LAKE STEVENS — Succeeding the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year is asking a lot from any youngster. But so far Conor Bardue is living up to the legacy.
Bardue had his second straight big day, throwing four touchdown passes to lead the Lake Stevens Vikings to a 42-7 victory over the Arlington Eagles on Friday night in non-league prep action.
Bardue was given the tough task of replacing Jacob Eason, whose strong arm carried Lake Stevens to the 4A state semifinals last year and a starting spot at the University of Georgia this year. But it seems the Vikings remain in good hands. Bardue, a junior, finished Friday’s game 20-for-27 for 221 yards to go with those four TDs. He did that all in three quarters.
This came one week after tossing seven touchdowns in Lake Stevens’ season-opening 54-8 victory over Stanwood — a feat even Eason never accomplished.
“I’m honored,” Bardue said about following Eason. “I get a lot of, ‘Hey, good luck, you’ve got big shoes to fill,’ and all of that. Not many people expect me to succeed like he did. I’m shocking a lot of people right now, which is very nice for me, and I just have to keep improving and try to get up to where he is.”
Said Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri: “He’s been awesome, real steady. He’s been biding his time behind Jake, watching Jake get all the attention last year. He’s got a big bullseye on his chest because of what Jake was able to do, but he doesn’t act like it at all. He just goes out and plays, just has fun. He makes good decisions with the ball, gets it out quickly, finds open guys, ball comes out pretty well. I’m proud of him, he’s been a great leader for us.”
It wasn’t all Bardue for the Vikings (2-0) as he received a lot of help. A big chunk of it came from running back Blake May as the senior rushed for 195 yards on 22 carries with a punishing straight-ahead style that was too much for the Eagles to handle.
“Blake is a stud,” Tri said. “Our goal this week was to get a really good push up front and open up some run lanes for Blake May because he’s a pretty darn good running back that not many people know about.”
May, Anthony Hutchinson and Hunter Eckstrom all found the end zone twice for the Vikings.
Devon Nutter scored the lone touchdown for Arlington (1-1).
The game started out as an offensive barn-burner, as both teams moved the ball quickly down the field in their early possessions. Lake Stevens, on a methodical opening drive of the game, traveled 62 yards on nine plays, culminating with May’s 2-yard touchdown plunge. Arlington responded on the next drive, with Campbell Hudson connecting with Nutter on a center screen for a 39-yard score that tied it at 7-7. On the next possession the Vikings struck again, this time Bardue hooking up with Hutchinson for a 3-yard score. It seemed the spectators were about to be treated to a wild-west shootout.
That turned out to be the case, but only on one side of the ball.
If the first quarter saw both teams moving the ball, it was Lake Stevens that had all the success in the second quarter. The Vikings had three quick-strike drives in a row, with all three ending with Bardue touchdown passes. The first went 21 yards to Eckstrom, the second was a 9-yarder to Hutchinson, and the third was 24-yard screen to May. Just like that Lake Stevens made what looked like it was going to be a competitive game into a rout.
“I thought we did a really good job of executing early,” Tri said. “Our goal was to try to run the ball tonight and our offensive line did a great job opening up some holes and getting a great push up front. I thought our O-line did a great job in pass pro, too. As soon as we started throwing the ball our quarterback had a ton of time to find open receivers.
“Defensively I think we made some great adjustments,” Tri continued. “It was a war in the trenches and I thought our D-line owned the front, and then our linebackers did a great job of tackling in the open field. After that first series we were much more salty on defense.”