Star running back Jayden Limar headlines a Lake Stevens team that some consider to be the 4A state title favorite. But with another state title contender in Glacier Peak and a Kamiak program on the rise, Wesco 4A is loaded at the top. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Star running back Jayden Limar headlines a Lake Stevens team that some consider to be the 4A state title favorite. But with another state title contender in Glacier Peak and a Kamiak program on the rise, Wesco 4A is loaded at the top. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Wesco 4A football preview: Team capsules, storylines to watch, and more

State title favorite Lake Stevens, title contender Glacier Peak and rising Kamiak headline a league that’s loaded at the top.

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. Lake Stevens (4) — 1.0

2. Glacier Peak (1) — 1.75

3. Kamiak — 2.5

4. Mariner — 3.25

5. Jackson — 4.0

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

LAKE STEVENS

Cole Becker and the Vikings are a popular preseason pick to win the 4A state title. (John Gardner / Pro Action Image)

Cole Becker and the Vikings are a popular preseason pick to win the 4A state title. (John Gardner / Pro Action Image)

Last season: 11-1 overall, 4-0 Wesco 4A; advanced to 4A state championship game

Coach: Tom Tri (18th season)

Offense: Spread

Defense: 4-2-5

Returning starters: 7 on offense, 5 on defense

Key players: Jayden Limar, sr., RB; Jayshon Limar, soph., RB/LB; Isaac Redford, sr., WR/DB; Cassidy Belong-Banks, soph., WR/DB; Cole Becker, sr., TE/DE; Grant Lynch, sr., C/DT; Ashten Hendrickson, sr., OL/DE; Micah Avery, sr., OL/DE; Joe McGinnis, sr., LB

Overview: As always, the Wesco 4A title runs through Lake Stevens. The perennial powerhouse Vikings, who’ve won 50 consecutive Wesco 4A contests, are coming off their second Class 4A state championship game appearance in the past three full-length seasons. And with 12 returning starters and additional up-and-coming talent in the fold, the eight-time defending Wesco 4A champions are a popular pick to break through for their first-ever state crown. Lake Stevens’ high-powered offense is headlined by the elite brother running back duo of Notre Dame-bound senior Jayden Limar — who totaled 1,918 yards from scrimmage and 24 offensive touchdowns last season — and sophomore Pac-12 recruit Jayshon Limar. They’re complemented by an experienced offensive line and a passing attack that’s fresh off its second consecutive Lakewood 7-on-7 tournament title. Two-star senior recruit Isaac Redford is a potential breakout star at wide receiver, while sophomore Kolton Matson and junior Kaden LaPlaunt are battling to replace standout quarterback Grayson Murren. Matson played well last postseason, throwing for 498 yards, six TDs and one interception while Murren was injured. The Vikings also have plenty of talent on defense. Senior standout Ashten Hendrickson highlights a deep and experienced defensive front, while Redford and sophomore Cassidy Belong-Banks anchor the back end as shutdown cornerbacks.

GLACIER PEAK

Trey Leckner and the Grizzlies are looking to build on last year’s maiden voyage to the 4A state playoffs. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Trey Leckner and the Grizzlies are looking to build on last year’s maiden voyage to the 4A state playoffs. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Last season: 7-3 overall, 2-1 Wesco 4A; advanced to 4A state first round

Coach: Shane Keck (4th season)

Offense: Power spread

Defense: 3-4

Returning starters: 8 on offense, 3 on defense

Key players: River Lien, sr., QB; Trey Leckner, sr., ATH/LB; Ryan King, sr., RB/S; Cooper Jensen, sr., TE/DE; Logan Szarzec, sr., WR/S; Adam Troxel, sr., OL/DL; Baxter Cox, sr., OL/DL; Joe Johnson, sr., OL/DL

Overview: Expectations are sky-high for the Grizzlies, who broke through last year for their first state playoff appearance since moving up to 4A in 2016. They’re hungry for more this fall, especially after the sting of blowing a 21-point second-half lead in last year’s heartbreaking first-round state loss to Bothell. Glacier Peak’s high hopes center on its offense, which returns eight starters and a wealth of skill-position talent. The headliner is Washington State-bound senior running back/wide receiver Trey Leckner, who totaled 1,550 yards from scrimmage and 23 TDs last season. He’s complemented by 6-foot-5 Oregon State-bound tight end Cooper Jensen, 6-foot-4 receiver Logan Szarzec, two-star running back Ryan King and two-star quarterback River Lien. The offensive line has two major holes to fill, with the graduation of standouts Jacob Erickson and Austin Emmons. But the Grizzlies return their other three starters in the trenches and are adding a pair of talented juniors to the unit. The key to Glacier Peak’s season likely revolves around the development of its defense. The Grizzlies have eight defensive starters to replace, including multiple all-league selections at each of the three levels.

KAMIAK

Jullian Notoa and the Knights are looking to take another step forward after last year’s breakthrough season. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Jullian Notoa and the Knights are looking to take another step forward after last year’s breakthrough season. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Last season: 7-2 overall, 2-1 Wesco 4A; advanced to 4A winner-to-state round

Coach: Bryant Thomas (5th season)

Offense: Spread fly sweep

Defense: 30 flex hybrid

Returning starters: 8 on offense, 4 on defense

Key players: Ben’tre Worthy, sr., QB/SS; T’Andre Waverly, soph., TE/DE; Chance Loudenback, sr., TE/SS; Jullian Notoa, soph., RB/LB; Max Rust, sr., OL/DL; Michael Barton, jr., OL/DL; Journy Notoa, jr., OL/DL; Jay Scott Jr., soph., OL/DL

Overview: The Knights have experienced a massive turnaround under coach Bryant Thomas. After three consecutive one-win campaigns from 2017 through 2019, Kamiak followed a 4-0 COVID-shortened spring season with a breakthrough 7-2 campaign last fall. The Knights matched their most wins since 2006, made their first Week 10 playoff appearance since 2014 and even took perennial power Lake Stevens down to the wire in a narrow loss. The biggest challenge going forward will be replacing do-everything Wesley Garrett, who totaled 1,641 yards from scrimmage and 20 TDs last season in Kamiak’s fly-sweep attack. But the Knights bring back plenty of offensive talent, with eight starters returning on that side of the ball. Among them is senior dual-threat quarterback Ben’tre Worthy, who’s expected to air it out more often. He’ll have a pair of playmaking tight-end targets in four-star sophomore recruit T’Andre Waverly and senior Chance Loudenback. And the offensive line should be a strength, with 6-foot-5, 285-pound senior Max Rust anchoring a group that returns four of five starters. The biggest question for Kamiak is on defense, where it has seven starters to replace from a unit that allowed just 18.9 points per game.

MARINER

First-year Mariner coach Tyler Tuiasosopo is looking to turn things around at his alma mater. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

First-year Mariner coach Tyler Tuiasosopo is looking to turn things around at his alma mater. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Last season: 4-5 overall, 1-3 Wesco 4A

Coach: Tyler Tuiasosopo (1st season)

Offense: Multiple

Defense: 4-2-5

Returning starters: 5 on offense, 5 on defense

Key players: Cartez Williams, sr., RB/SS; Macky James, sr., WR/CB; Damien Bagley, sr., ATH/LB; Isaiah Cuellar, jr., QB/DB; Tayveon Sy, sr., TE/LB; Camden Shirk, sr., OL; Donell Johnson, sr., TE/DE; Vicente Cienega-Alonso, sr., hybrid; Ben Fotualii, sr., hybrid; Isaac Aney, sr., LB

Overview: The Marauders are embarking on a new era under first-year coach Tyler Tuiasosopo, who replaces the retired Mark Stewart. Tuiasosopo is back at his alma mater, where he starred at quarterback and led the Marauders to back-to-back state playoff appearances in 2006 and 2007. After a pair of recent head-coaching gigs in Las Vegas, Tuiasosopo is tasked with turning around a Mariner program that’s had only one winning season in the past nine years. The cupboard isn’t bare, with five returning starters on both sides of the ball. Senior running back Cartez Williams, senior receiver Macky James and senior athlete Damien Bagley provide playmaking talent for an offense that’ll feature more passing and tempo than years past, according to Tuiasosopo. On defense, the Marauders are moving to a 4-2-5 front that’s aimed at putting their top athletes in advantageous positions. Tuiasosopo is excited about the potential of his offensive and defensive lines, which could be strengths of the team.

JACKSON

After a rough past few seasons, coach Mason Siddick and the Timberwolves are aiming to turn the tide this fall. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

After a rough past few seasons, coach Mason Siddick and the Timberwolves are aiming to turn the tide this fall. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Last season: 2-8 overall, 0-4 Wesco 4A

Coach: Mason Siddick (4th season)

Offense: Spread

Defense: 4-3

Returning starters: 3 on offense, 2 on defense

Key players: Mohammed Al Ezairej, sr., QB; Tyler Lykken, soph., RB/SS; Will Turpin, soph., WR/CB; Colton Anderson, sr., WR/CB; Malikai Asberry, soph., WR/LB; Brody Bossert, sr., C/NG; Haseeb Rassulli, soph., OL/MLB; William Gamache, soph., OL/DL

Overview: It’s been a tough stretch for the Timberwolves, who have had only one winning season in the past nine years. Jackson is just 3-22 over the past three seasons and was outscored by 29.3 points per game last fall. The Timberwolves are young, with a handful of sophomores stepping into key roles after the team returned just five starters from last season. But despite the youth, fourth-year coach Mason Siddick said this group is “probably the most competitive that we’ve been” during his time at Jackson. Siddick said he’s most excited about his offensive and defensive lines, which have made strides and will be instrumental to helping the Timberwolves be more competitive this fall.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Lake Stevens senior and Notre Dame commit Jayden Limar is one of the top high school running backs in the nation. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Lake Stevens senior and Notre Dame commit Jayden Limar is one of the top high school running backs in the nation. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Cooper Jensen, sr., TE/DE, Glacier Peak

The three-star Oregon State commit is the No. 25 senior tight end recruit in the nation, according to 247Sports. Jensen, who stretches the field as a 6-foot-5 target, caught 23 passes for 271 yards and two TDs last season. He also is a force at defensive end.

Trey Leckner, sr., ATH/LB, Glacier Peak

The three-star Washington State commit is a versatile playmaker with experience at both running back and wide receiver. After spending his first two high school seasons as a receiver at Snohomish, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Leckner transferred to Glacier Peak and starred at running back last year. He rushed for 1,134 yards and 18 TDs, while adding 416 yards receiving and five TD catches.

River Lien, sr., QB, Glacier Peak

As a first-year starter last season, Lien completed 62.4% of his passes for 1,663 yards, 19 TDs and six interceptions. He’s the fifth-ranked senior quarterback recruit in the state, according to 247Sports.

Jayden Limar, sr., RB, Lake Stevens

The Notre Dame commit and four-star running back headlines the makings of another juggernaut Lake Stevens attack. Ranked by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 12 senior running back recruit, Limar put his elite talent on full display with 1,918 yards from scrimmage and 24 offensive TDs last season. He rushed for 1,549 yards and 20 TDs, while adding 369 yards receiving and four TD catches.

Jayshon Limar, soph., RB/LB, Lake Stevens

Heading into his sophomore year, the younger (and bigger) Limar brother already has a trio of Pac-12 offers from Washington State, Arizona and Arizona State. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound back ran for 561 yards and 12 TDs while backing up his older brother last season.

Grant Lynch, sr., C/DT, Lake Stevens

The 6-foot-2, 285-pound senior is entering his third season as the Vikings’ starting center. He surrendered only one sack last year and helped pave the way for a high-powered rushing attack.

Isaac Redford, sr., WR/CB, Lake Stevens

Redford, coined as a “breakout weapon” on offense by coach Tom Tri, is poised for a big season on both sides of the ball. After catching 11 passes for 150 yards and one TD last year, the two-star wideout steps into the lead receiver role following the graduation of standouts Drew Carter and Trayce Hanks. Redford also is an impact player on defense, with three interceptions at cornerback last season.

T’Andre Waverly, soph., TE/DE, Kamiak

Waverly is the nation’s No. 60 overall sophomore recruit and the nation’s No. 2 sophomore tight end recruit, according to 247Sports. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound playmaker already has offers from schools such as Michigan, Penn State and Mississippi State. After the graduation of do-everything Wesley Garrett, Waverly figures to take over as the Knights’ top receiving target. He caught 10 passes for 275 yards and two TDs last year.

Cartez Williams, sr., RB/SS, Mariner

After flashing potential during an injury-shortened campaign last year, the athletic 5-foot-11, 215-pound running back could be primed for a breakout season in the Marauders’ new-look offense.

Ben’tre Worthy, sr., QB, Kamiak

As a first-year starter last season, Worthy completed 67.6% of his passes for 1,566 yards, 18 TDs and four interceptions. The dual-threat quarterback also rushed for five scores.

STORYLINES TO WATCH

Is this the year Lake Stevens wins it all?

After coming close in recent years, the Vikings are looking to break through for their first-ever state title. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

After coming close in recent years, the Vikings are looking to break through for their first-ever state title. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Vikings have been one of the best and most consistent programs in the state for the better part of the past decade. They have an 80-9 record over the past eight seasons. They’ve won eight consecutive Wesco 4A titles and are riding a 50-game conference win streak. They’ve made seven consecutive 4A state playoff appearances. Over the past six full-length seasons, they’ve made five state quarterfinal trips and three state semifinal trips. They’ve reached two of the past three 4A state championship games. The only thing missing? Their first-ever state title.

Lake Stevens has come close in recent years. The 2015 Jacob Eason-led team suffered a 37-34 loss to Skyline in the state semifinals. The 2018 team fell to Union in the state championship game. The 2019 team, missing two of its top players, lost a 24-22 heartbreaker to Mount Si in the state quarterfinals. And last year’s team made another trip to the state title game, where it ran into a nationally ranked Graham-Kapowsin squad that’ll go down as one of the best teams in state history.

This year, the Vikings might have as good a chance as they’ve ever had. They return 12 starters from their state runner-up team, including one of the nation’s top running backs. They have a slew of talent — both returning and up-and-coming — spread across a variety of position groups on both sides of the ball. And with Graham-Kapowsin having graduated numerous standouts from last year’s juggernaut, Lake Stevens is now the popular pick to win it all. The Vikings keep knocking on the door. Is this the year they break through?

Can Glacier Peak or Kamiak take down mighty Lake Stevens?

Ryan King (10) and the Grizzlies look capable of threatening eight-time defending Wesco 4A champion Lake Stevens. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Ryan King (10) and the Grizzlies look capable of threatening eight-time defending Wesco 4A champion Lake Stevens. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Lake Stevens has dominated Wesco 4A for nearly a decade, riding a 50-game conference win streak that dates back to 2013. During that stretch, the Vikings have won all but five league games by double digits. And this year, Lake Stevens could be as good as it’s ever been. But with the rise of Glacier Peak and Kamiak, the gap between the Vikings and the league’s other top teams has closed considerably. That was evident last season, with both the Grizzlies and Knights taking Lake Stevens down to the wire in a pair of one-possession games. Could this be the year the Vikings’ lengthy Wesco 4A win streak comes to an end?

Glacier Peak appears to have the best shot at dethroning the Wesco 4A kings. The Grizzlies return a slew of offensive firepower from a team that was on the verge of the state quarterfinals last year, including a pair of Pac-12 recruits at running back/wide receiver and tight end. And Glacier Peak has come close to knocking off Lake Stevens in recent years, falling 24-21 in 2018 and 34-28 last season — although it should be noted that the Vikings were missing their top two quarterbacks in the latter game.

Kamiak, meanwhile, gave Lake Stevens arguably its toughest test last season until the state title game. The Knights were tied with the Vikings well into the fourth quarter, until Lake Stevens scored a late go-ahead TD to escape with a 35-28 win. Kamiak graduated do-everything playmaker Wesley Garrett. But with other key weapons returning on offense — including one of the nation’s top tight end recruits — the Knights could once again be a dangerous team.

After breakthroughs last season, Glacier Peak and Kamiak are both looking to take the next step. And for both teams, Lake Stevens provides the ultimate measuring stick.

Will the state playoffs have a strong Wesco 4A flavor?

Given the league’s top-end talent, it’s possible that multiple Wesco 4A teams could make deep state playoff runs. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Given the league’s top-end talent, it’s possible that multiple Wesco 4A teams could make deep state playoff runs. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

With just five teams, Wesco 4A is the second-smallest 4A league in the state. But with arguably the state title favorite in Lake Stevens and another state title contender in Glacier Peak, Wesco 4A has likely the best one-two punch of any league in the state’s highest classification. And if Kamiak can build on last year’s success, the Knights could also make a state playoff run.

With the league’s top-end talent, there’s a chance Wesco 4A could advance two teams to the state semifinals — or if things break right, maybe even the state title game. According to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association website, only twice before has Wesco sent multiple teams to the semifinals in the same classification. Both instances involved Cascade and Snohomish. In 1991, the Bruins and Panthers both reached the 4A state semifinals, and Cascade went on to win the state title. And in 1998, both teams lost in the 4A state semifinals. Never before has there been an all-Wesco state championship game. Could Lake Stevens and Glacier Peak make history this fall?

One thing is for sure: Lake Stevens, Glacier Peak and Kamiak will be battle-tested by the time the postseason rolls around. In addition to facing each other in league play, all three teams have compiled loaded non-league schedules. Lake Stevens faces potential 3A top-10 Garfield, nationally ranked defending 3A state champion Bellevue, reigning Oregon 6A state semifinalist West Linn and reigning 4A state semifinalist Eastlake. Glacier Peak faces perennial 4A power Camas, potential 3A top-10 Ferndale and a strong Sacramento-area Rocklin team in Northern California. And Kamiak faces potential 3A top-10 Monroe, reigning 4A state qualifier Skyview and perennial 4A power Camas.

GAMES TO WATCH

A state semifinal rematch between Lake Stevens and Eastlake is one of many compelling showdowns involving Wesco 4A teams this fall. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A state semifinal rematch between Lake Stevens and Eastlake is one of many compelling showdowns involving Wesco 4A teams this fall. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Snohomish vs. Glacier Peak, Sept. 2

Glacier Peak looks to continue its mastery of crosstown rival Snohomish in this season-opening non-league clash at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Grizzlies have won all 10 matchups since these schools began playing in 2012, including a 35-19 victory last fall.

Bellevue at Lake Stevens, Sept. 9

Reigning 4A state runner-up Lake Stevens hosts the defending 3A state champions in the potential game of the year for Washington high school football. If both teams go on to win their respective state titles, this showdown could end up determining unofficial all-classification state bragging rights. Bellevue is No. 25 in the preseason SBLive/Sports Illustrated national rankings.

Glacier Peak at Camas, Sept. 9

Glacier Peak travels south for a big non-league test against perennial powerhouse Camas at Doc Harris Stadium. The Papermakers, who claimed a pair of 4A state titles in 2016 and 2019, are eyeing another deep playoff run after reaching the 4A state quarterfinals last year.

Monroe at Kamiak, Sept. 16

Kamiak hosts the Wesco 3A South favorites in a non-league matchup of former Wesco 4A foes. Talented Monroe quarterback Blake Springer should provide a good early-season test for the Knights’ defense.

Ferndale vs. Glacier Peak, Sept. 17 (at Lumen Field)

Glacier Peak gets a taste of the NFL experience when it faces the Wesco 3A North favorites in this non-league clash at the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium. Led by University of Washington-bound lineman Landen Hatchett, the Golden Eagles have the makings of a 3A top-10 team.

Lake Stevens at West Linn, Ore., Sept. 23

Lake Stevens continues its non-league gauntlet with an interstate showdown against reigning Oregon 6A state semifinalist West Linn. Jon Eagle, who guided Camas to a pair of Washington 4A state titles in 2016 and 2019, is West Linn’s new head coach.

Glacier Peak at Rocklin, Calif., Sept. 23

Glacier Peak makes the trek to Northern California to face Sacramento-area Rocklin, which was No. 27 in Scorebook Live’s preseason California all-classification state rankings. Rocklin went 12-1 last year and advanced to its sectional title game.

Kamiak at Skyview, Sept. 23

Kamiak’s breakthrough season last year ended with a 28-7 loss to Skyview in the Week 10 winner-to-state round. The Knights get a chance to avenge that defeat in this non-league clash at Vancouver’s Kiggins Bowl, the same site as last year’s playoff matchup.

Camas at Kamiak, Sept. 30

One week after squaring off against Skyview in southwest Washington, Kamiak faces another Greater St. Helens League team when it takes on 4A powerhouse Camas. The Knights will be the Papermakers’ second Wesco 4A opponent in four weeks.

Eastlake at Lake Stevens, Oct. 7

Lake Stevens hosts the defending KingCo 4A champions in a rematch of the Vikings’ 45-28 state semifinal win over the Wolves last fall. Eastlake is replacing 16 starters from last year’s team.

Glacier Peak at Kamiak, Oct. 8

This is the first of three massive Wesco 4A clashes that pit the league’s top three teams against each other. Glacier Peak and Kamiak haven’t met since 2019, due to the shortened 2021 spring season and the COVID-related cancellation of last fall’s matchup.

Lake Stevens at Kamiak, Oct. 21

Lake Stevens and Kamiak square off in a rematch of the Vikings’ narrow 35-28 victory last year. The game was tied until Lake Stevens scored a late TD to keep its lengthy Wesco 4A win streak in tact.

Glacier Peak at Lake Stevens, Oct. 28

This regular-season finale could very well determine the Wesco 4A title. It also has the potential to be one of the games of the year in the entire state. And with the talent level of both teams, don’t be surprised if they meet again in the state playoffs.

NOTE: Glacier Peak plays its home games at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Kamiak plays its home games at Goddard Stadium.

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