Lake Stevens suffered a costly football loss at Mt. Vernon last Friday, 38-27.
The defeat seriously damaged Lake’s aspirations for a Wesco North title and also tossed its potential Playoff scenario into limbo.
Lake (now 1-1 in Wesco North, 2-3 overall) must win this Friday at home against league-leading Arlington if the Vikings hope to right their post-season ship.
Lake, which had physically manhandled Monroe the week before, came out flat against Mt. Vernon (1-1 in Wesco, 4-1 overall), falling behind by two touchdowns in the second quarter before mounting a second half rally to take the lead, only to see the Bulldogs score two late touchdowns to snare the win.
As has been the case in Lake’s other losses this season, turnovers, missed assignments and other mental and physical errors, including some defensive lapses, proved fatal.
Mt. Vernon, not known to be a passing team, surprised Lake in the first quarter when Bulldog quarterback Tristan Brock completed all eight of his passes including a 31-yard touchdown toss to Melvin Walser for a 7-0 MV lead with 1:47 left in the quarter. Brock’s passing yardage in the first quarter totalled 87 yards. For the remainder of the game Brock completed only two more passes but ironically his only completion of the second half, covering a mere 11 yards, proved to be a game-breaker.
Lake moved the ball fairly consistently in the first half via a good mix of pass and run, tying the score at 7-all on a 10-play, 80-yard drive ending with Andrew Grimes’ one-yard run.
During that drive Austin Otis carried the ball five times for 44 yards. Coming off of his record-setting 292 yards rushing vs. Monroe, he seemed to be headed for another high-yardage game. But as it turned out Otis finished with just 96 net yards in 20 carries as Lake, turning mostly to its passing game in catch-up mode, rushed the ball just 10 times after halftime.
Mt. Vernon stunned Lake in just four plays after Lake had tied it. Electing not to punt when facing fourth and one on its own 28, Mt. Vernon stacked the middle with blockers for Brock, a big, tall, physical quarterback, who burst through the Viking defense for an untouched 72-yard TD. 14-7 Bulldogs, 7:48 before halftime.
Lake seemed on its way to re-tying the game moments later, as Otis carried three times for 28 yards to the MV 25. But on the next play an attempted Jacob Eason pitch to Otis went awry with the Bulldogs’ Mitchell Wholman recovering on the 33.
That turnover immediately led to another MV touchdown. On first down Lake was flagged for pass interference and on the next play Brandon Hayman scored on a 52-yard reverse. Shockingly, Lake found itself down by 21-7, with 5:55 left in the half.
Lake received a punt on its own 24 with 1:36 left in the half and with Eason completing six of eight passes covering 72 yards (with the Vikings being signalled for a holding penalty early in the drive), Ignacio Ponce converted a 31-yard field goal with three seconds to go to cut the gap to 21-10.
Hunter Eckstrom’s 23-yard kickoff return to the Viking 40 got Lake off to a good start after halftime. With Eason completing passes of 21, nine and 24 yards to Gavin O’Neil, Riley Krenz and Tevin Gray respectively, Lake scored a touchdown in just six plays, the final one Grimes’ four-yard run. MV was penalized on the PAT attempt but Lake, which could have tried a 2-point conversion from just a yard and a half out, opted to have Ponce kick it. 21-17 MV, at 9:49 of the third quarter.
On Mt. Vernon’s next possession Gray intercepted a Brock pass and though Lake was penalized for holding on the play it took over on the MV 30. The Bulldogs were penalized 12 yards to the 13 yard line but after a four-yard Otis run two Eason passes were incomplete, Ponce nailed a 26-yard field goal to make it 21-20 with 7:33 left in the quarter.
Lake defense seemed to have wrested control of the game when on MV’s next two series it went three-and-out. The Bulldogs netted minus-four yards in that first series, and on its next one Brock threw three straight incompletions, each time forcing a punt.
That second punt temporarily put a halt to Lake’s comeback when O’Neil, attempting to avoid fielding it, was ruled to have touched it, with MV recovering on the Viking 31.
Viking defense held MV to a single first down and an eventual 36-yard Tommy Park field goal which increased his team’s lead to 24-20 with 32 seconds left in the third quarter.
Nine plays later, at 10:05 of the fourth, Lake finally took the lead. An 18-yard Eason pass to Justin Brown launched the rally, and Gray’s great catch in traffic of an Eason pass gave Lake a 31-yard gain and first down on the MV 13. Four plays later Otis scored from the one and Lake was ahead by 27-24 and looking good.
But the Viking defense, which had blunted the Bulldog rushing attack in the third quarter, couldn’t stop Hayman the rest of the way as MV mounted an 80-yard, 13-play TD drive to recapture the lead at 31-27 with 3:46 left. Hayman carried 11 times on the drive, netting 68 yards. But Lake had stymied him midway in the drive, holding him to one yard in each of three carries, setting up a fourth-and-seven on the MV 44.
That’s when Brock completed his one pass of the second half, an 11-yard sideline connection to Miles Witt, for a first down on the Viking 45.
Two plays later Hayman broke a 35-yard run to the one yard line and on the next play Brock crashed into the end zone for a 31-27 MV lead.
Lake took over on its own 31 following the kickoff, with Eason completing a second-down 13-yard pass to Brown for a first down on the LS 44. The next play proved to be virtually game-ending for Lake when Eason was penalized 19 yards plus loss of down for intentional grounding.
Two plays after that a holding penalty pushed Lake back to its own 17.
Facing fourth and thirty-six and with 2:30 left in the game but still holding onto all three of its time-outs, Lake selected to go for it rather than punt. But Eason’s pass fell incomplete and the Bulldogs took over on the Viking 17.
Brock then bodied his way through the Viking defense for gains of four and six yards for a first down on the seven, and applied the coup de grace on the next play, plunging across the goal line with 2:13 left for a 38-27 MV lead.
Eason’s 25-yard completion to Brown to the MV 33 gave Lake a breath of hope which was instantly vanquished by a 17-yard chop-block penalty against the Vikings. Lake’s final play was an Eason interception with 1:18 left.
Viking defense surrendered a net of 280 rushing yards (on 45 carries) to the Bulldogs, 159 of those coming on just three plays (all three for touchdowns). Conversely, Lake netted merely 100 yards rushing (it came into the game averaging 216 yards rushing per game). Hayman racked up 193 net yards in 28 carries. Brock netted 86 yards in six carries (not counting his kneel-downs as MV ran out the final minute).
Eason’s 40 passes saw 23 of them completed and one intercepted, for 290 yards, while Brock finished 10 of 18 for 103 yards with one interception.
Lake had 20 first downs, MV 18. Lake was penalized 7 times for 86 yards, MV nine times for 71 yards.
As always, C.J. Lat led Lake in the tackling department, with 19 (he now has 105 for the season). Kolby Jones had 15 tackles for the Vikings, and Kelly Wentz had 10. Lat shared the game’s only quarterback sack with Alex Verhoeven; the latter left the game with an injury three plays into the second half and his status for the Arlington game was unknown at the time of this writing.