The Vikings gained just 104 net yards in a scoreless first half at Lake last Friday, then exploded for 298 yards and five touchdowns after intermission to post a season-saving 35-14 win over Mariner.
The Wesco North-South crossover matchup of third place teams determined which of the two would remain alive in the state playoffs. The win earned Lake (7-2) Wesco’s fifth overall seed and a trip to Tacoma on Friday to play unbeaten Curtis, the state’s second-ranked 4A team.
The joy of victory was, however, severely tempered by a probable season-ending knee injury to Viking junior linebacker Korey Young in the third quarter. Young had at that point in the game recorded 17 tackles to push his season total to 132, one of the top numbers in that category in Viking history.
Lake’s potent offensive duo of quarterback Jake Nelson and running back Duke Dolphin keyed Lake’s second half resurgence. Dolphin returned the kickoff 51 yards to the Mariner 45. Nelson passed to Quincy Carroll for a 36-yard gain to the nine, and three plays later (including a 14-yard holding penalty against Lake) Nelson’s 25-yard screen pass to Dolphin produced the game’s first touchdown. Shawn Morgan’s first of five PAT kicks made it 7-0, just a minute and a half into the third quarter.
Shortly after that Christian Gasca picked off Mariner QB Alex Coffman’s pass, returning it 46 yards to the Marauder 42, setting up a four-play Viking mini-drive capped by Dolphin’s 10-yard run. Nelson hit Brandon Preslar for eight and five yard completions and Nelson gained 19 yards on a keeper prior to Dolphin’s TD. 14-0, with 6:11 left in the quarter.
Preslar’s five catches in the game pushed his career total to 90, surpassing Mike Holguin’s team record of 78 catches (1981-82).
Mariner retaliated with an eight-play, 73-yard touchdown drive ending in Coffman’s 33-yard TD pass to Chris Knowles (who appeared to be juggling the catch as he ran out of the end zone). Socratez Ramirez booted the PAT to make it 14-7 with 2:09 left in the quarter.
Lake made it 21-7 with 50 seconds left in the quarter, traveling 70 yards in five plays, finishing with Gasca’s 44-yard TD reception from Nelson.
In the third quarter alone Lake netted 171 yards, Mariner 156. Compare that to the lackluster first half in which the biggest scoring threat ended just before halftime when Carroll’s fumble after a reception from Nelson turned the ball over to Mariner on the latter’s one-yard line.
Give credit to the Viking defense for keeping Lake in the game in the first half. Viking lineman Gunnar Eklund (listed at 6-6, 265) twice laid crushing, yardage-losing tackles on Marauder superstar KeiVarae Russell, one of those tackles helping to end Mariner’s one scoring threat in the second quarter. (For his performance Eklund was named KRKO Radio’s “Player Of The Game”). After Mariner gained a first down on the Viking 27, Chandler Ireland tackled Daylen Delgamo for just a one-yard gain on fourth and six.
Mariner totalled only 81 yards in the first half.
Mariner cut Lake’s lead to 21-14 via a nine-play, 64-yard drive at the outset of the fourth quarter. Coffman’s one-yard plunge netted the touchdown but it was not without controversy, since Lake at first appeared to have stopped Coffman for no gain at the one. The play was allowed to continue and Coffman was credited with a touchdown despite Lake’s Bryson Daggett having come up with an apparent fumble recovery in the end zone.
Lake blew it open with two touchdowns in the game’s final eight minutes. The first came when Nelson hit a wide-open Preslar for a 52-yard touchdown pass. The second score was launched by Kevin Lanto’s interception on the Viking 25, and finished six plays later thanks to Dolphin runs of 23, 10, and a 17-yard TD rush (key block by Lanto).
Nelson’s ultra-efficient game included 11 of 13 completions (no interceptons) for 218 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 58 net yards in 12 carries.
Dolphin’s three touchdown game saw him gain 114 yards in 16 carries and catch two passes for 40 yards.
Overall, Lake outgained Mariner by 402 yards to 323. Lake had 19 first downs to Mariner’s 17.
A key to the win was holding Russell (who played with an injured ankle) to just 91 net yards in 23 carries, far below his season average.
Following Young’s 17 in the tackle parade were Brandon Belcher and Daniaka Keys with 14 each, Ireland with 9, Dagget with 8, and Ryan Enyeart and Kody Dinh and Josh Berg with 7 each.
Notching quarterback sacks were Enyeart, Cody Tupen and Taylor Metzger.
Lake travels to Curtis (Tacoma) on Friday, game starting time of 7:30.