season, and bruising 220-pound senior running back Markus Selzler. The Scots posted the conference’s second-best scoring defense last season, allowing 26.8 points per game. Coach Brandon Christensen said this is the most experienced team he’s had in his nine seasons with the Scots.

STORYLINES

New faces at two schools

Meadowdale head coach James Harmon watches his team practice at Meadowdale High School on Thursday, Aug. 22. (Katie Webber / The Herald)

Meadowdale head coach James Harmon watches his team practice at Meadowdale High School on Thursday, Aug. 22. (Katie Webber / The Herald)

Wesco 3A South has two new coaches, and they are stepping into vastly different situations.

James Harmon takes the reins at Meadowdale, becoming the fourth coach to lead the Mavs over the past 20 seasons. Harmon replaces Matt Leonard, who led the program for four seasons. Meadowdale appears to primed to contend in the conference as it returns a strong core and some talented playmakers on offense.

Longtime Everett boys wrestling coach Brien Elliot becomes the third coach in three seasons for the Seagulls. Elliot replaces Dave Coldiron. Everett took an expected step back last season, finishing 1-8 after the Seagulls qualified for a Week 10 playoff game the year before. Elliot, a 1985 graduate of Everett, looks to bring stability to a program that’s rebuilding.

Will the game of ‘hot potato’ continue with the league title?

In each of the past four seasons, a different school has claimed the Wesco 3A South crown. That could come to an end this season.

Snohomish, Meadowdale, Edmonds-Woodway and Glacier Peak (now 4A) are the most recent champions, and all three schools that still reside in Wesco 3A South make up all but one of the teams favored to finish in the league’s top four spots. Unless Shorewood, Everett or Lynnwood greatly exceeds preseason expectations, Shorecrest is the only team with a shot to keep the game of “hot potato” with the league’s championship going.

Can the South Division put up a better showing against the North Division?

Teams from Wesco 3A North went 11-2 against Wesco 3A South squads in 2018 — including 3-1 in Week 9 crossover games — and the results of many of those games were as lopsided as the overall season series.

Snohomish picked up one of the two wins with a gutty 30-27 victory over Squalicum in the Week 9 crossover game between league champions. But the Panthers also fell victim in the series, losing to Marysville Pilchuck in a lopsided Week 1 contest. Second-place Shorewood fell to sixth-place Marysville Getchell and proved no match in its Week 9 crossover game with Arlington. Shorecrest was able to beat Getchell in Week 1 but also suffered perhaps the most surprising loss in the series, falling to a Stanwood squad that didn’t win a Wesco 3A North game. The Scots also were blown out in a Week 9 crossover contest with Oak Harbor. And Meadowdale got thumped by Ferndale in a Week 9 crossover game between No. 4 seeds.

In all, teams from Wesco 3A South were outscored 566-311, an average of 43.5 to 23.9 per game.

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