MONROE — Lake Stevens head coach Tom Tri said his team had a plan to establish their running game against Monroe.
It’s safe to say it worked.
Senior running back Austin Otis rushed for a school record 292 yards on 24 carries and scored four touchdowns to lead the Vikings to a 49-13 win over the Bearcats on Friday. Otis broke his own record of 287 he set last year against Snohomish.
“I didn’t really even know until the fourth quarter,” Otis said. “It feels amazing, especially against a good team like this.”
Tri was so committed to the run that the first few carries were predetermined.
“We had four scripted plays to start the game off and every one of them was run,” Tri said. “I said, ‘I don’t care if it’s 3rd-and-12 or we get a penalty. We are running the ball tonight.’ Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we ran those same four plays every time we started our team session ? We didn’t quite know it was going to be as effective as it was.”
Otis did most of his damage in the first half, scoring all four of his touchdowns and rushing for 213 yards on 17 carries to help Lake Stevens build a 28-6 lead at intermission.
“That’s a senior just giving his heart and just playing to his full potential,” Tri said. “He’s had some great games for us in the first three weeks, but tonight was a night for him to really step up and really showcase his skills and he took full advantage of it.”
In the fourth week of the season a year ago, Monroe defeated the Vikings 9-7 on their own field, and Lake Stevens’ players haven’t forgotten.
“This was definitely the biggest game that we’ve looked forward to so far,” Otis said. “Since last season when we lost, we’ve circled this. We’ve talked about it almost every day just to remind ourselves how much we need to work.”
Tri decreased Otis’ workload in the second half, giving sophomore Andrew Grimes a chance. Grimes took advantage of the opportunity rushing for 84 yards on seven carries and scoring a touchdown.
But in the fourth quarter, the Vikings kept Otis in for a few extra carries to break the record.
“I always worry about stuff like that because the last thing I want to do is act like we’re trying to run the score up,” Tri said. “But at the same time when a kid is six yards away and it’s your rival and you have a chance to do something special — we might not get that opportunity again.”
Tri said the record and the Vikings’ 387 total rushing yards wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the offensive line.
“We held blocks five, seven and eight yards down field,” Tri said. “That’s why Otis had 290 some yards. Granted he broke some tackles and he ran hard, but I give all the credit to the O-line tonight. They just played their hearts out.”
The final score doesn’t show it, but the Vikings faced adversity to start the game. They fumbled the opening kickoff and the Bearcats took advantage on their first offensive play from scrimmage when Andrew Zimmerman found Gabe Moore for a 38-yard touchdown pass.
Lake Stevens fumbled the ball three times in the first quarter and Monroe recovered all of them.
But the Vikings settled in behind the consistency of Otis. He scored touchdown from 19, 67, 3 and 6 yards out in the first half and the game quickly turned into a blowout.
With Otis, the Vikings have a running back they can hand the ball to 20-plus times per game without concern and one way or another he always seems to get his yards.
“As a play caller, knowing that you have a kid that is going to go for 100 or 200 on any given night, it just opens up so many things,” Tri said. “If defenses are focused on Otis than we have some other weapons and some receivers that we can try to go to.”
And that’s exactly what happened Friday.
The success of the running game set up the passing game for the Vikings and their sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason. He finished 13-for-19 with 198 yards and two touchdowns, an 8-yard pass to Riley Krenz and a 55-yard bomb to Gavin O’Neil.
“The gameplan was to set up the pass game with the run game early,” Tri said. “Let’s get them on their heels a little bit and then come out and run some play action. Most of the passes we had tonight were all off of a play action type where we would fake it to Otis or fake it to Grimes and then comeback and throw it with the play action concept.”
The Vikings certainly have a long way to go before they can think about the Wesco North championship, but a blowout win over the defending champs is a good start.
“It’s big in that it’s a great start,” Tri said. “It’s huge for confidence and momentum, but it’s just one league game. It’s a wide open race and we know that. But it’s certainly a good start and get a little revenge against Monroe who took it to us last year on our turf.”
After a 1-2 start to the season and inconsistent play in each of those games, it’s fair to ask the question if this is the Lake Stevens team we will see going forward?
“I sure hope so,” Tri said. “If we are going to win the Wesco North and compete for the league championship, this is the type of the team we have to have.”
Otis seemed a bit more confident than his coach.
“This is definitely the Lake Stevens team – (it will be) even better later in the season.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Bearcat Stadium, Monroe
Lake Stevens 7 21 14 7 — 49
Monroe 6 0 0 7 — 13
M–Gabe Moore 38 pass from Andrew Zimmerman (pass failed)
LS–Austin Otis 19 run (Ignacio Ponce kick)
LS–Otis 67 run (Ponce kick)
LS–Otis 3 run (Ponce kick)
LS–Otis 6 run (Ponce kick)
LS–Riley Krenz 8 pass from Jacob Eason (Ponce kick)
LS–Gavin O’Neil 55 pass from Eason (Ponce kick)
LS–Andrew Grimes 7 run (Ponce kick)
M–Moore 92 kickoff return (Tanner Ohlsen kick)
Records–Lake Stevens 1-0 league, 2-2 overall. Monroe 0-1, 1-3.