Despite dominating in yardage by 429 yards to 180 and leading in first downs by 25-10, it took a Lake Stevens fourth quarter surge to pull out a 35-21 win at Stanwood’s Homecoming last Friday night.
A full moon barely penetrated the fog which rolled in thickly after halftime as Lake, perhaps expecting an easy win against a seemingly out-manned 3A nonleague opponent, played just well enough to win (and just poorly enough at times to keep stubborn Stanwood in contention). Lake now stands at 4-3 on the season, Stanwood 2-5.
It started out well enough for Lake, which received the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead just 2:54 into the game.
Jacob Eason completed five straight passes in the drive, the final toss good for a 26-yard TD to Tevin Gray. Ignacio Ponce contributed the first of his five successful PAT kicks.
Lake then held Stanwood to three and out but Justin Brown fumbled the punt return and Grant Guadamuz recovered for the Spartans on the Viking six.
Three plays later Drew Wright threw to Kyle Jackels for a five-yard touchdown. Alex Esary’s PAT tied it at 7-7 with 6:16 left in the quarter.
Inconsistent, and at times downright poor, special teams play has hampered Lake all season. It can’t afford to let this happen when it faces quality teams in the Playoffs two weeks hence.
Austin Otis returned the subsequent kickoff 39 yards to the Viking 43, from where it took Lake just five plays to score, with Otis covering 47 yards in four carries on the drive including his 12-yard TD. Lake led by 14-7 with 3:52 left in the quarter.
Stanwood retaliated with one of its two long sustained drives of the game, covering 63 yards in 17 plays, the biggest one a 24-yard Wright to Jackels fourth down completion giving Stanwood a first down on the Viking eight. From there, Jackels carried in from one yard out on another fourth down. 14-all, with 9:35 left in the half.
Despite five short Eason completions Lake ran out of downs on its next possession after moving the ball to the Stanwood 30.
Stanwood did not threaten to score during the remainder of the half while Lake nearly retook the lead, on five Eason completions covering nine yards to Riley Krenz, 22 yards to Gray (who made a great catch), 10 and 12 yards to Gavin O’Neil, and 12 yards to Krenz. That set up Ponce’s 35-yard field goal which drifted wide right 11 seconds before halftime.
On the second play of the second half O’Neil picked off a Wright pass, returning it 12 yards to the Viking 47.
Lake, gaining no more than nine yards on any one play, then edged its way to a 53-yard TD drive in a dozen plays, mixing Otis runs with Eason completions, with Krenz scoring on a six-yard pass. 21-14 Lake at 5:52 of the third quarter.
Stanwood then began its second long scoring drive of the evening, this one covering 71 yards in 13 plays, 43 of those via nine Jackels rushes, including a two-yard touchdown on the final play of the third quarter. 21-all.
Lake responded with a 13-play, 72-yard drive, 41 of those yards on eight Otis carries, 16 yards on three Eason completions, a 15-yard face mask infraction committed against Otis, finalized by an Otis two-yard TD. 28-21 Lake with 5:31 left.
But would Stanwood, for the fourth consecutive time, match Lake with a game-tying TD?
No. Because the Spartans fumbled on their very first possession of the fourth quarter after Lake had seemingly recovered its onside kickoff attempt. Lake was flagged for having interfered with a fair catch, but Jackels, at the end of a seven-yard run, then lost the ball to Krenz on the Viking 37 with 5:20 left.
Eason hit Gray for a 17-yard completion on first down, but Lake was forced into punting formation following a holding penalty and two Eason incompletions. Ponce, set to punt for the first and only time, was roughed up on his kick and Lake retained possession following the 15-yard walkoff.
Another holding penalty pushed Lake back to its own 46 where on first down Eason lofted a TD pass to O’Neil, left totally unguarded in the mist. With 2:28 to play Lake had finally virtually wrapped up the win, leading 35-21.
Viking linebacker C.J. Lat, who had accumulated 119 tackles after last week’s game in his pursuit of the all-time season high of 160, sat out the first half with an injury, but entered the game after halftime to register a stinging hit on Jackels. Lat finished with just four tackles but his presence clearly made a difference.
The ever-dependable Otis finished with 141 yards rushing in 25 carries while Jackels led his team with 84 net in 24 totes. Otis now has surpassed the magical 1000 yard mark on the season, with 1094, along with 12 touchdowns. Lake outgained Stanwood by 157 to 90 in rushing yards.
Eason completed 25 of 37 passes with no interceptions, for 272 yards and now has passed for 1788 yards and 11 touchdowns for the season. Wright completed 12 of his 24 passes, with one interception, for 90 yards.
Gray finished with 12 receptions for 123 yards, Krenz seven catches for 55 yards and O’Neil six for 94 yards—each had a TD.
Evan Miksch made 10 tackles for the Vikings, including a sack (his seventh of the season). Kolby Jones also had 10 tackles, and Jordan Kimmons contributed his first sack of the season.
Lake finishes the regular season by hosting Snohomish on Friday. A Viking win will give Lake a share of the Wesco 4A North title for the second straight season, sharing the crown with whoever wins between Mt. Vernon and Monroe. A Mt. Vernon win pits the Bulldogs against Edmonds-Woodway for the overall Wesco 4A crown while a Monroe win gives Lake that opportunity. In either case, if Lake beats Snohomish it ensures itself at least two post-season games.