Five high school football games to watch in the opening round of the state playoffs in the South Sound and beyond.
Note: Ranking numbers beginning this week are seeds as assigned by the WIAA state playoffs seeding committees.
NO. 11 MEAD PANTHERS (7-3) VS. NO. 6 GRAHAM-KAPOWSIN EAGLES (8-2)
1 p.m. Saturday, Art Crate Field, Spanaway
About the Panthers: The 4A Greater Spokane League runner-up knocked out defending 4A champion Richland, 35-21, last week in the district round giving Mead some momentum heading into its first appearance in the state playoffs since 2012. QB Ryan Blair (138 of 204, 1,782 yards, 24 TDs) likes to throw it around, and the Eagles will need to create consistent pressure to slow him. WR Michael Workman (47 catches, 976 yards, 14 TDs) is Blair’s top target.
About the Eagles: Graham-Kapowsin has advanced to the state playoffs every year QB Dylan Morris (143 of 239, 1,993 yards, 24 TDs) has managed the offense. The UW commit is on the cusp of throwing for 2,000-plus yards for the fourth consecutive season, and has WR Malaki Roberson (63 catches, 895 yards, eight TDs), who led the 4A SPSL in receiving yards, as his top target. Graham-Kapowsin relies on a sturdy offensive line. Despite losing their top two running backs to season-ending injuries, backup Shabro Johnson (72 carries, 648 yards, four TDs in six games) is still averaging 9 yards per carry.
TNT pick: Graham-Kapowsin, 33-21
NO. 14 CURTIS VIKINGS (7-3) VS. NO. 3 LAKE STEVENS VIKINGS (10-0)
7 p.m. Friday, Lake Stevens High School
About Curtis: A dominant 67-29 win over Kentwood — one of eight 4A NPSL teams to lose in the district round — put the Vikings back in the state playoffs for the first time since 2010. An Oregon baseball commit, QB Kyle Russell (120 of 239, 2,146 yards; 104 carries, 763 yards; 34 total TDs) continues to display his abilities as a dual-threat. Seattle Pacific basketball commit Zack Paulsen (31 catches, 677 yards, six TDs) leads Curtis in receiving, while RB Adrian St. Germain (74 carries, 599 yards, four TDs in six games) has been the workhorse during the second half of the season.
About Lake Stevens: These two teams haven’t seen each other in the state playoffs since 1974 — and Curtis won that meeting, 43-0. The score will likely be closer this time, and the undefeated 4A Wesco champions, making their fifth-straight state playoffs appearance, have an advantage at home. QB Tre Long (129 of 197, 1,808 yards, 32 total TDs) pilots the Vikings’ dangerous spread offense, and is supplemented by a backfield averaging 256.1 rushing yards per game behind a solid offensive line. WR/DB Kasen Kinchen (31 catches, 698 yards, 10 TDs, seven INTs), who has offers from Northern Colorado and Oregon, is a threat on both sides of the ball.
TNT pick: Lake Stevens, 42-27
NO. 12 EASTMONT WILDCATS (9-1) VS. NO. 5 PUYALLUP VIKINGS (9-1)
7 p.m. Friday, Sparks Stadium, Puyallup
About the Wildcats: This Eastmont program finished 1-9 two seasons ago. This year, the Wildcats won an undefeated 4A Big 9 title, earning both a league championship and state playoffs berth for the first time since 2012. The Wildcats also boasted the best defense in their league, allowing just 218.2 yards per game, while posting three shutouts. RB Carson Talley (161 carries, 1,088 yards, nine TDs) is the leader of Eastmont’s wing-T offense.
About the Vikings: Stout defense, meet explosive offense. The Wildcats may be allowing just 11.6 points per game, but the Vikings are averaging 45.3 on offense. Puyallup has scored at least four TDs in each of its games this season — and it’s usually closer to six. Last week, the back-to-back undefeated 4A SPSL champions routed the state’s leading passer Sam Huard and Kennedy Catholic, 65-35, in their highest scoring game of the season. QB Jacob Holcomb (167 of 242, 2,557 yards; 92 carries, 578 yards; 44 total TDs) has been a breakout star.
TNT pick: Puyallup, 45-28
NO. 11 RAINIER BEACH VIKINGS (5-3) VS. NO. 6 LINCOLN ABES (8-2)
7 p.m. Friday, Lincoln Bowl, Tacoma
About the Vikings: Rainier Beach was the 3A state runner-up a season ago, losing in the title game to O’Dea. This year has been a bit tougher. The Vikings finished fourth in the 3A Metro League Mountain, and have had QB Trey Morris, a Kennedy Catholic transfer, take over the past four games for injured starter Jihad Abdul-Haqq. Rainier Beach has a pair of high-profile Divsion I recruits in four-star OL/DL Nathaniel Kalepo (committed to UW) and three-star TE/DL Orin Patu (committed to Cal).
About the Abes: Despite Lakes stripping away the 3A Pierce County League title in Week 8, ending the Lincoln’s dominant two-year run through the league, the Abes rallied with a win over Bethel, and a 52-6 rout of Prairie in last week’s district round. Now the Abes are looking to avoid another season-ending loss at the hands of a Metro League team — Garfield knocked them out in 2017. QB Caden Filer (163 of 259, 2,807 yards, 38 total TDs) paces an offense that also features shifty receivers Mykel Campbell (35 catches, 771 yards, 11 TDs) and Romere Williams (31 catches, 620 yards, eight TDs).
TNT pick: Lincoln, 35-24
NO. 10 BETHEL BRAVES (7-3) VS. NO. 7 PENINSULA SEAHAWKS (8-2)
7 p.m. Friday, Roy Anderson Field, Purdy
About the Braves: The only common opponent these two programs share is defending 3A state champion O’Dea. The Fighting Irish shut out Peninsula, 28-0, in Week 1. Bethel lost to O’Dea, 26-21, in Week 2, after a holding penalty wiped out what would have been the game-winning TD. Much has happened since. The Braves had to endure a stretch without veteran QB Nate Hughes (90 of 128, 1,218 yards, 16 TDs in six games), who has since returned from a shoulder injury, and finished third in the 3A PCL. A 50-15 rout of Arlington last week has Bethel in the bracket for the second straight season.
About the Seahawks: The 3A South Sound Conference champions rode a monster game by RB Braeden Potter — 29 carries, 282 yards, three TDs — to a a 47-16 win over Seattle Prep in the district round, and are in the state playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons. Potter (112 carries, 779 yards; 14 catches, 357 yards; 13 total TDs) complements versatile QB Burke Griffin (95 of 150, 1,262 yards; 117 carries, 900 yards; 20 total TDs), who is also the team’s leading rusher.
TNT pick: Bethel, 21-20
NO. 12 YELM TORNADOS (7-3) VS. NO. 5 LAKES LANCERS (8-2)
7 p.m. Friday, Harry E. Lang Stadium, Lakewood
About the Tornados: Yelm is back in the state playoffs for the first time in 31 years after a whirlwind 24-21 win over Bishop Blanchet in the district round. The only other time the Tornados made the state bracket — in 1987 — they were bounced in the quarterfinals by Thurston County rival Tumwater. This time, Yelm enters the tournament after averaging 32 points per game behind an offense that includes the 3A South Sound Conference’s leading passer in QB Kyle Robinson (119 of 213, 1,976 yards, 23 total TDs) and leading receiver in Kodee Gifford (50 catches, 1,006 yards, 11 TDs).
About the Lancers: Lakes is back in dominant form after a one-year state playoffs drought. Before last year’s rare miss, the Lancers advanced 17 times in two decades, dating back to their 1997 title win. And, after a slow start this season, opening with two losses and missing several starters, the 3A PCL champs have rattled off eight consecutive wins behind an offense that averages 39.8 points per game. QB Liam Bladow (141 of 219, 2,237 yards, 23 TDs) leads the Lancers’ balanced offensive attack, and WR/DB Daeshawn Wayne paces an athletic secondary with six interceptions.
TNT pick: Lakes, 42-31
NO. 9 MOUNT SPOKANE WILDCATS (8-2) VS. NO. 8 TIMBERLINE BLAZERS (8-2)
7 p.m. Friday, South Sound Stadium, Lacey
About the Wildcats: Mount Spokane was this year’s runner-up in the 3A GSL after winning the past four league titles, and is making just its second appearance in the state playoffs since 2010 after topping Kennewick, 21-14, in the district round last week. QB Brady Hill (61 of 99, 768 yards; 359 rushing yards; six total TDs in five games), who was the league’s MVP last year, and is a WSU baseball commit, missed half of the season with a broken arm, but is back to lead Mount Spokane’s offense.
About the Blazers: Dual-threat QB Hunter Campau (98 of 150, 1,333 yards; 198 carries, 1,242 yards; 32 total TDs) was unanimously selected as the 3A SSC MVP this season, despite Timberlin’s runner-up finish. Campau’s gritty performances this season — he has both passed and rushed for more 100-plus yards in five games — have paced the Blazers to their third consecutive state playoff appearance. Timberline shut out Oak Harbor, 21-0, last week to get here, and has allowed just four touchdowns in its past five games.
TNT pick: Timberline, 28-24
NO. 11 PROSSER MUSTANGS (7-2) VS. NO. 6 TUMWATER T-BIRDS (9-1)
1 p.m. Saturday, Tumwater District Stadium
About the Mustangs: Prosser — the team that edged the T-Birds for a state title in 2015 — claimed an undefeated 2A CWAC title last week in a 12-0 shoutout of Ellensburg. RB/LB Kord Tuttle (120 carries, 803 yards, 10 TDs) is a two-way standout for the Mustangs, and the league’s co-offensive MVP and defensive MVP. Prosser’s offense is averaging 32.3 points per game — its biggest win of the season came in an 84-7 drubbing of Wapato in Week 9 — while its defense is allowing just 10.6.
About the T-Birds: Tumwater is in the state playoffs for the ninth consecutive season, and have advanced to the title game five times during this stretch, including winning their most recent state championship in 2010. The program’s signature wing-T offense has produced 3,661 rushing yards this season, with RB Dylan Loftis (96 carries, 1,187 yards, 18 TDs) leading the way. Tumwater’s 427 points scored this season is the third-best mark in 2A, while and its 117 points allowed are also third-best across the classification.
TNT pick: Tumwater, 30-27
NO. 14 EATONVILLE CRUISERS (8-2) VS. NO. 3 LYNDEN LIONS (9-0)
4 p.m. Saturday, Civic Stadium, Bellingham
About the Cruisers: The 2A SPSL Sound runners-up have lost just twice — to perennial power Archibshop Murphy in Week 1, and to another state-qualifier and division rival Steilacoom in Week 7. The Cruisers went on a five-game winning streak in between, and routed Olympic, 64-27, last week to notch their fourth state trip in five seasons. QB Tristan Schoepf (93 of 167, 1,880 yards, 23 total TDs) leads a passing offense that averages 219 yards per game. RB/LB Caden Jumper (103 carries, 544 yards; 15 catches, 450 yards; 18 total TDs) is a threat, averaging 155.1 all-purpose yards per game.
About the Lions: The all-time series between these two programs in the state playoffs is 1-1, though they haven’t seen each other since 1987 when both were 1A teams, and Eatonville won that tilt. But Lynden is a longtime state power, and six of its eight state titles have come in 2A since 2006. QB James Marsh (50 of 80, 799 yards, 17 total TDs) went down with an ankle injury in early September, and backup QB Brock Heppner (35 of 55, 533 yards, four TDs) filled in. Since Marsh’s return, the two signal callers have split time, and the Lions haven’t punted in four games since implementing this rotating system.
TNT pick: Lynen, 38-20
NO. 10 NORTH KITSAP VIKINGS (9-1) VS. NO. 7 FIFE TROJANS (9-1)
7 p.m. Friday, Sunset Chev Stadium, Sumner
About the Vikings: North Kitsap is in the state playoffs for the fifth consecutive season after ending River Ridge’s season with a 33-22 win last week — and those 22 points are the most the Vikings have allowed in a single game this season. North Kitsap leads 2A this season with five shutouts, is allowing 8 points per game on average, and has given up just nine TDs. Meanwhile, the Vikings’ offense consistently produces. After relying solely on record-setting rusher Dax Solis last season, North Kitsap now employs the tandem of FB Isaiah Kahana — who had 228 yards on 40 carries against River Ridge — and RB Clayton Williams.
About the Trojans: Fife earned a favorable seed after stunning then-third-ranked Steilacoom for the 2A SPSL title two weeks ago, and routed Port Angeles, 56-7, in the district round to notch back-to-back appearances in the state playoffs. Fife’s ground-and-pound attack averages 252.5 rushing yards per game behind a front line that includes three-star OL/DL Soli Paleso’o, who has five Division I offers. QB Gannon Ginnis (30 of 70, 493 yards; 120 carries, 810 yards; 25 total TDs) leads the Trojans in passing and rushing.
TNT pick: North Kitsap, 27-21
NO. 15 BURLINGTON-EDISON TIGERS (4-5) VS. NO. 2 BLACK HILLS WOLVES (10-0)
7 p.m. Friday, Tumwater District Stadium
About the Tigers: Burlington-Edison topped Lakewood, 29-12, last week in the district round advance for the first time since 2014. The Tigers’ record shouldn’t be taken at face value — none of their losses have been by more than two scores, and they played perennial 2A power Lynden to just a three-point loss. QB Isaac Lindsay (93 of 174, 992 yards, eight TDs) manages a balanced offense that uses a trio of running backs in Alex Wilhonen (98 carries, 588 yards; 35 catches, 534 yards; 15 total TDs), Dylan Wesen (99 carries, 442 yards, two TDs) and Tate Cavanaugh (83 carries, 305 yards, two TDs in five games).
About the Wolves: Plenty of firsts for this Black Hills group — first 2A Evergreen Conference championship, first undefeated run through the first 10 weeks, and first time hosting a state playoff game. A Pioneer Bowl win over rival Tumwater in Week 8 catapulted the Wolves — who are in the state playoffs for the fourth consecutive year — to a No. 2 seed in the bracket. RB Taylor Simmons (139 carries, 1,058 yards, 16 TDs) paces the Wolves on offense, while former Capital coach J.D. Johnson has overhauled Black Hills’ defense — which is allowing 14.7 points per game — in his first year as defensive coordinator.
TNT pick: Black Hills, 35-24
NO. 9 STEILACOOM SENTINELS (9-1) VS. NO. 8 SEQUIM WOLVES (9-1)
7:30 p.m. Friday, Silverdale Stadium, Bremerton
About the Sentinels: The loss to Fife in the 2A SPSL title game hurt. Before that Week 9 loss, the Sentinels were the only remaining undefeated team in Pierce County, and enjoyed a top-five ranking in 2A for much of the season. As the No. 9 seed, Steilacoom just missed hosting an opening round game, instead traveling to meet the 2A Olympic League champs. QB J.J. Lemming (142 of 256, 2,455 yards, 34 TDs) and WR/DB Emeka Egbuka (52 catches, 1,051 yards; eight INTs; 21 total TDs) shared 2A SPSL Sound MVP honors this season, and RB/LB Jaymason Willingham (111 carries, 991 yards, 13 TDs), a Utah State commit, is one of the state’s top defenders (104 tackles, 12 sacks).
About the Wolves: This will be Sequim’s first appearance in the state playoffs in seven seasons, since a string of six straight appearances ended in 2011. The Wolves have advanced out of this round just once, and have a 1-7 record all-time in the state playoffs. But, Sequim is on a roll, winning an undefeated league, and edging Franklin Pierce, 22-20, last week to make it out of the district round. QB Riley Cowan (137 of 242, 1,943 yards, 19 TDs), is a four-year starter and the 2A Olympic MVP, and is supplemented by RB Taig Wiker (192 carries, 1,091 yards, 10 TDs) and WR Kyler Rollness (51 catches, 807 yards, 13 total TDs).
TNT pick: Steilacoom, 35-20
NO. 16 WASHINGTON PATRIOTS (6-4) VS. NO. 1 HOCKINSON HAWKS (9-0)
7 p.m. Friday, Battle Ground High School
About the Patriots: Washington is making just its fifth appearance in the state playoffs.The Patriots’ most recent trip, in 2016, ended in a first-round loss to perennial powerhouse Tumwater. Now the Patriots face a more recent 2A power in Hockinson. Washington has won six of its past seven — including an upset win over 2A SPSL Mountain rival White River in the district round last week — to make it this far. RB Josh Camacho (175 carries, 1,451 yards, 14 TDs) has been the catalyst, rushing for 320 yards in the win over White River.
About the Hawks: The defending state champs are the only remaining undefeated team in 2A, and are riding a 23-game winning streak that dates back to a district-round loss to Black Hills in 2016. Hockinson’s 450 points scoredare a classification best, proving the Hawks’ offense is just as potent after graduating star QB Canon Racanelli, who is now at Central Washington. QB Levi Crum (175 of 249, 2,664 yards, 42 TDs) has fit in just fine. He has Division I recruit WR Sawyer Racanelli (67 catches, 1,123 yards, 19 TDs), Canon’s younger brother, and WR Peyton Brammer (43 catches, 852 yards, 15 TDs) to air the ball out to.
TNT pick: Hockinson, 56-21
NO. 11 CASCADE CHRISTIAN COUGARS (7-1) VS. NO. 9 LYNDEN CHRISTIAN LYNCS (8-2)
1 p.m. Saturday, Civic Stadium, Bellingham
About the Cougars: Despite longtime coach Randy Davis departing for Orting after last season’s playoff run, the Cougars won another undefeated 1A Nisqually League title under first-year coach Devin Snyder. Cascade Christian’s offense has combined for more than 4,500 yards in eight games, and is averaging 572.5 per contest. WR Conner Zetterberg (38 catches, 927 yards, 12 TDs) and RB Toretto Magalei (100 carries, 922 yards, six TDs) have been consistent playmakers.
About the Lyncs: Coach Dan Kaemingk is in his second stint coaching the Lyncs, back for a third season after leading Lynden Christian to 12 state playoff appearances in 21 seasons between 1990-2010. He also coached the Lyncs to their only state title in 1997. Lynden Christian, which earned a share of the 1A Northwest Conference title this season for the first time since 2001, is back in the state playoffs for the first time since 2007 after routing King’s, 42-14, in the district round. QB Trajan Schouten (97 of 167, 1,212 yards, 14 TDs in eight games) is the star — the Lyncs’ only losses of the season came when he missed two games with an injury. RB Levi Korthius (193 carries, 858 yards, 11 TDS) leads the rushing attack.
TNT pick: Lynden Christian, 38-32