Like the saying goes, “When the going gets tough the tough get going.”
It took a while for that to kick in but Lake Stevens, trailing 31-14 with less than a minute to play in the third quarter, finally put it all together to rally for a 35-31 win at Edmonds-Woodway in last Friday’s Wesco 4A title game at Edmonds Stadium.
Given the importance of the game it was surprising that Lake (now 9-0) seemed to come out a bit flat. Edmonds-Woodway (5-4), Wesco South champions, a team on a five-game winning streak, took advantage of that to pound the Vikings with its outstanding rushing duo of Desmond Young and Mark Coutee.
Utilizing counters and inside blasts, Young and Coutee, alternating at running back, netted 168 yards in 21 carries in the first half.
And in the third quarter, with Young carrying the ball almost exclusively, it got worse, as the Warriors netted 175 yards in 10 carries in that period to nearly turn the game into a blowout.
Enough was enough. Lake took command after that. Following a brief talk to quarterback Jake Nelson by head coach Tom Tri (something to the effect of “You are trying too hard. Stop pressing and just play your normal game”) Lake regained its usual offensive effectiveness—Nelson and company basically were unstoppable for the remainder of the game.
But that wouldn’t have been enough had the defense not also stepped up to shut down E-W’s previously devastating offensive attack. Lake outgained E-W by 123-46 in the fourth quarter, holding Young to 28 yards in eight carries in the period.
Two factors in Lake’s late domination were its superior conditioning (the Warriors seemed worn out in the fourth quarter) and Edmonds-Woodway’s undisciplined play which led to 14 penalties for 132 yards for the game.
In the late going it was Lake making all of the big plays, punctuated by Cody Tupen’s fourth-down sack of Warrior quarterback Davis Giles on the E-W 21 with 58 seconds left, effectively the game’s final play.
Edmonds-Woodway gained two first downs on its opening drive before a penalty forced a punt.
Lake also punted on its first possession, after a Nelson to Christian Gasca 13-yard pass had given it one first down.
Shortly after that, Viking linebacker Korey Young snagged a Giles pass and returned it 12 yards to the E-W 18. On Lake’s first play from there Nelson tossed a screen pass to Gasca, with the latter making a great juke to evade tacklers, taking it to pay dirt. Tanner Sellars’ PAT gave Lake 7-0 lead at 6:04 of the first quarter.
It took E-W just three plays to retaliate, on Young’s 46-yard TD on a perfectly executed misdirection. Connor Davis added the PAT. 7-7 E-W with 4:45 left in the quarter.
A questionable pass interference call against Lake gave E-W a first down on the 20, and five plays later Mac McLachlan scored from the one. 21-14 E-W, just 28 seconds before halftime.
Shae Giddens gained 18 yards to set up a Nelson “hail Mary” from the Viking 43 which was intercepted by Matt Cuzzetto near the goal line at the halftime horn.
A 10-yard Giddens run and a 26 yard Nelson to Giddens completion gave Lake a first down on the E-W 25 at the outset of the second half, but a penalty and two straight Nelson incompletions turned the ball back over to the Warriors at that same yard line.
Edmonds-Woodway, behind a 43-yard Young run, drove all the way to the Viking three before a penalty and some tough Viking defense made the Warriors settle for Davis’ 25-yard field goal. On the previous play what looked like a TD pass from Giles to Horn was ruled out of bounds. That proved to be a critical call, as the final score attests to.
It got worse for the Vikings when, after Nelson completions to Pahukoa for 14 and 12 yards gave Lake a first down on the Warrior 21, Giddens fumbled away the ball on the 17.
A penalty pushed the Warriors back to the nine, but Young burst through the Viking line and raced untouched 91 yards for the TD that put E-W ahead 31-14 with 1:58 left in the third quarter.
Lake responded with a desperately needed TD of its own, traveling 66 yards in seven plays.
Lake’s defense dug in after that, forcing an E-W punt, Lake taking over on its own 40.
Nelson launched a 60-yard scoring drive with an 18-yard scramble. Giddens gained 11 yards.
On the Warriors’ subsequent possession Young gained a first down with an 11-yard run to the Viking 46 but on the same play E-W was assessed a 15-yard dead ball personal foul penalty, though it remained first down.
The drive of the season for Lake Stevens was a methodical, unhurried affair, covering 10 plays and aided by another E-W 15-yard personal foul.
First play was an eight-yard Giddens run. Three plays later Nelson to Gasca gained 17 yards for a first down on the 50.
Nelson kept for 10 yards, then hit Giddens for another 10 to which was added an additional 15 yards for the personal foul. First down on the E-W 15.
Four straight runs netted the go-ahead TD, Nelson for five, Giddens for three, Nelson for five and Giddens two and what proved to be the game-winning score. 35-31 Lake, with 2:14 left.
The Warriors could return the ensuing kickoff only to their own 14, tackled there by Austin Otis and Benjamin Tyquiengco.
Young gained five yards on first down, followed by Pahukoa’s near-interception of a Giles pass. On fourth down Giles scrambled desperately, heavily pursued in the backfield until Tupen nailed him for an emphatic sack. With 58 seconds left the game was all but technically over.
The Viking sidelines exploded, as did the LS half of the packed stadium bleachers.
There were several Lake Stevens heroes on offense and defense, and more Viking records fell in the course of the game. Setting those marks (including season and career records) were Young, Gasca and Nelson. For a complete rundown of Viking records see Kevin Hulten’s Purple & Gold Pigskin. (And it should be noted that the season is still alive for the undefeated Vikings, who host Heritage of Vancouver this week in the next round of the Playoffs).