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Wesco Championship Tonight: Lake Stevens Fans Aim to Turn Memorial Stadium Purple
The 7-1 Vikings take on 6-2 Glacier Peak with a 57-game Wesco win streak on the line -- as well as hopes for a playoff one seed. Viking fans will flood downtown Snohomish ahead of the 7pm kick.
Over a thousand Lake Stevens fans are expected to make the six-mile journey east Friday for the Wesco Conference championship game between Lake Stevens (7-1, 3-0) and Glacier Peak (6-2, 3-0), turning the single-stand seats at Veterans Memorial Stadium a uniform purple ahead of the 7:00 pm kick between the 425 rivals.
By now, Vikings fans will be used to the annual resuscitation of all the different streaks on the line in the year’s final regular season contest. The Vikings enter the contest seeking their 57th straight Wesco Conference victory; their 11th straight Wesco Conference Championship and their 20th consecutive win against Washington State opponents. Our advice: get to Memorial Stadium by no later than 6:00 if you want a decent seat.
Perhaps more to the point, the Vikings seek to not only add another conference championship trophy to the display, they seek to reinforce their resume as a presumed top seed in the upcoming WIAA playoffs.
For a team like the Vikings – a team with legitimate 14-game season parameters – a team with legitimate sights set on a date at Husky Stadium in December…it is absolutely vital to carve out a path that features as many home games as possible while keeping the top competition on the other side of the bracket.
We saw the benefits of this pay off last year when Lake enjoyed the benefit of its comfy local trappings and raucous home crowd through the state semifinals (Week 13 – when the dispatched reigning champ Graham-Kapowsin in front of the home crowd and punched a ticket to the title game).
The work required to earn a top seed is mostly done at this point. All that is required now is the addition of another link at the end of the Wesco streaks, an eighth regular season win, a conference championship, and another good road win against a 6-3 opponent (Glacier Peak). From there, we enter the crossover purgatory of Week 10, a sloppy pre-sort ahead of the introduction of a 16-team state bracket.
Typically, Week 10 (Round of 32) features what amounts to a rough sorting of the competitors by region… ahead of placement into a traditional bracket in Week 11. In past years, seeding committees have broken down the Week 10 field into twelve east side teams and 20 west side teams – meaning that should Lake Stevens win Friday at Glacier Peak, their initial seeding group is amidst 19 other westside playoff teams (basically the playoff designees from the SPSL, Kingco, NPSL, GSHL and Wesco teams). Should the Vikings win that closed-door, gloves-off committee argument for seeding priority (amongst the twenty westside teams), they’ll be well-placed to win an argument for a top-two seed when the eastside teams enter the bracket Week 11.
And if that sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo, think of it this way: the Vikings face just a handful of identified competitors who can make a legitimate argument for the top west side team. For the purposes of this argument, we’ll just narrow it down to the league champion of each west side league: Kingco’s Eastlake (8-1), the SPSL’s Graham-Kapowsin (9-0), the NPSL’s JFK/Kennedy Catholic (8-1), the GSHL’s Camas (8-1) and Wesco’s Lake Stevens (8-1 assuming a win Friday).
Going by the latest statewide AP Poll, the Vikings dropped to second after someone gave a first-place vote to number nine Eastmont, putting the Vikings just a few points behind top choice Graham-Kapowsin.
The Viks are followed by Curtis (who already lost and is out of this discussion), Camas, JFK, and eventually Eastlake. But we also know that the opinions of the AP voters are about as impactful as the whims of the WIAA’s crazy RPI system when it comes to convincing the committee members of your resume. In the free-for-all discussion that takes place, the team that makes the most convincing real-world argument for supremacy usually ends up getting a top 2 seed in the Round of 16 (as the Vikings did last year).
And, if anything, the Vikings are even better positioned to make the case for the top overall seed than in 2022.
The Case for the Top-Seeded Vikings
In fact, if the Vikings take care of business in Snohomish Friday, J425 believes no one can touch the Vikings’ case for number one. Behold the resume: The Vikings are not only the reigning 4A state champions, but they also possess the state’s longest win streak against Washington State competition (20 games), a streak that contains multiple wins over Eastlake, Bellevue and Glacier Peak in addition to wins over fellow top competitors Graham-Kapowsin and JFK.
But someone might say “Hey those wins occurred last year, they shouldn’t count.”
In 2023, the Vikings own the single best win on any of the 4A contenders’1 schedules: at Eastlake (#2 RPI, Kingco Champion, 8-1).
In addition, the Vikings are the only 4A contender with a win over a fellow 4A conference champion – the Vikings knocked off the 4A Kingco champ Eastlake. But that’s not all. The Viks are the only 4A contender with two wins against 2023 conference champions – because the Vikings also took out the 3A Kingco Champion Bellevue Wolverines at their house in September (meaning that a case could be made that the Vikings are the honorary Kingco 4A and 3A unified champion). That information alone should be enough to win any argument because honestly, what can anyone say to that? Fellow 8-1 Camas is gonna say they beat two teams inside their own league?
Or is 8-1 Eastlake gonna mount an argument that says they’re better than the 8-1 Wesco champs-slash-reigning-state-champs that just beat the Wolves at their own Homecoming?
This leaves Graham-Kapowsin as the only team with a possible argument at taking the top seed from the Viks. The argument doesn’t withstand scrutiny though, because even though Graham-Kapowsin can match the Vikings’ top four wins by overall record (both teams have a combined 25-12 opponent aggregate record when viewing the records of their best four wins) – G-K doesn’t have a win that matches Lake’s win at Kingco champ Eastlake and their wins against 7-2, 6-3 and 5-4 SPSL teams is not equivalent to victories over sitting league champions Eastlake and Bellevue – and I’m not just saying that, the statement holds true no matter how you slice it, whether you use RPI or the AP Poll or MaxPreps Power Rankings or just common sense. Champions beating fellow champions is the currency of respect.
Finally, when considering G-K and Lake Stevens head-to-head it’s impossible to disregard the fact that it’s the Vikings who are the reigning state champions and the Vikings who are the last team to beat Graham-Kapowsin – two more points that add to the argument that Lake has earned the top seed at this point in time.
All of that having been said, I wouldn’t put it past the WIAA to find a way to muck it all up completely. It’s entirely possible they’ll introduce a new system of blind rochambeaux mixed with straw drawing and we’ll have 2-7 Kamiak with the top seed.
Viking Leaders at the All-Star Break
Senior Nights are such a strange phenomenon for a team that has legitimate plans to host four more home games. It’s so odd to watch other Fall sports wind down as the Vikings motor past their halfway pole. Such is the life of serial championship contenders, stuck in the self-empowering cycle of extra games, which lead to extra practices…garnering extra experience …resulting in accelerated player development and compounded improvement year-over-year. From a wide angle, success is an incredible development tool at the high school football level. Consider Lake’s Class of 2025 players. They played six postseason games in 2021 and another six in 2022. That’s 12 additional weeks of top-notch opponents with weeks of playoff-intensity practice and game-planning sandwiched in between. In short, it’s like saying Lake’s juniors are the equivalent of anyone else’s top-tier battle-tested seniors.
With that long intro out of the way, I’ll segue into the original topic: Viking stat leaders at the just-over-halfway point. Stats are updated through the Week 8 win over Kamiak. Given current pace, Lake’s State Player of the Year Candidate Kolton Matson remains on pace to challenge and possibly eclipse former five-star recruit and NFL QB Jacob Eason’s program record for passing TDs in a season (43 in 2015). But aside from Kolton’s outstanding numbers – which really haven’t looked like hard work for him, especially given the recent spate of pulled-by-the-third-quarter performances…this year’s Viking squad exhibits a deep and wide balance – at least from a statistical point of view.
The rushing leader Jayshon Limar hasn’t played in a month (will we see him again soon? Stay tuned) and the rushing touchdown leader didn’t see serious volume until October. The Viking sacks and tackles for a loss leader switched to a new position right before the season and has been an extremely pleasant surprise, delivering a first-team all-conference performance at DE. Mason Turner was a star from day one, but junior Keagan Howard roams the middle of the field with him and the team tackle lead has gone back and forth, with number 80 taking the honors at the current point in time. I bet you could ask five different coaches who the receiving leaders are for this year’s Vikings and you might get five different answers – and all could sound viable. But the correct answers are Paul Varela (catches) and David Brown (yards, TDs). With that said, the playoffs are approaching and this is the time where the stars begin to separate: see Limar, Jayden, 2022. For now, here are the current Viking stat leaders courtesy of J425 and Viking Football statistician Mike Anderton: