Long after the game was over and players were in the locker room, Danny Metsker lingered. The senior linebacker looked wistful. The scoreboard read: Lake Stevens 28, Woodinville 14.
“I’m staying out here because I don’t want to leave this place, you know?” Metsker said. “My senior season at Pop Keeney. It’s my favorite place in the world and I don’t want to leave the field.”
It was a season where the Falcons surpassed all expectations. The year before, Woodinville reached the 4A Gridiron Classic, only to lose to Richland. This year’s Falcons fell one game short of a repeat trip to the Tacoma Dome.
“We’ve been grinding for so many days and days, this entire year,” Woodinville’s John Snedaker said. “I really thought we were going to make it to the Dome. But I’m proud of my team and of myself.”
The game started out as a defensive duel. The first quarter was scoreless and Woodinville earned the only first down.
With one minute left in the second quarter, Woodinville trailed 7-0. Quarterback Noah Stifle dropped back and hit Cage Schenck with a 13-yard touchdown pass. This tied the game 7-7 heading into halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, Woodinville trailed 13-7. Stifle ran a QB keeper 48 yards deep into Lake Stevens territory. Moments later, he connected with Jack Diskin for a 7-yard touchdown pass. This gave the Falcons a 14-13 lead that they’d carry into the fourth quarter.
But then, the Lake Stevens offensive line took over like a boss. The Vikings began to move the football in chunks of yardage.
“They have an amazing offensive line,” Falcon linebacker Danny Metsker said. “The best offensive line I’ve ever played in my life.”
Woodinville safety Jack Messmer agreed.
“One play they had, one of their o-line guys was on one of our guys,” Messmer said. “I came up to make the tackle, and then out of nowhere I got blocked by one of their offensive linemen... Their technique was incredible.”
Late in the game, Lake Stevens led 20-13 and drove the ball inside the Woodinville ten yard line. But when Viking quarterback Tre Long ran up the middle, Jack Messmer flew in and hammered the ball loose. Cage Schenck recovered.
"I lowered my shoulder and hit him,” Messmer said. “It took me five seconds to realize that the ball had come out and we recovered it. We had a sense of hope.”
But a subsequent turnover gave the ball back to Lake Stevens. This enabled the visitors to run out the clock and celebrate.
“Unbelievably proud of how we’ve grown through the year,” Woodinville coach Wayne Maxwell said. “What was so tremendously noticeable was how much better we got during the season. Week-by-week getting better. It’s a direct reflection of their maturity. And understanding the process and how to work their tails off during the week and see it pay off on Friday nights. Very proud of that.”
Woodinville finished the season with an 11-2 record, a Kingco 4A Championship, and a third place finish at State.
Senior linebacker Miles Mustarde reflected on the end of his playing career.
“I was thinking about this earlier, and it’s kind of funny,” Mustarde said. “It started here at Pop Keeney [Stadium] and it ends here. I started here in 3rd grade and it ends here in the State semifinal. This is the last game of football I’m going to ever play. And it’s just starting to sink in now.”
“It was an amazing season,” senior Jack Messmer said. “I’ve never been a part of something so great. I’m grateful for all the opportunities we had. Yeah, it was a tough loss. But I’m so proud of what we’ve done. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”