Travel Notes: Plan on 90 minutes of road time between Lake Stevens and Mt. Tahoma High School…leave at least another 20 minutes to get from your car into the stands…be aware that the parking situation at Mt. Tahoma is both difficult and dangerous…you’ll likely park in poorly-muddy fields intersected by clothesline-height steel cables. J425 watched several vehicles run into these lines after dark last year. The Vikings are assigned the VISITOR stands…Be aware that Mt. Tahoma is a particularly cold and dark venue with difficult seating. If you have elderly or wheelchair-bound folks with you, add a lot of extra time, space is at a premium for the most vulnerable…you’ll also be thankful if you pack a few blankets and a flashlight for the journey back to the car.
"It is so hard. People don’t understand how many good coaches there are in this state, and how many programs that are good - and what it takes to get to this point." - Sheldon Cross
Viking HC Tom Tri is in his 18th season at Lake Stevens (153-45 record). This is Tri’s third championship game appearance. Sheldon Cross is in his seventh season at Kennedy Catholic and owns a 54-16 record. This is Cross’ first Championship game with the Lancers.
Roster Link: Kennedy Catholic LancersRoster Link:Lake Stevens Vikings
Nov. 11 - Lake Stevens 42, North Creek 27 — Vikings dispatch the 15th-seeded Kingco squad in a route that looks closer than it actually was.
Nov. 19 - Lake Stevens 42, Gonzaga Prep 17 (State Quarterfinals) - The Vikings send the Bullpups packing in the quarters for the second straight year behind five Jayden Limar TDs.
Nov. 26 - Lake Stevens 42, Graham-Kapowsin 28 (State Semifinals) - The Vikes achieve get back by knocking out the title holders behind Jayden Limar’s epic six touchdown performance.
Kennedy Catholic’s route to the title began with the fourth-seeded Lancers defeating No. 13 seed Richland in the first round 46-35 behind 252 yards rushing from Xeree Alexander. Kennedy Catholic bested 5-seed Skyline in the quarters 38-10 before sliding past the 8th-seeded Emerald Ridge Jaguars in the semifinals last week by the identical score to the Vikings: 42-28.
Before we get into the score details, let’s take a look at what each side is attempting to do on respective sides of the ball.
"We value ourselves being able to spread the field, and spread out the touches. We are a very balanced team in that way.” - Sheldon Cross, Lancers HC
Look for Sheldon Cross to deploy an innovative juxtaposition of tactically-deployed Air Raid and Wing T principles.
In effect, this is less of a conceptual merge and more of Cross deploying two different personnel groups to execute two vastly different styles.
Cross still leans most heavily on the KC Air Raid brought to fame by Sam Huard.
the diminutive but strong armed sophomore QB Devon Forehand (PASS: 145 for 211 68.7% 2,474 yards, 28 TDs) is in shotgun.
During which, Forehand tests the defense vertically via wideouts Mason Hayes and Maclane Watkins, opening up interior running lanes for 6’3 ASU commit RB Xe’ree Alexander.
in situations calling for ball or time control.
And when QB Payton Faker is under center. Fiker can throw too: 69 for 125 55% 1,137 yards — 15 total TDs
Coach Cross leverages his Wing T group in multiple downs and distances but his major innovation is the application of Wing T 2-pt conversion attempts as an extra point replacement.
For Kennedy Catholic, that player is 6’3 RB/LB Xe’ree Alexander. Alexander powers the running game and does far more than keep defenses honest - he peers the entire attack across all offensive principles, averaging close to ten yards per carry. In the playoffs, Alexander has hit fifth gear, including a 13 rush 252 yards performance against Richland.
"We run as much motion as probably any team in the state. And that is all part of it - part of motion is disguise and part of it is moving our best athletes to an entirely new area to try and find that hole in the defense." - Tom Tri
Tom Tri is the most accomplished offensive mind in Washington High School football. Externally known for his passing game acumen, Tri’s offenses are actually run dominant, churning out eye popping statistics year after year. 2022 is no different, as Notre Dame commit Jayden Limar is just 167 yards shy of a 2,000 yard rushing season. How does Tri do it? Well across his offense, he is adept at exploiting matchups, leveraging motion and making opponents defend the full width and length of the field. Further, Tri has apparently studied at the Kyle Shanahan School of Infinite Plays, Finite Alignments — Tri loves to show defenses similiar or repeated alignments in order to set expectations and lay the ground work for a shattering against-type play call later in the game.
Sophisticated - Some years back Tom Tri began executing a longterm strategic plan that began with 7th graders. They form the base of the Viking program. The strategic initiatives: install Tri’s desired spread/shift offense at varsity - then task Varsity assistant coaches with parallel head coaching and/or coordinator duties at the 7th and 8th grade levels — where they install the same offense used at Varsity. Tri began rolling this out in or around 2008. So by 2013, Tri had his first group of fully indoctrinated Seniors. And it’s been the sane ever since. In real world terms? Tri’s Viking upperclassmen are in their fifth and sixth years running the offense. You think I’m saying they know the plays well? No i’m saying that their comprehension of the system is leaps and bounds beyond an understanding of plays. These kids understand the strategic goal of each play. The internal strategies and leverage points. On each play, they understand their role and responsibility acutely, they understand how their roles and responsibilities service the larger strategic goal of the play, and they’ve run each iteration of these co concepts live so many times that the level of mastery is approaching 10,000 hours type stuff. It’s a sophisticated offense and Tri expects a lot of his players. But they’ve been educated in the specifics and dynamics to such a degree that a master play caller such as Tri is able to tap while new levels of strategy and utility based off the sophisticated ability to execute that’s been long since drilled into his players. It’s a tremendous advantage.
Athletic: The line isn’t a bunch of road graders. But they aren’t small either. What they are is athletic. Sudden. Strong. Fast. And just as sophisticated as every other sixth year student of the Tri attack. Tackles Micah Avery and Bryce Slezak both run sub 5.0 40s. 295-pound Aaron Parker can drop down into the full splits. He can also squat 500. Ashten Hendrickson and Grant Lynch offer bones snapping violence with their hands and precision agility on the hoof. As a result this line is purpose built for the record setting rushing attack it’s unleashed…but it’s also a phenomenal pass blocking unit. Kolton Matson has been sacked just twice. The athleticism is key on the edges as well. And by this I mean wideouts. And the type of athleticism we see here is physicality and physical dominance. It’s evident in the rag dolling of DBs occurring near the line of scrimmage every time the Vikings run. These WRs get after it. By the third quarter you can often see opposing secondary players seeking to simply avoid engaging with another Cole Becker ass-kicking. This is an athleticism that wears on people.
The J425 is working on a long-form feature story encapsulating the great Jayden Limar’s career. Look for that before Christmas. In the meantime, we’ll let the picture tell the story. I’m sure we’ll have plenty to say about Jayden on the live blog.
As we discussed above, Vikings DC Eric Dinwiddie drilled and drilled and drilled his charges on the value of defending the two point conversion, as well as providing a refresher on taking on a Wing T approach. Dinwiddie — who emerged from a Wing T high school program — has historically prepared the Vikings to incapacitate opponent Wing T attacks. Let’s not forget who ended Bellevue’s 18 game winning streak earlier this year.
So with that said, we think the defense will be the first to properly neutralize Kennedy Catholic’s demoralizing Wing T short game/two point conversion offense. From there, we know Dinwiddie will look to stop the run — Alexander is a real threat. If the Vikings can handle the run game and force the Lancer’s sophomore QB to lean on the vertical ball…we like the Vikings chances of causing turnovers and getting the best of the exchanges.
As far as Tom Tri’s offense, it’s hotter than fish grease right now, ripping through the state’s top ranked team with a 57-spot before entering the playoffs by dropping a nine touchdown performance on Bethel. Since then, Tri has taken it easy on folks, scoring just 42 in each of the last three. Part of that is thanks to the rapidly intensifiying threat that is Kolten Matson. Man is he gonna be fun to watch the next two years. No offense to last year’s Kolton…who threw a TD pass in a title game as a middle schooler…but this year’s version is unrecognizable. He runs like a bucking colt and the passes are humming out of that right hand with ever increasing velocity and spin rate — but with the usual Drew Brees-like 72-percent accuracy. We like Kolton to put on a show tonight.
With that said, no one in the state is more dangerous than Jayden Limar. Well, except for a highly-motivated Jayden Limar. And that’s what the Vikings have Saturday - the program’s most incandescent star looking to go out on top. He needs 167 yards for 2000. Anyone betting against that?
We think Kennedy Catholic is a strong team from a seriously rising program. This is a roster laden with talent and players like Alexander and Banuelos received SEC occurs for a reason. But when it comes to stars, none is bigger than Jayden Limar — it’s a given that he’ll perform tonight. And when Jayden plays his game, the Vikings haven’t lost since 2020. Ever. That’s not going to start tonight. We like the Vikings to win this one going away. But what the hell, we’ll call it 42-28 for the Vikings, who bring home the State Championship to Lake Stevens. We see at least four touchdowns and 167 yards for Jayden…a 200+ yard performance for Kolton highlighted by a breakaway touchdown run…and interceptions by all three of the Vikings’ “starting” cornerbacks: Ike Redford, Cassidy Belong-Banks and Paul Varela. Check back after 4pm for the J425 Live Thread link.
"Not only do you have to be good, but a little lucky — and you have to stay healthy." Tom Tri
- Today’s title game will crown a first-time champion. Neither school has secured a football state title.
- This is the third appearance in the Championship game for Vikings HC Tom Tri. His Vikings have navigated their way to December football in three out of the last four regular seasons, finishing second twice.
- Current Lake Stevens School District Superintendent Ken Collins — a former WSU and New England Patriot - led the Vikings to a title berth in 1994, losing to O’Dea 7-6 in an infamous contest marked by two missed 20-yard kicks — an extra point and a would-be game winning field goal. In both cases, Lake’s star QB (who doubled as place kicker) powered his kick so far above the goal post arms that it was impossible to tell via the naked eye whether the kick was true.
- Kennedy Catholic and Lake Stevens met in the Spring’s Lakewood 7v7 Championship, with the Vikings getting the best of the Lancers. At the time, KC players (correctly) predicted a December rematch was on the cards.
- Aaron Parker, the Vikings’ 6’2 295-pound All Wesco Guard made a name for himself on the recruiting scene this summer by dominating Kennedy Catholic’s four star USC-commit Micah Banuelos at a big man camp. As Ryland Spencer put it: “Lake Stevens (Wash.) lineman Aaron Parker kicked off his 2022 camp season with an MVP performance at the first Central Washington University Satellite Camp. Parker stands 6-foot-2, 290-pounds, with a wing-span of about 6-foot-6. He shows a very nice first step that leads to tremendous power and nastiness that isn't typically seen at the high school level.” Ryland doesn’t say that Banuelos asked out of drills including Parker, but that’s what the J425 has heard from multiple camp attendees.
- Jayden Limar is just 167 yards away from a 2,000 yard rushing season. Check out Jayden’s season and career stats at the J425 page dedicated to his career achievements: