The defense has taken the ‘Star Wars’ theme to heart and has yielded just 8.4 points per game this season as it has gone 10-0 heading into the state football playoffs.
A long time ago in a galaxy, err, football field far away, a coach revved up his defense by calling them “The Dark Side.”
Wayne Maxwell remembers being inducted into this side of the force, adapted from the movie “Star Wars,” as a defensive back at Central Washington University. The tradition helped the Wildcats make postseason runs and claim conference titles during Maxwell’s stint in Ellensburg from 1996-98. It inspired him to use the same motivation when he became coach.
“It’s that mentality of going out and punishing people,” Maxwell said. “And there’s a fun swag to it.”
Top 5 games this week
Bothell (8-2) at Skyline (7-3): The Kingco rivals are playing in Sammamish for first time in three years. Bothell won in September on its field and back in 2014 at Skyline.
Graham-Kapowsin (9-1) at Lake Stevens (9-1): The Vikings lost quarterback Conor Bardue (hand), but backup Tre Long threw for 245 yards and four touchdowns in his debut last week.
Garfield (4-5) at Lincoln (9-1): The Bulldogs are making their first state tournament appearance since 1979. Garfield’s last state win was 1977.
River Ridge (7-3) at Archbishop Murphy (9-1): The Wildcats begin the trek to defend their Class 2A state championship at home where they have won four straight games.
Freeman (7-3) at Royal (10-0): The Knights are making a tournament-record 24th straight state appearance while on a state-best 37-game win streak, including the past two championships.
Woodinville began to cultivate its own Dark Side in 2000, when Maxwell was hired as defensive coordinator. He took the head position in 2004, and now the defense is a formidable beast opponents discuss first when looking for ways to defeat the Falcons.
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None did during the regular season as Woodinville outscored teams 341-84. But “The Dark Side” didn’t just limit scoring plays, it left teams questioning whether their offense was ever on the field. Woodinville’s defense held its nine regular-season opponents to a combined 351 rushing yards and 1,077 passing yards and allowed only 20 third-down conversions.
And that’s with Maxwell playing his full starting unit for only one complete game — a win at Skyline in mid-October.
The Falcons (10-0) open the Class 4A state tournament against Kentwood (8-2) at Pop Keeney Stadium. Woodinville lost in the state quarterfinals the past two years and reached the semifinals in 2011.
“Last year is when we started to make a great name for ourselves,” Falcons senior defensive end Jake Baillie said. “This year, people are saying a lot of things about us, but we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing to prove we are that great team. … That powerful force that we’ve always carried to come in and be the biggest, baddest guys we can be on defense. We’ve all taken it to heart and enjoy being ‘The Dark Side.’ ”
The Conquerors, who won a share of the North Puget Sound League title, are the type of team “The Dark Side” likes to toy with.
Kentwood led the NPSL in scoring through nine games, averaging 45.2 points. Its quarterback, senior Justin Seiber, was the league’s most efficient passer, completing 199 of 294 passes for 2,899 yards, with 34 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
Baillie and senior nose guard Quinn Schreyer already have Seiber as a target. The linemen are athletic and difficult to block up front. Baillie led Kingco 4A with 12.5 sacks. Schreyer led the Falcons with 43.5 tackles.
“Jake is the enforcer on our defense,” said Noah Taplett, a senior strong safety. “He’s always getting to the quarterback. We play on the same side, and I can always count on him to sack the quarterback or make that play on the outside. When he does, it gets us all pumped up.”
Maxwell gives T-shirts to award stars of the game. Baillie has received his share this season for his defensive play. The shirt has Darth Vader on the front with the words “The Dark Side.”
“They’re all having a blast with it, and we’re having a great year playing team defense,” Maxwell said.