ARLINGTON — Austin Lane spent five seasons of his youth as the Lakewood football team’s ball boy, watching from the sidelines as his older brother, Justin, starred at quarterback for the Cougars.
Now it’s Austin who is shredding opposing defenses with his arm, while Justin watches closely from the sidelines.
Austin is compiling a standout senior season at quarterback for Class 2A 10th-ranked Lakewood, having completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 1,232 yards, 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Justin, meanwhile, is in his first season as an assistant in the Cougars’ program. As quarterbacks coach, Justin works directly with his younger brother.
“It’s pretty cool now to see (it) come full circle,” Justin said.
“It’s been fun,” Austin added. “Once in a while, we butt heads. But we’re brothers, so that happens.”
Austin, a 6-foot-4 lefty, has lifted Lakewood (4-1 overall, 2-0 league) into the thick of Northwest Conference title contention with back-to-back victories over traditional powers Burlington-Edison and Lynden.
Against Burlington-Edison, Austin completed 21 of 26 passes for 241 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Last week against Lynden, he threw for a season-high 329 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Lane also has rushed for a team-high 250 yards and three touchdowns this season.
“He’s just been doing a phenomenal job,” 12th-year Lakewood coach Dan Teeter said. “I’ve had an opportunity to coach a number of college quarterbacks that have gone on at different levels, and he can play with them at that (next) level.”
One of those college quarterbacks was Justin, a 2011 Lakewood graduate who set nearly every major program passing record while excelling as a four-year starter for the Cougars.
Justin then redshirted one season at FCS-level Illinois State University before transferring to Central Washington University, where he started for two seasons.
“Growing up watching him play quarterback, it was fun,” Austin said. “And being a ball boy helped me strengthen my relationship with him.”
Austin spent most of his youth playing tight end, partly out of a desire to be unique from his older brother.
“My family and my coaches were like, ‘You should try quarterback, because your brother’s a quarterback,’” Austin said. “And I never wanted to.”
Austin eventually had a change of heart and moved to quarterback in eighth grade. Then after missing his entire freshman season with a broken collarbone, Austin took over as Lakewood’s starting quarterback as a sophomore.
Austin’s completion percentage has steadily climbed during his three seasons under center. After completing about 50 percent of his passes as a sophomore, Austin completed nearly 58 percent as a junior and more than 68 percent this season.
Teeter said Austin’s greatest strength is his decision-making.
“He’s got a mind for the game and he’s seeing what’s there,” Teeter said. “And his accuracy has been phenomenal. He’s putting the ball right where it needs to be.”
Austin had a strong junior campaign last year, throwing for 1,982 yards, 18 touchdowns and five interceptions.
But he’s since taken his game to a new level.
“The biggest thing that has improved in the past year (is) the timing of his throws,” Teeter said. “He’s making throws now where he knows the read is there, and he’s throwing the ball before the receiver makes his break. The receiver turns around and the ball is halfway there.
“That’s tough to defend.”
Austin said he put in considerable work over the offseason, both at Empire Quarterback Academy in Seattle and during training sessions with his older brother. Austin said Justin has helped him improve both his footwork and ability to read defenses.
“He’s really good at that,” Austin said of his older brother’s football intelligence. “I think he should be an offensive coordinator one day.”
As siblings, the Lane brothers’ player-coach relationship is certainly unique.
“(Justin) can say some things that maybe another coach wouldn’t say to Austin,” Teeter said. “That pushes him just that little bit harder, and it’s been good for him.”
With both brothers currently living in the same house, sometimes it can be challenging to leave football at the door.
“On the field, we try not to be brothers. We try to be coach and player,” Austin said. “So we come home, and then sometimes I’m still a little mad at him for getting on me at practice or something like that.
“But it’s fun,” Austin said of working with his brother. “I’m going to miss it.”
In their free time, the Lane brothers sometimes play Madden against each other.
“We’re pretty even,” Austin said of their video-game matchups. “It’s really competitive.”
As for their quarterback play, Justin still holds most of Lakewood’s passing records. But Austin broke his brother’s single-season and single-game completion records last year, and could capture more program records before his Cougars career concludes.
“I’m hoping to beat some more of his records this year. But it’d be cool to … not take all of them,” Austin said with a laugh. “That’d be nice to leave him a couple.”
Austin is focused on guiding his team to success this fall, but said he has aspirations of playing college football, like his brother.
Teeter said he’s surprised that Austin hasn’t received more college interest.
“I don’t know what the college coaches are waiting for, quite honestly,” Teeter said. “I’m anxious to see who’s going to come in and scoop him up, because the kid can play at the next level.”