Ryan Fahey (3) leads an Edmonds-Woodway squad that’s tabbed as the favorite to win Wesco 3A South. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Ryan Fahey (3) leads an Edmonds-Woodway squad that’s tabbed as the favorite to win Wesco 3A South. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Wesco 3A South high school football preview

The coaches poll, the favorite, the 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. Edmonds-Woodway (4) — 1.7

2. Snohomish (2) — 2.2

3. Monroe (1) — 2.3

4. Shorecrest — 3.8

5. Meadowdale — 4

6. Lynnwood — 5

7. Mountlake Terrace — 5.5

NOTE: Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.

FAVORITE

Jake Ingram (left) and Edmonds-Woodway and the favorites to Wesco 3A South this season. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jake Ingram (left) and Edmonds-Woodway and the favorites to Wesco 3A South this season. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Edmonds-Woodway

The Warriors trampled opponents during their abbreviated schedule this past season on their way to a 5-0 record while playing four of five games against Wesco 3A South opponents. Edmonds-Woodway’s dominance came in typical style for a program known for its stingy defense and strong running game. The Warriors’ defense pitched three shutouts and didn’t allow more than 13 points in a game while holding teams to a Wesco-best 4.0 points per contest. And the two-headed rushing attack of Steele Swinton and Ryan Fahey led an offense that averaged 39.4 points per game.

The Warriors will have to replace the production of Swinton, who totaled 14 touchdowns and 436 yards from scrimmage last season, but seniors Fahey and Jake Ingram provide the team with at least two solid options in the backfield. Fahey ran for a team-best 325 yards and 9.6 yards per carry last season and Ingram, a first-team all-league selection at linebacker, averaged 8.3 yards on 18 carries for 149 yards. They’ll have first-team all-league offensive lineman Riley Johnson to help pave the way up front. Expect Edmonds-Woodway, which finished second or better in the Wesco 3A South in four of five seasons from 2015 to 2019, to be near the front of the league-title chase once again.

CONTENDERS

Joshua Vandergriend and Snohomish hope to secure their third straight Wesco 3A South title this season. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Joshua Vandergriend and Snohomish hope to secure their third straight Wesco 3A South title this season. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Snohomish and Monroe

The Panthers and Bearcats each figure to be in the thick of the conference title race this season and have strong pedigrees that merit their status as title contenders.

Snohomish is the two-time defending league champion and lost only one league game during the past two full-length seasons, achieving a perfect 6-0 mark in 2018 and going 5-1 in 2019. The Panthers went 2-3 during the five-game spring season while facing a tough schedule that included 4A juggernaut Lake Stevens, rising crosstown rival Glacier Peak and new Wesco 3A South foe Monroe. Snohomish is led by a trio of seniors with two-time first-team all-league running back Josh Vandergriend, three-time first-team all-league linebacker Brayden Ulrich and two-way lineman Lane Watkins, a second-team all-league selection on defense in the spring.

Monroe enters its first full season as a member of the Wesco 3A South and gets its first real look at the conference after playing only one team from the league during the spring, a 42-22 victory over Snohomish in the season finale. The Bearcats were a force during their years in Wesco 4A, finishing second to powerhouse Lake Stevens four times from 2014 to 2019 while making six consecutive Week 10 playoff appearances and earning two 4A state-playoff berths. Monroe is tasked with replacing the bulk of its production on offense last season, but has plenty of options with quarterbacks Evan Leggett and Blake Springer, running back Kody Edelbrock and wide receiver Cole Pruett among the breakout candidates. Massive senior two-way linemen Connor Owens and Griffin Montana provide size and experience up front on both sides of the ball, and first-team all-league linebacker Noah Berry gives the Bearcats a solid centerpiece on defense.

3 THINGS TO KNOW

Week 9 crossover games have not been kind to Wesco 3A South teams

It’s been a rough go for Wesco 3A South teams in the pivotal Week 9 games that decide Week 10 playoff seedings and berths. South teams went just 1-7 in crossover games with playoff implications and 1-13 overall against their counterparts from the Wesco 3A North in Week 9 between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, losing by an average margin of 25.2 points per game. North teams have scored 40 or more points in nine of the 14 games. The South’s only win came by just three points when Snohomish beat Squalicum 30-27 in the 2018 Wesco 3A title game.

Finding success in Week 9 will be even more important this year after a tweak in formatting to the crossover games. Previously, the top three teams from each division advanced to Week 10, with their Week 9 games determining seeding only. Meanwhile, the No. 4 teams from each division squared off for the Northwest District’s final playoff berth. This season, just the top two teams from each division are guaranteed a Week 10 playoff game. Three crossover matchups (South No. 5 at North No. 3, North No. 5 at South No. 3 and South No. 4 at North No. 4) will be win-or-go-home games, allowing each division to send as many as five teams to Week 10.

It’s going to be a battle for the league’s final two postseason spots

Edmonds-Woodway, Snohomish and Monroe look to be clear favorites to grab three of the five berths into Week 9 crossover games with postseason implications, but how the rest of the league is going to shake out is unclear. Shorecrest, Meadowdale, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace will all be vying for a chance at a meaningful Week 9 game.

Meadowdale and Shorecrest appear to be the top contenders for those spots. The Mavericks had an up-and-down spring season with wins over Shorewood and Lynnwood and blowout losses against Edmonds-Woodway and 2A power Archbishop Murphy. Staying healthy will be key for the Mavericks, who aren’t fielding a junior varsity team this season due to low participation numbers. Senior Tristan Ahlstedt, a two-time all-league safety, highlights Meadowdale’s returning players.

Shorecrest went 4-1 during the five-game spring season and returns senior quarterback Carson Christensen, the leading returning passer in the league, and second-team all-league defensive back senior Daryl Scott. The Scots will need to see some quick growth from some new faces, particularly on the offensive and defensive line, to truly contend as the team replaces seven of its starters on each side of the ball. But good quarterback play can go a long way.

The conference adds two teams but also loses two

The Wesco 3A South has seen some changes since the last full season in 2019. Monroe and Mountlake Terrace are new members of the league, while Everett and Shorewood are playing independent schedules this year.

Monroe moved down to 3A after having plenty of success at the 4A level and figures to make an immediate impact in the conference as a perennial title contender. Mountlake Terrace is making the move back to the Wesco 3A South, where it previously competed as a 2A school in 2017 and 2018 before moving to the Lake Division of Northwest 2A for two seasons. The Hawks, entering their first season under head coach Archie Malloy, struggled through much of their 1-4 campaign in the spring and were held scoreless three times. But they also return six starters on both sides of the ball, including leading rusher sophomore Zaveon Jones and starting quarterback senior Cole Waldrop-Leathers.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Tristan Ahlstedt, sr., RB/LB, Meadowdale

Ahlstedt is a two-time all-league selection at safety and the lead running back for the Mavericks.

Noah Berry, jr., LB, Monroe

The Bearcats’ junior was the only sophomore to earn first-team All-Wesco 3A South honors on defense last season. He had seven tackles for loss and one sack.

Carson Christensen, sr., QB, Shorecrest

Christensen threw for more yards last season than any other returning quarterback in the Wesco 3A South, completing 42-of-77 passes (55.8%) for 761 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. The first-team all-league selection added 302 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Ryan Fahey, sr., RB/LB, Edmonds-Woodway

Fahey averaged an impressive 9.6 yards per carry while racking up a team-best 325 yards and five touchdowns on just 34 rushes last season while sharing backfield duties with since-graduated Warriors standout Steele Swinton. He was a first-team all-league selection.

Miguel Hurtado, sr., P/DB, Lynnwood

Hurtado was a first-team all-league selection at punter last season.

Jake Ingram, sr., RB/LB, Edmonds-Woodway

Ingram earned first-team all-league honors at linebacker as a junior and also rushed for 149 yards on 18 carries.

Riley Johnson, sr., OL/DL, Edmonds-Woodway

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound two-way lineman was one of just two non-seniors to earn first-team All-Wesco 3A South honors on the offensive line last season.

Zaveon Jones, soph., RB/LB, Mountlake Terrace

Jones led the Hawks in rushing last year as just a freshman, churning out 205 yards on 39 carries for a 5.3-yard average and two touchdowns.

Griffin Montana, sr., OL/DL, Monroe

Montana, a 6-foot-4, 335-pound two-way lineman was one of just two non-seniors to be selected first-team All-Wesco 3A South on the offensive line. Monroe head coach Scott Darrow called Montana “the best lineman in our league.”

Connor Owens, sr., OL/DL, Monroe

The 6-foot-6, 325-pound two-way lineman was a second-team all-league selection last season.

Brayden Ulrich, sr., LB, Snohomish

Ulrich is a three-time first-team All-Wesco 3A South selection at linebacker and two-time member of The Herald’s All-Area teams. He recorded six sacks, nine tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries during the five-week season this past spring. Ulrich had seven sacks, 18 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, one interception and one safety as a sophomore.

Joshua Vandergriend, sr., FB, Snohomish

Vandergriend averaged 5.4 yards on 70 carries for 378 yards and two touchdowns last season and added 176 yards and one touchdown on nine receptions. He was a first-team all-league selection.

GAMES TO WATCH

Snohomish and Glacier Peak meet for in the ninth edition of the Dick Armstrong Cup on Friday. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Snohomish and Glacier Peak meet for in the ninth edition of the Dick Armstrong Cup on Friday. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Glacier Peak at Snohomish, 7 p.m., Sept. 3

The Snohomish School District rivals square off in the ninth installment of the Dick Armstrong Cup with town bragging rights on the line. This series has been dominated by the Grizzlies, who are 9-0 against Snohomish with seven victories by 10 or more points. It’ll take a big-time performance from the Panthers to flip the script in this one-sided rivalry, as Glacier Peak appears to be a serious state-playoff contender in 4A.

Monroe vs. Ferndale at Blaine H.S., 5 p.m., Sept. 4

The Bearcats open their season with a big test when they travel north for a non-league battle with Ferndale. The Golden Eagles’ powerful Wing-T rushing attack features junior Isaiah Carlson, a four-star recruit ranked fourth in the state for the class of 2022 by 247Sports.com, and three-star offensive lineman Landen Hatchett, ranked 10th in the state for 2022. This could be a preview of a potential Week 9 crossover game, as both squads figure to contend atop their respective leagues.

Glacier Peak at Monroe, 7 p.m., Sept. 10

Monroe’s schedule doesn’t get any easier when it hosts a talent-laden Grizzlies team in Week 2. The Bearcats will look to avenge last season’s 63-21 loss. Monroe went 3-1 against the Grizzlies while both were members of Wesco 4A, but Glacier Peak has taken a step forward since its early days in 4A.

Shorecrest vs. Mountlake Terrace at Edmonds Stadium, 5 p.m., Sept. 10

The Scots and Hawks get their league schedules started early when they face off in Week 2. A win will be important for both teams down the line, and this game will give Mountlake Terrace a sense of where it’s at in its first conference game since returning to the Wesco 3A South.

Edmonds-Woodway at Snohomish, 7 p.m., Sept. 17

This Week 3 clash between preseason conference favorites gives the Warriors and Panthers a shot at taking the inside track to a league title. Snohomish has won the past two games in this matchup, including a down-to-the-wire 41-35 overtime victory in 2018.

Meadowdale vs. Shorecrest at Shoreline Stadium, 7 p.m., Sept. 17

The fifth- and fourth-place picks in the preseason coaches poll meet in a Week 3 game that could determine Week 9 seedings down the line. The teams have split their past two games, with Meadowdale winning most recently, 20-14, in 2019.

Edmonds-Woodway at Monroe, 7 p.m., Oct. 1

The Bearcats get their first shot at one of the conference favorites when they host the Warriors in Week 5. A victory for either team will be key in the race for a league title.

Lake Stevens at Snohomish, 7 p.m., Oct. 1

The Panthers face a tall task when the Vikings sail into town Week 5. Lake Stevens beat Snohomish 41-24 during the spring season.

Snohomish at Monroe, 7 p.m., Oct. 22

This Week 8 showdown could end up being a de facto league championship game if both teams live up to expectations. The Bearcats came away with a 42-22 victory when these squads met in the final game of the abbreviated spring season.

Meadowdale vs. Lynnwood at Edmonds Stadium, 8 p.m., Oct. 22

The Edmonds School District rivals meet in the late start at Edmonds Stadium in Week 8, with a spot as one of the conference’s top five seeds possibly at stake. The Mavericks have won seven straight in this series, but Lynnwood has made it close with one-possession losses in the past two seasons.

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