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Top-Ranked Viking Football Prepares for Garfield
Camp position battles remain unsettled as Lake readies for opener
With camp coming to a close and a new school year beginning, Coach Tom Tri and his Vikings shifted into Week One game prep Monday on Lake Stevens High School’s upper grass fields. As practice neared an end, Tri installed a new set of plays in the 86 degree late summer heat, taking a moment to explain the precise ball placement required on a screen throw to his starting quarterbacks.
That’s right, plural. Quarterbacks.
Because Tri has yet to name a starting quarterback for the State’s consensus top-ranked 4A team. The quarterback battle between Junior Kaden LaPlaunt and Sophomore Kolton Matson has raged on across the offseason, through 7-7 tournaments including Lakewood, where Lake Stevens topped State Quarterfinalist Eastlake while rotating LaPlaunt and Mason at signal caller.
Initially, it seemed like the plan was to settle on a starter sometime last week. Coach Tri isn’t a believer in rotating quarterbacks and it seemed likely that Tri would begin game week preparation today with the QB two deeps settled.
That said, as practice drew to a close Monday, Matson and LaPlaunt either split snaps or took plays together (the Vikings often use two quarterbacks during offensive practice, with each responsible for on side of the field.)
Each quarterback has significant strong points. LaPlaunt earned the back-up job last year and served as Gray Murren’s understudy, starting at Glacier Peak in Murren’s absence.
However, LaPlaunt was knocked out of the GP game and then sidelined with a concussion as playoffs began. At the same time, Matson emerged from season long injury hiatus, receiving medical clearance on a longterm elbow injury right as the playoffs began. Tri thrust the freshman into the spotlight, and Matson cruised through his first two starts, going 24/27 for 455 yards in leading the Vikings in to the State Semifinals against Eastlake. Murren returned for that game before suffering yet another injury in the waning seconds of the Vikes’ win.
Matson was one of three true freshman to start/play a significant role in then State Championship loss to Graham-Kapowin (along with RB Jayshon Limar and CB Cassidy Bolong-Banks. In addition to the aforementioned playoff experience, Matson spent the offseason training at FSP with the Limar brothers and returned to the high school program with newly-earned title of the fastest QB in the region after outsprinting the stable of recruitable QBs training at FSP. Matson shows the great feet of a sprinter coming off a role on the Viking frosh 4x100 team, although he’s yet to demonstrate that straight ahead speed during a game, his feet are nimble in the pocket and his arm precise.
LaPlaunt offers an additional year of program experience, he’s slightly taller and throws with more velocity. While he didn't train at a high-end private football club, LaPlaunt can lean on relationships with his receivers forged in middle school. Further, LaPlaunt returns after nearly a full season in the understudy role. Today, as practice came to a close, LaPlaunt remained on the field throwing deep balls to David Brown and working with sophomore transfer QB Isaac Burks. LaPlaunt was the last player to leave.
In addition to the QB battle, which Coach Tri is obviously having a difficult time in picking a winner, two deep battles continued to rage at offensive skill positions, where Senior Isaac Redford has earned WR1 status, followed closely by Bolong-Banks, Brown, Jesse Lewis and transfer Paul Verala. Cole Becker has a starting spot at TE sewed up with Jaxon Lewis taking reps in that position as well.
And, of course, the Limar brothers and their 34 returning rushing touchdowns occupy the backfield. Both brothers were in pads today for the first time in a while. It’ll be interesting to see whom has the most carries by the end of the regular season. My money is on Jayshon, although Jayden has told others that he’s got his mind set on a 3,000 yard season.
Across the offensive line, the Vikings return four starters on a stellar unit with Junior Bryce Slezak back at LT, Captain Grant Lynch at C, the formidable senior Ashten Hendrickson at RG and decorated returning starter Micah Avery at RT.
Additionally, the Vikes received good news in the form of a considerable transfer addition, with recruitable LG Aaron Parker transferring in out of Lakewood. Parker checks in at 6’3 275 and posted a team-leading squat while also possessing the uncomfortable-to-watch but impressive flexibility to drop down into full splits.
Defensive Coordinator Eric Dinwiddie installed some new starters of his own, but things seemed settled as he prepared his charges for an explosive Garfield offense led by a junior QB with a UW offer. More on Garfield later this week. Key performers return across the defensive front including returning contributors Cole Becker, Slezak, Hendrickson and Junior DT Naveer Kaile, fresh off defensive camp MVP honors at Lakewood.
Rock steady Senior Joe McInnis, who led the Vikings in tackles Week 1 at O’Dea last year, holds down the middle of the defense. Competition for the starting spot next to McInnis opened up when TK Perkins retired from the program to concentrate on his burgeoning baseball career. Sophomores Mason Turner and Gage Solomon are getting looks at the weak side linebacker position, while Jayshon Limar is slated for the hybrid linebacker/nickel role.
DC Dinwiddie has luxuries across the CB section of his roster as he returns two dominant man corners in Bolong-Banks and Redford. The Lewis twins are experienced defensive backs and track star Quinton Berry (a late summer 2021 transfer from Houston, TX), he of the State-title winning 4x100 relay team, has impressed at corner with a unique package of size, speed and awareness. Competition continues at safety, where Juniors David Brown and Steven Lee — who both started games last season - return. Finally DC Dinwiddie has raved about the new starter at Viking (strong safety), Junior Gabe Kylany, a playbook and film savant who also posted a team-leading bench reps score as well as excellent lateral speed numbers.
- Speaking of speed, the Vikes team is peppered with it this season, as three varsity performers posted sub 4.5 40 times in the Spring combine, which is really moving. Senior CB Mason McMillin posted a blistering 4.45, followed by junior WR/S David Brown with a 4.48 and the aforementioned Berry at 4.49. Nipping closely at their heals with an extremely impressive 4.51 was sophomore Bolong-Banks, who shows all the signs of becoming Lake’s newest recruitable breakout superstar — including his self-appointed Showtime moniker, which adorns his practice jersey.
- The Vikings may be the unanimous top team in state 4A football, but they’re in the shadow of the nationally-ranked 3A champion Bellevue. However, the Vikings host Bellevue in the home opener, and if things break Lake’s way…the Vikes likely have a change to break into national rankings in Bellevue’s stead.
- We’ll have more on Garfield, Bellevue and the murderer’s row of a non-conference schedule (including a trip tom Oregon) assembled by Tri later on.
Check the Purple and Gold Sports section for a pinned schedule and roster, follow us on IG @thejournal425 for daily updates and check back here daily throughout the season for practice reports, notes, videos, interviews and stories. More to come soon.