* CLASS 4A FINALS
No. 3 Bellarmine Prep (12-1) vs. No. 1 Skyline (13-0)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Tacoma Dome
Coaches: Tom Larsen is in his 10th season at Bellarmine Prep (72-36). Mat Taylor is in his fifth season at Skyline (60-10 record).
Road to Gridiron Classic: Bellarmine Prep defeated Bothell in the first round (35-30), Gonzaga Prep in the quarterfinals (32-29) and Auburn in the semifinals (21-19). .Skyline defeated Lake Stevens in the first round (42-0), Roosevelt in the quarterfinals (54-21) and Camas in the semifinals (51-28).
About the Lions: Once again, the goal Saturday is to strive for offensive balance – and preferably clock-eating drives – behind QB Sefo Liufau (160-235, 2,145 yards, 21 TDs, three INT), who continues to do the little things to win games, and RB Lou Millie (263 carries, 1,495 yards, 13 TDs) – a true workhorse tailback. But to face Skyline and its spread offense means defending the Spartans’ athletes in space. DBs Garrett McKay and Drew Griffin, both juniors, are dependable in coverage, but how will the Lions match up with Skyline’s third, fourth and fifth receivers? To help, the front seven must get backfield pressure with well-timed blitzes. In any case, the Narrows 4A champions’ best defense in this game might be the offense keeping a hold of the football.
About the Spartans: Well, the stage is set for the six-time state champions, who are 25-2 in Class 4A state playoff games in school history. And the two numbers that jump out are the ones that have to concern Bellarmine Prep the most – 51.3-point scoring average and 353-yard passing average, both tops in 4A. Simply put, the Spartans have more firepower than the Lions – and it starts with QB Max Browne (256-349, 4,141 yards, 45 TDs, four INT), who exhibits the calmest pocket presence in the state. Given time, he is so astute, he will exploit a defense’s biggest weakness. WR Nic Sblendorio (54 catches, 1,049 yards, 11 TDs) is Browne’s go-to target, but Skyline has five players with 30 or more receptions this season. Slow starts have been an issue the past two weeks, including falling behind 14-0 to Camas.
TNT pick: Skyline, 41-27.
“Score Czar”/Computer pick: Skyline, 33-20.