TACOMA — It might have been a hard question for Tom Tri to answer. After all, Lake Stevens had been in this position before — on several levels.
The Vikings had won games without their senior quarterback leader this season when Grayson Murren went down with an injury. Lake Stevens also has been to this championship game recently.
In none of those games had they faced the daunting task that was the Graham-Kapowsin Eagles (14-0). The top-seeded Eagles completed their unbeaten season with a 44-7 victory in the Class 4A championship game at Mount Tahoma High on Saturday night.
In doing so, Graham-Kapowsin won the school’s first state-football title while dropping No. 3 Lake Stevens (11-1) to 0-4 in championship games.
So, as it turned out, the question was an easy one to answer. Would Murren have made a difference?
“Absolutely different,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said. “Not that I’m taking anything away from Kolten Matson. He did a great job for us. But when you have a quarterback that can throw it all over the field, and can run and spread the defense out, yeah that’s going to make a difference.”
Murren, who was injured in Week 8 before returning three weeks ago during the playoff run, was injured on a play late in the Vikings’ semifinal win over Eastlake a week ago. Murren was part of the pregame as one of the captains, coming to the center of the field in street clothes with his right arm immobilized.
That left running the offense to the freshman Matson, who completed 6 of 13 passes for 43 yards and one interception on a rainy night in the South Sound. The conditions dictated both offenses.
Eagles star Josh Wood barely threw the ball either, completing just 4 of 7 for 39 yards. The way Graham-Kapowsin ran the ball, Wood could comfortably put off slinging the ball around again until he gets to Eastern Washington University next fall.
“We talked about this from the beginning of the year,” Graham-Kapowsin coach Eric Kurle said. “We felt like we were built to throw or run. It didn’t matter. But the weather the last couple of weeks, and Josh had a little injury on his throwing hand. It didn’t matter because he took off running.”
Wood contributed a massive game on the ground, running for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. He didn’t even lead the way for GK. That honor went to running back Zack Lee, whose workhorse-like 20 carries netted a game-high 190 yards and two more scores.
“I’ve been saying it since the beginning of the season,” Lee said. “Best O-line in the state, hands down, by far. It was raining, can’t really throw the ball. What do we do when you can’t throw? We run the rock.”
Did the Eagles ever run the rock. Ten different Graham-Kapowsin runners toted the ball 60 times for a state championship game record 524 yards. That broke the mark of 521 yards set by Gonzaga Prep in 2015 against Skyline.
The Eagles also came within a single yard of tying that same Bullpups team for the most total offense in a Class 4A title contest — finishing with 563 yards overall.
“That’s the best team we’ve played, by far, this year,” Tri said. “We didn’t play very well tonight, but give them credit. That’s the best team we’ve played all year.”
It was the first title for Eagles coach Eric Kurle, who got to the title game one other time back in 2000 with Bethel. It also became a terrific late birthday present for Kurle, who turned 54 on Friday.