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Viking Football: Title Defense Begins Friday Night in Lake Stevens
The 4A Champion Lake Stevens Vikings welcome 3A power Garfield for the home opener this Friday, 7 pm kickoff at Lake Stevens High School Stadium.
Coming off a magical 2022 season that ended with Viking players and coaches hoisting a trophy in Tacoma, the 4A State Champion Lake Stevens Vikings open the 2023 season this Friday in Lake Stevens (kickoff at 7pm) versus 3A power Garfield… in one of the most anticipated openers in the Northwest.
The Vikings will look to avenge last year’s 26-16 season-opening loss to Garfield in Seattle, a contest in which Cal-bound Bulldog QB EJ Caminong diced up the Viking D with his strong right arm and ability to scramble. Garfield has high hopes for 2023 after adding three highly-recruited players this offseason, including four star athlete Rahshawn Clark, formerly of Federal Way. Clark is also committed to California.
As always, J425 will publish a pick and preview Friday morning and the Hall of Famer Mike Anderton will compile stats and pen the game story, and J425 will be on the sidelines for a live game blog, posting 4K highlights of every big play and TD as it happens. Subscribe now to ensure you don’t miss a snap.
The Vikings, on the other hand, must contend with the loss of the best player in program history, reigning Gatorade State Player of the Year Jayden Limar, who is sporting #27 in Eugene this season. The 2023 Viks are also dealing with the graduation of four of five offensive line starters as well as the loss of backup QB Kaden Laplaunt and starting WR/CB Cassidy Bolong-Banks, both of whom moved out of district (Laplaunt is the new starting quarterback at neighboring Granite Falls).
With all that attrition, it’s almost hard to believe that Lake Stevens tops the MaxPreps 4A and regardless-of-classification polls and is considered by many to be a top title threat for the third consecutive season. Key word: almost.
Expectations Remain High in Lake Stevens
Expectations and morale are high in the 425 because of a pair of rising juniors in the backfield, a packed, talented defense and a matched set of bad-asses at the offensive tackle positions (both of whom carry big responsibilities on defense). Leading the way is third year starter and rising junior QB Kolton Matson.
Number twelve has started the last two 4A title games and followed up a stellar showing in the 2021 playoffs with a 2022 season marked by increasing confidence and ultimately – a calm and decisive performance in the state title game. Sporting a ring and enjoying a growth spurt, Matson hit the camp circuit and turned heads with an increasingly powerful arm and his noted 4.65 speed.
The Viking signal caller took home MVP honors at multiple camps and continues to carry the mantle of the top 2025 QB in the state of Washington (so-dubbed by Ford Sports Performance honcho Tracy Ford).
And while the Vikings will certainly miss a certain #17 – the man who holds every meaningful program rushing and scoring record is now an Oregon Duck – Jayden’s shoes and jersey will be ably-filled by a man with a direct claim to the role: Jayden’s younger, bigger brother Jayshon Limar (also a rising junior) is sporting the familiar 17 and will start at running back for Tom Tri’s Vikings.
The younger Limar holds at least eight high major offers including Notre Dame, Stanford and Oregon among others and is rated a three star prospect by 247 – a rating that is sure to go up given the fact that Jayshon missed almost an entire year with injury. He returns to action on the heels of a successful camp circuit and is casting a noticeably bigger shadow – he’s listed at 6’1 205 and he’s every bit of that.
Finally, Viking captains Gabe Kylany (WR/SS) and Bryce Slezak (LT/DL) bring skill, leadership and experience. Slezak is a three year starter at left tackle who is receiving recruiting interest from the Ivys and Montana schools, among others. Kylany showed out in last week’s jamboree at Glacier Peak, intercepting a ball and scoring twice in two quarters of play.
Carrying the sledgehammer, pairing off with Slezak at the opposite tackle position as well as starting at middle linebacker and long snapper is senior powerhouse Mason Turner. The NFL-linebacker-sized Turner ( 6’3 245 lb) runs a sub 4.9 40 and led the Vikings in tackles as a junior. Coaches and one recruiting analyst J425 spoke with believe Turner is a favorite for All State honors alongside top 50 national recruit Braden Platt of Yelm.
The Viking defense is rounded out by All Area hitter Steven Lee, Jr who received one of the highest vote totals in All League voting from opposing coaches, who routinely commented on the threat Lee represents in both sealing the edge and in coverage. Lee doubles as a starting WR, where he is joined by returning starter and fellow hurdler David Brown.
In Brown and Lee, the Vikings possess two 6’2+ outside receivers with top 5 State times in the 110m high hurdles. Brown will deploy his explosiveness in a new role on defense as well. More on that after Week 1.
Other potential breakout performers include Senior WR/DBs Jesse and Jaxson Lewis, both entering their third year of varsity ball; Senior running back Esteban Sedano who averaged over five yards per carry and scored four touchdowns; Senior WR/CB/KR Paul Varela who impressed many with a bigtime performance in the state title game and Junior WR/LB Keagan Howard who has joined the ranks of FSP performers and was recently favorable compared to top 50 national recruit T’Andre Waverly of Kamiak in an FSP social media post.
Notes: Lake Stevens has won ten straight conference titles and owns a 54-game Wesco winning streak dating to 2013. Lake has won 49 of those 54 games by double digits with an average margin of victory of over 40 points. The 2022 Viking D allowed just 27 total points in league play. The offense is young and a bit inexperienced, but key pieces are back at some of the right positions (quarterback, running back, left tackle)...Matson passed for a sterling 70% completion rate last year with 17 touchdowns…expect that TD figure to double this season…Matson, who rushed for 246 yards and three touchdowns last year, recently ran a 4.65 40 time at an FSP event…this year’s Viking squad offers some of the best team speed seen in the Tom Tri era. Matson may be the Viks fastest signal caller, both starting tackles run sub 5 40s and the aforementioned Lee and Brown are state title threats in the high hurdles. Hurdling…the Vikings’ 2023 schedule is a mirror image of the 2022 version, with home and away date swapped. You can find schedules and rosters permanently posted at J425’s Viking Football page.
LAKE STEVENS TEAM PREVIEW
Last season: 12-2 overall, 4-0 Wesco 4A; won 4A state championship.
State championships: 2022 (4A)
State runner-up: 2018 (4A), 2021 (4A)
State Top 25: 2014 (20), 2015 (7), 2016 (13), 2017 (23), 2018 (5), 2019 (9), 2020 (4), 2021 (3), 2022 (2)
Coach: Tom Tri (19th season)
Returning starters: Three offense, six defense.
Key players: Kolton Matson, jr., QB; Jayshon Limar, jr., RB; Bryce Slezak, sr., LT/DT; Mason Turner, sr., RT/MLB; Steven Lee Jr., sr., WR/DB; Gabe Kylany, sr., WR/S; Paul Varela, sr., WR/DB; David Brown, sr., WR/DB.
Summary: The young and athletic Vikings are once again favored to take home the Wesco 4A crown this fall. After claiming their first state title and a tenth straight Wesco crown last fall, the Vikings enter 2023 with a high-profile 2025 duo in the backfield with quarterback Kolton Matson and running back Jayshon Limar, a three-star recruit according to 247sports.com. Captain and three year starter Bryce Slezak holds it down in the trenches, breaking in three new featured players on the o-line. The defense, coming off a star turn in the state title win, features an NFL-sized MLB in 2022 tackles leader Mason Turner, All-Area DB Steven Lee Jr., a three-year starter and a trio of playmaking DBs in Captain Gabe Kylany and CBs David Brown and Paul Varela. Lake Stevens continues to load up the schedule with non-conference challenges and the 2023 edition includes a first-ever trip to 3A power Bellevue, and a duo of revenge matches against the only two teams to beat the Vikings last year: Garfield in the opener and defending Oregon 6A state champion West Linn in Lake Stevens Week 4.
WESCO 4A COACHES POLL
The predicted order of finish, as voted on by the league’s coaches. Included is the average placing for each team, with the number of first-place votes in parentheses.
1. Lake Stevens (3) — 1
2. Glacier Peak (1) — 1.7
3. Kamiak — 2.5
4. Mariner — 3.3
5. Jackson — 4