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Game Preview: Rested Vikings Ready for State Quarterfinal Rematch Tonight in Lake Stevens
The tenth-ranked Eastlake Wolves (4-1) face-off against a fourth-ranked Viking squad that hasn't played since Sept. 23
As we head into Week Six (already?) of the 2022 Lake Stevens Vikings football season, let’s take an opportunity to both review the recent past and take stock of the present — before looking forward to tonight’s big home game.
We’ll use this space as both a Viking Football notebook… an Eastlake Game Preview…and if you make it all the way to the end, you’ll find Viking Season Stats tacked on as a bonus.
Week Six Viking Football Notebook
Things pick up pace for the Purple and Gold with tonight’s final non-league contest, a rematch of last year’s epic State Quarterfinal matchup. Lake Stevens beat Eastlake 45-28 in a playoff thriller at Pop Keeney, advancing to the 4A title game.
The 3-2 Vikings, (ranked 4th in the current 4A poll) host the #10 Eastlake Wolves (4-1) tonight in Lake Stevens, 7 pm kick.
J425 will have full coverage as usual, our Live Game Thread (with 4K video of all Viking scoring plays as they happen) will be posted here around 6:30 tomorrow. Be sure to follow us on Instagram at thejournal425 as well.
The Vikings haven’t played since their 45-6 loss in Oregon two weeks ago. With Jackson forfeiting last week due to roster issues, the Vikes have used the unexpected break to get healthy and practice for a key stretch of the schedule.
In some ways, the extra time provided by the Jackson forfeit has been a blessing for the Vikings, coming off the program’s worst defeat in over a decade. This unexpected buffer has given the Vikes room to get healthier and better. And they’ve needed it.
Revisting West Linn Issues
Multiple players were injured at West Linn, including a Viking lineman who was taken to a Portland-area hospital after suffering a series of illegal blows to the head. The illegal strikes were delivered by a West Linn player after the Viking lineman’s helmet had come loose.
By rule, players are required to remove themselves from the play upon loss of helmet and opposing players are prohibited from engaging with helmet less players.
A fifteen yard penalty was called against the West Linn player, but due to the egregious nature of the play and the injury suffered by the Lake player, Viking head coach Tom Tri was in contact with West Linn coach Jon Eagle in the week following the game. Eagle said he wasn’t aware of the nature of the play until his staff reviewed game tape. Eagle apologized to Tri for the incident, stated that the play was not indicative of the football he teaches and that the West Linn player was facing internal discipline.
Eagle is a two time Washington State 4A title-winning coach at Camas.
Get Back for Gray - Vikes Motivated for Tonight’s Opp
The Vikes enter Friday’s contest seeking symbolic retribution for a former captain: in last year’s thrilling win over Eastlake, Viking senior QB Gray Murren saw his prep career end at the hands of a Wolves pass rusher.
Murren suffered a broken collarbone as he was flung to the turf, a split second after releasing the game-winning TD on a fourth and goal play. Might as well take a quick look back at that iconic play:
Roughing the passer was called but it was little help to Murren, who’d played his last down as a Viking.
Murren is currently on the roster at Pacific University in Oregon, where he’s expected to compete for playing time next season.
Looking Ahead to League Play
The Vikes face a tough one tonight against Eastlake, then its Homecoming vs league foe Mariner — a game in which the Vikings will be favored to earn their 51st straight league win.
After that it’s away at Kamiak before a season-defining battle agains the current 4A #1 Glacier Peak in Lake Stevens, where the 2022 team will look to extend the program’s signature league winning streak against an extremely difficult opponent.
Taking Stock of Strengths…and Areas of Opportunity
Despite holding on to a lofty #4 ranking in the current statewide 4A poll, the Vikings have underperformed based on their own high expectations.
Compared to previous seasons, the passing game has yet to catch fire and a defense facing more time on the field has surrendered more yards and points.
On average, Viking opponents are outgaining Lake 430 to 343 and out passing the Vikes 214 to 145. Part of that is because the Vikings have faced the two best quarterback in WA and OR respectively. Further, Viking scoring is down by almost two TDs per game over last year.
Jayden Limar Maintaining Usual Standards (of Excellence)
On the other hand, the Vikes star RB Jayden Limar has performed up to his exceedingly high standards, more or less matching his four game output from last year despite barely playing at West Linn due to injury.
Limar is averaging over 7.5 yards per carry and 150 yards of total offense per game, to go along with six touchdowns.
QBs About to Break Big?
The passing game offers the biggest potential area of gain for the Vikes as Lake’s two young, talented quarterbacks are likely to pick up steam as the season continues.
I’ve reported on the Vikings on and off since 2006 and it’s not the first time that young QBs have had to mature in the middle of the season.
Viking QB legends like Nick Baker and Jake Nelson — even Jacob Eason — had rough periods before they got comfortable and started slinging it.
In attending practice lately, I feel like both Kolton Matson and Kaden Laplaunt are taking big steps forward in both ability in leadership. The skill set is there. The spike in results will follow parallel to the developing confidence of the two talented signal callers.
In summary, I’m predicting a sharp uptick in the Viking offense as a result of the rest afforded to Jayden Limar and the constant improvement of the Matson and Laplaunt.
Game Preview: #10 Eastlake Wolves at #4 Lake Stevens Vikings, 7pm tonight
Know the Opponent: Eastlake brings a 4-1 record and a #10 ranking in the AP 4A poll. They’ve defeated their last two Kingco league opponents by a combined score of 81-13. Eastlake beat Union 35-32, got past Mount Tahoma 61-21, lost to KingCo leaders Skyline 21-7, then beat Issaquah 54-13 before blanking Woodinville 27-0….the Wolves returned just one starter on offense and five on defense from the 2021 State Quarterfinalists.
Eastlake Players to Watch
QB Cole Hunt is a threat to throw or pass and has 12 total touchdowns. Senior RB Blake Borup has nine rushing touchdowns. Junior receiver Grady Woodward is a UW commit - for baseball — and has eight touchdowns on the season, seven receptions and a kickoff return.
Viking Players to Watch
In addition to the always-explosive Notre Dame-committed superstar Jayden Limar… and the aforementioned quarterbacks… sophomore WR Cassidy Bolong-Banks is a big-play threat on offense, averaging over 17 yards per carry — and a lockdown CB on defense. He’s due for a pick six. His partner at corner Ike Redford leads the team in catches and yards as a wideout and is probably due for a signature game - he was working late with Kolton Matson Thursday, dialing in several routes….Senior Joey McGinnis is fighting off some bumps and bruises while holding down the fort for the Viking defense at middle linebacker…McGinnis, one of the best students on the team, is also one of the Vikings’ toughest competitors. He’s second on the team in tackles. One player I haven’t talked about enough is junior linebacker Mason Turner, who leads the team in tackles and is expected to start at left tackle Friday. Junior standout Bryce Slezak will shift in from his normal LT spot to man LG for the time being, while Aaron Parker recovers. Turner has line experience from the playoff run last season and also played some h-back, showing off impressive agility and athleticism for a guy who’ll be manning the tackle spot… sophomore RB/LB Jayshon Limar continues to recover and his status for Friday isn’t known at this time.
Game Notes and Prediction
The Vikings have worked hard on a few wrinkles on both sides of the ball…but defensive coordinator Eric Dinwiddie has spent even more that his usual maniacal amounts of time preparing Lake’s defensive game plan, which keys on stopping an explosive Eastlake rushing attack. The Vikes want to bottle up RB Blake Borup and force QB Cole Hunt into some uncomfortable down and distance situations conducive to creating some turnovers...
…The Vikes have playmakers on defense. This may be the game that we see the D making its impact felt by reducing the opponent’s scoring opportunities…while scoring some points of their own.
On offense, the Vikings are going to be without their recruitable left guard vs Eastlake.
But line coach Geoff Dishion has excellent players at his disposal, and junior Mason Turner -set to start at left tackle — is already a star on defense (see the stats below). Bryce Slezak is a junior with the physical and emotional maturity of a man twice his age and will have no issues covering for Parker.
Jayden Limar looks fast, healthy, happy and strong. I’d be nervous if I were Eastlake.
All in all, I see a huge game for Jayden, a long touchdown pass to Ike Redford, a pick six from a Viking DB and big step forward in the Viking passing game.
I like the Vikings to move to 4-2 behind a 37-21 win over Eastlake.
Viking Team and Statistical Leaders
TOTAL OFFENSE/TOTAL DEFENSE
RUSH + PASS = TOTAL
LS 871 (217.8) + 583 (145.8) = 1454 (363.5)
Opp 865 (216.3) + 857 (214.3) = 1722 (430.5)
SCORING | YARDS/PLAY
LS 35 27 27 33 -- 122 (30.5 AVG) | 6.7
Opp. 28 62 17 13 -- 120 (30.0 AVG) | 7.7
FIRST DOWNS | PENALTIES
LS 78 (19.5 AVG) | 17 For 155 YDS (38.8 AVG)
Opp. 68 (17.0 AVG) | 37 For 365 YDS (91.3 AVG)
PASSING comp/att/yds % TD/int
Kolton Matson 33/50 for 316 66% 3/5
Kaden LaPlaunt 18/30 for 233 60% 2/1
Opponent 53/86 for 857 62% 9/3
RUSHING # yds yds/c TD
Jayden Limar 67 497 7.4 6
Bolong-Banks 6 103 17.1 1
Sedano 17 102 6.0 2
Rai 11 78 7.1 1
Jayshon Limar 13 76 5.8 1
Matson 5 29 5.8
RECEIVING # yds avg TD
Redford 14 205 14.6 1
Becker 11 119 10.8 1
Jayden Limar 11 100 9.1 1
Belong-Banks 10 100 10.0 1
Brown 3 28 9.3 1
Varela 2 19 9.5
McMillin 1 12
Turner 38 (2)
McGinnis 37 (4)
Brown 28 (1)
Lee 24 (6)
Kylany 21 (2)
Kaile 20 (2)
Hendrickson 16 (3)
Becker 16 (2)
Avery 15 (4)
Parker 12 (2)
Slezak 11 (4)
Js. Limar 11 (1)
Lynch 7 (1)
Baird 3 (2)
Waxham 1 (1)
Rai 1 (1)
Tautolo 1 (1)
Jd. Limar 1
QB SACKS (2 total)
FUMBLES RECOVERED (3)
McGinnis 1 (48-YD TD Return)
LS (2/3) Flanders 21 Good, 42 Good, 39 blocked
Opp. (1/2) 35 NG, 19 Good
Flanders 5 For 179 YDS = 35.8 Avg.