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Playoff Preview: Emerald Ridge Jags (5-4) at Lake Stevens Vikings (7-0)
Undefeated but hobbled by injury, the Lake Stevens Vikings look to fend off a tough SPSL opponent in a Saturday playoff matinee
As far as 5-4 teams go, this one is about as tough as they get.
Tomorrow, the undefeated Wesco Champion Vikings welcome in the 5-4 Emerald Ridge Jags, the fifth-place finisher in the South Puget Sound League (SPSL).
The record, however, doesn’t tell the full story: the undefeated Vikings will likely start a quarterback that isn’t even in high school yet… against a talented opponent that beat a top 10 team, and lost to two others by a combined six points.
What to Expect from Emerald Ridge
The Puyallup-based Jags feature a sophomore quarterback (Jake Schakel) with offers from Nevada and Florida Atlantic University, a 6’3 senior wide receiver committed to the University of Washington (Denzel Boston) and a linebacker who runs an 11.3 100m (Asher Ogden).
The Jags compete in a league that includes the AP’s top team, Graham-Kapowsin, as well as Sumner, Bellarmine Prep, Olympia and Puyallup — all of which have graced the 4A top ten rankings this season. The Jags lost big to Sumner and Graham Kapowsin, but beat Olympia and lost to Bellarmine Prep and Puyallup by a combined six points.
The Emerald Ridge spread offense is led by QB Jake Schakel who completed 73% of his passes for nearly 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Schakel spreads the ball to three receivers — the UW commit Boston; sophomore Tony Harste, the team’s leading receiver; and senior Preston Landeis.
Together, the trio represents 1600+ yards of receiving and 21 touchdown catches. On the downside, the Jags are dependent on the pass and have struggled to run the ball, averaging just at 60 yards per game on the ground.
On defense, the Jags are led by senior standout Asher Ogden, a decathlete with blistering speed and strength.
What to Expect from the Vikings
By now, we’re familiar with all the Vikings stars and the roles they play in Tom Tri’s preferred method of victory: a dominating ground game wrapped up in the shiny veneer of a shotgun spread attack. That said, the Vikings will have to overcome significant adversity to progress to the round of 16 playoffs next week.
After losing star senior QB Grayson Murren two weeks ago to a fractured leg, the Vikings lost his sophomore understudy Kaden LaPlaunt to injury this week: LaPlaunt sustained a concussion while throwing a game-winning touchdown pass to Trayce Hanks last week at Glacier Peak. The defender was flagged for targeting.
Next up at QB is freshman Kolton Matson, who would’ve been quarterbacking the Cavalero Colts ninth grade team this season if he hadn’t missed the campaign with an injury to his non-throwing arm. Matson was cleared last week, and he’s likely to start a home playoff game in the first time he sports the Vikings varsity uniform.
Last week, the Vikings compensated for the loss of Murren by inserting star RB Jayden Limar into the quarterback role for the majority of the snaps. Limar ran for over 200 yards and powered the Vikings to a win without throwing a single pass, so the obvious conclusion is that instead of leaning on a third string non-high school quarterback making his first ever start, Tri will once again return to the Limar plan behind center.
That said, Tri is not afraid to throw the freshman into the mix. The Vikings spent a considerable amount of time in practice with the freshman quarterback, indicating that Tri does plan to throw the ball against the Jags.
Regardless of injury, we know this much: Tri is in a quest to win his first state title, and to do that, the Vikings absolutely must get past the Emerald Ridge Jags. IF Tri can pilot the Vikes through tomorrow’s battle, reinforcements may be on the way. That’s a big “if” though. In addition to battling a game opponent, the Vikings play at a strange time (2 pm) in an environment that is likely to be less energized than the typical Lake Stevens home game. Stranger still, the football game is scheduled parallel to a home volleyball game. Why the WIAA schedule makers insisted on such a strange time and date is beyond me, but there is no doubt that a 2 pm Saturday start certainly saps some of the home-field advantage that the Vikings earned with their undefeated season.
We like the Vikings to escape in a thriller similar in score to Lake’s last two wins.
Let’s call it a 35-27 win assisted by a dominating defensive effort from senior Drew Carter, who we think will be extra motivated to get through to the round of 16 in the hopes of giving his close friend Grayson Murren at least one more opportunity to suit up in the Purple and Gold.
Kickoff is at 2 pm tomorrow at Lake Stevens Stadium. The forecast calls for a cold, rainy, breezy day. Get there early as parking will be at a premium: expect a large contingent from Emerald Ridge as well as the presence of the volleyball crowd. The theme for the student section is “Super Fan” so in support of that theme, maybe try and get in your seat a good 15 minutes before kickoff? We’ll see you there - look for our live Game Thread to go live with sideline coverage starting at 1:30 pm.