By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
LAKE STEVENS — If the Newport football team, Lake Stevens’ opponent in tonight’s 4A Quad-District playoff game, would like to know what Vikings starting quarterback Jacob Eason is capable of, the Edmonds-Woodway defense can give a detailed description.
The sophomore quarterback burned the Warriors for 507 passing yards and six touchdowns last week. The last of the scoring plays, a 7-yard pass to wide receiver Tevin Gray, gave the Vikings a come-from-behind 53-49 victory.
Earlier in the season, in a loss to Marysville Pilchuck, Eason completed just one of his first 16 attempts. The 15-year-old quarterback has improved rapidly since, throwing for 2,545 yards this season, nearly 700 more than anyone else in Wesco.
“Jake has come a long ways,” Lake Stevens head coach Tom Tri said. “He just understands more about holes and gaps and the way things are going to open up. He’s reading the field much better.”
Tri and his coaching staff knew they had something special in Eason prior to his freshman season when he stepped in for then-quarterback Gavin O’Neil at the 7-on-7 Lakewood passing tournament and led the Vikings to the championship game.
“We knew he was going to be a good quarterback last summer,” Tri said. “We didn’t know how good and we knew we had a long ways to go with him, just because of his development and his age and his size. He had some growing to do. To his credit he has done all those things in a very quick amount of time and now we are starting to reap those benefits.”
Eason has reaped the benefits, too. He already has a scholarship offer from Oregon State University, something that didn’t surprise his coach despite Eason’s young age.
“I was very excited for him, but not really surprised,” Tri said. “I kind of figured it was going to happen, I just didn’t know when and I didn’t know who. I figured it was only a matter of time.”
The Vikings’ improved passing game gives them a multi-dimensional offense with an already established running game led by senior Austin Otis. Being able to throw and run well has made the Vikings a difficult team to game plan for.
“When you are forced to defend the whole field and stop run and pass, that really spreads you thin,” Tri said. “What do you focus on? With the emergence of our passing game, it’s forced teams to be a little bit more balanced with what they’re doing on the defensive side.”
Another reason for Eason’s emergence has been the improved play of his receivers, who struggled with dropped passes and route running early in the season. The offensive line also has improved in the protection of its young quarterback.
“It’s kind of a domino effect,” Tri said. “When the receivers play better, that helps the quarterback, and when the quarterback gets the ball out on time, that helps the offensive line. And when those guys have confidence and trust each other, all those elements come together and that’s allowed us to improve as a football team.”
Tri has seen some great quarterbacks come through Lake Stevens in his nearly 15 years as head coach. Most recently, Jake Nelson helped the Vikings get to the state semifinals two years ago.
Tri can only hope that Eason leads the Vikings to a similar run in this postseason.
“We’ve had some damn good quarterbacks,” Tri said. “Certainly Jacob Eason stands up with all of those guys and then some. He’s putting up the kind of numbers Jake (Nelson) and Nick (Baker) put up their senior year.
“He’s every bit as good as any of the quarterbacks we’ve had in the past.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at email@example.com.
Newport vs. Lake Stevens
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: LSHS Football Field
Winner receives: State berth and the winner of Kamiak/Bellarmine Prep
Scoreczar pick: (Eds. note: Scoreczar, run by Scott Odiorne, puts together computer rankings based on the formula Points Against/Points For multiplied by Strength of Schedule of every football team in the state of Washington. For more information, visit the site at scoreczar.org.) Lake Stevens earned every bit of its Wesco championship. The Vikings squared up against nearly every monster Wesco has and came away with the title. Bad teams don’t do that. Newport has flown under the radar all year, never cracking any top 10 polls, but good enough to get through KingCo with a 7-2 record. If Lake Stevens has an edge, it’s on offense. If Newport has an edge, it’s defensively. Computer thinks Newport will gets its points and hold LS in check offensively. Newport, 32-19
Swaney pick: Lake Stevens, 45-37
Lommers pick: Lake Stevens, 42-28
Krueger pick: Lake Stevens, 42-34
Kamiak vs. Bellarmine Prep
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Mt. Tahoma H.S.
Winner receives: State berth and the winner of Newport/Lake Stevens
Scoreczar pick: Kamiak seems to be struggling to find an identity, scoring a 291 points on the year, and allowing 200. Nothing extraordinary about either of those numbers, kind of right down the middle. Bellarmine Prep knows exactly what it is. The Lions out-muscle you on both sides and play ball control. They usually keep the scoring down, and if there is a soft spot to a ball-control offense, it’s the ability to come from behind. Computer likes B-Prep here 28-12
Swaney pick: Bellarmine Prep, 31-18
Lommers pick: Bellarmine Prep, 49-21
Krueger pick: Bellarmine Prep, 38-21
Blanchet vs. Marysville Pilchuck
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Quil Ceda Stadium
Winner receives: State berth and the winner of Lincoln/Eastside Catholic
Scoreczar pick: Acid test for the system, computer is bewildered, bemused and befuddled by Bishop Blanchet. The Braves averaged nearly 61 points in their first five games, and allowed just 13. That’s 304-13 through five games. Computer, at that point, said Blanchet would pound Bellevue in a running-clock affair. Since then, the Braves have come back down to earth, going 2-2 in their past four games, scoring 91 points and allowing 92. The two losses came against No. 2 O’Dea and No. 5 Eastside Catholic. Well, now they get No. 7 MP, and all that offensive weaponry. Computer says 31-18 Blanchet. That’s my official prediction … but don’t be fooled by our hard-wired friend on this one, it won’t go that way. I will hold my nose and defer to the humans here.
Swaney pick: MP, 49-18
Lommers pick: MP, 63-14
Krueger pick: MP, 42-21
Mt. Si vs. Oak Harbor
When: Today, 4 p.m.
Where: Wildcat Memorial Stadium
Winner receives: State berth and the winner of Kelso/O’Dea
Scoreczar pick: If I had to choose just one game to attend, it would be this one. The numbers are very close for both teams. Mount Si has scored 311 points and allowed 139. OH has scored 305, allowed 157, with strength of schedule values only fractions apart. OH says it played a healthy MP offense and allowed just 157 yards. Mount Si counters that it has played Bellevue and has allowed less. Computer says 26-21 Mount Si in an instant classic.
Swaney pick: Mt. Si 33-30
Lommers pick: Mt. Si 45-21
Krueger pick: Mt. Si 38-28
Meadowdale vs. Timberline
When: Today, 1 p.m.
Where: South Sound Stadium
Winner receives: State berth and the winner of Lakes/Nathan Hale
Scoreczar pick: Computer ended its relationship with Meadowdale and has been flirting with Timberline. Timberline has trended up in to the Top 10 while Mavs have trended down and out. I still want to be friends. Hey, Mavs do you still have my sweater from that one night? Could I get that back at ? you know ? some point? Blazers 22-16 in a close one.
Swaney pick: Timberline 26-14
Lommers pick: Meadowdale 33-28
Krueger pick: Timberline 27-21