Jayden Limar makes the spectacular look routine.
Front-flipping over a defender into the end zone?
Stiff-arming a defensive back to the turf on his way to a catch-and-run score?
Stopping on a dime, cutting back to the opposite side, accelerating around the edge and using his lightning-quick speed to turn a surefire loss into yet another jaw-dropping touchdown?
That’s just a sampling of the highlight-reel extravaganza the Lake Stevens star running back has put on display this fall.
“Jayden Limar is a highlight waiting to happen,” said Mariner coach Tyler Tuiasosopo, one of the dozen opposing head coaches who’ve had the arduous task of trying to game-plan for him this season.
“He’s a game-changer,” Kamiak coach Bryant Thomas said. “As he goes, the team goes.”
With his electrifying skill set, Limar has been the centerpiece of the Lake Stevens football team’s run to the Class 4A state semifinals.
The University of Notre Dame-bound senior has piled up 1,966 total yards and 34 TDs through 11 games. He’s rushed for 1,644 yards and 30 scores, while averaging a whopping 9.2 yards per carry. And he’s been a versatile receiving threat, with 24 catches for 322 yards and four TDs.
Limar and the second-seeded Vikings (10-2) square off against sixth-seeded defending state champion Graham-Kapowsin (10-2) in a 4A state semifinal Saturday, with a spot in the state title game on the line.
“He’s been our motor,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said. “… He’s just really special.”
It’s easy to see why Limar is a four-star recruit and ranked by 247Sports as the No. 14 senior running back in the nation.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound back makes defenders miss with ankle-breaking elusiveness. He burns defenses with superb vision and cutback ability. He slips out of tackles and churns out extra yardage with strength and physicality.
He’s just as dangerous as a receiver, whether he’s hauling in a screen pass or racing past the secondary on a downfield route.
And in the open field, good luck catching up to his breakaway 4.46-second, 40-yard-dash speed.
“He’s a five-tool talent,” Tri said. “I know that’s a baseball term. But the kid can run between the tackles. He can run to the edge. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can run deep routes down the field. He pass protects when we ask him to. He’s an extra coach on the field.
“He is a multi-dimensional talented athlete.”
Limar has racked up 4,663 total yards and 70 TDs in his high school career, with most of that production coming over the past two seasons.
Yet even after all the highlight-reel plays, Limar still regularly leaves his head coach in awe.
“Every day, there’s something that he does,” Tri said.
Tri pointed to the numerous times this season when Limar has taken a run to one side of the field and then effortlessly bounced it back to the other side, using his next-level agility and blazing speed to turn a broken play into a big gain or touchdown.
“Very few kids in the state can do something like that,” Tri said. “He just has that ability to make guys miss, have good vision and accelerate and go turn nothing into something.
“He’s been doing that time and time again,” he added.
Much of Limar’s natural athleticism undoubtedly comes from his genes.
His father, Reggie, was an Everett High School basketball standout who helped lead the Seagulls to a seventh-place finish in the 2000 3A state tournament. And his mother, Linnie, played soccer for Snohomish High School.
Early on, Limar grew up playing year-round select soccer for Snohomish United. But that changed heading into fourth grade, when a couple of friends convinced him to give football a try.
“One of their dads talked to mine and got me to come try a practice,” Limar said. “I think I quit soccer the next day, and it was football ever since.”
Before he was even in high school, Limar broke the Lake Stevens football program’s vertical jump record. He accomplished the feat during the spring prior to his freshman year, when he leaped an astounding 40.5 inches at the Vikings’ annual combine event.
To put that in perspective: As an eighth grader, Limar would’ve tied for the eighth-highest vertical jump at that year’s NFL combine.
He’s since increased his mark to 41.5 inches.
“We knew right away like, ‘OK, those are pretty special talents,’” Tri said.
Limar combines his elite skills with a work ethic that Tri raves about.
“He wants it as much as anybody,” Tri said. “He puts the work in, the time in, watches the film. We root for him all the way because he deserves it. He does get all the accolades, but he earns it.”
Limar frequently trains at Ford Sports Performance in Bellevue — where sometimes he finds himself doing drills alongside the likes of NFL running backs Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed and Boston Scott.
“They’ve been coaching me up (and) teaching me a lot,” Limar said. “They challenge me too, which is definitely a big thing for me. … And I love it. I listen to everything that they have to tell. I’m gonna take it all in, because they’ve done everything I want to do.”
Tri also praised Limar’s advanced football IQ and ability to quickly memorize plays and concepts.
That was perhaps never more evident than in last year’s regular-season finale against Glacier Peak.
With multiple quarterbacks out due to injuries, Lake Stevens pivoted to a Wildcat rushing attack with Limar at quarterback. Despite having just a few days to learn and practice the newly installed Wildcat package, Limar racked up 254 total yards and carried the Vikings past the Grizzlies for another Wesco 4A title.
This year, Lake Stevens has again taken advantage of Limar’s versatility and adaptability by deploying him all over the field on offense.
“He’s so coachable and learns so quickly,” Tri said. “So we can move him around with one rep. I tell him one time, ‘Hey, you’re gonna play ‘X’ on this play and you’re gonna do this.’ And then we won’t run that play again for two days, and as I’m calling that play, he’s already running out and (ready to do it).
“He’s so on top of the offense and just so dialed in.”
Tri was equally effusive about Limar’s impact as a leader. He said Limar is constantly coaching and encouraging his teammates, both on and off the field.
“I hear him saying things that coaches say all the time,” Tri said. “And he’s respectful. He’s polite. He brings positive energy. He’s always smiling, always smiling. Even when he doesn’t feel good, even when he’s sore and tired, he finds a way to just energize all the people around him. And that’s what a leader does.
“He’s been one of the best (leaders) we’ve ever had. And I don’t wanna shortchange other guys, because we’ve had great leaders. He’s just really one of the best we’ve ever had.”
Yet as instrumental as Limar has been to the Vikings’ success, he’s quick to credit those around him. Especially his offensive line.
“They’ve been killing it,” Limar said. “All my success this year, none of it would’ve happened if they weren’t on their game.
“Everything goes to them,” he added. “All my yards, those are their yards too.”
Tri also praised the offensive line — which consists of junior left tackle Bryce Slezak, senior left guard Aaron Parker, senior center Grant Lynch, senior right guard Ashten Hendrickson and senior right tackle Micah Avery.
“The O-line is doing a great job in our run game of opening up holes for Jayden and also giving us plenty of time to throw the ball and find open receivers,” Tri said. “That’s really helped our offense flourish these last few weeks.”
Tri said the line’s success starts with Lynch, a captain and three-year starter who has earned the freedom to read defenses and flip the direction of plays at the line of scrimmage.
“There have been a few years where we’ve done that before with some other good centers we’ve had,” Tri said. “But I think Grant’s had as much freedom and flexibility to do that as any that I can remember.
“And that just shows you the trust that we have in our front five to make the right decision. … Those guys have been tremendous all year.”
One of the only downsides for Limar and the Vikings this fall was an injury to sophomore running back Jayshon Limar.
Jayden was looking forward to starring in the backfield with his talented younger brother, who has already received a handful of college offers from Power Five programs. But Jayshon has been sidelined since Week 4.
Jayden said that only provides more motivation as he and his team continue on their state title quest.
“I wanna get him a ring before I’m gone, so that’s definitely a big thing that’s on my mind,” Jayden said.
Over the past two weeks, Jayden has totaled 532 yards and nine TDs in Lake Stevens’ state playoff wins over North Creek and Gonzaga Prep.
Jayden and the Vikings enter Saturday looking to avenge last year’s 44-7 state championship game loss to Graham-Kapowsin.
And more importantly, to move one step closer to the program’s first-ever state crown.
“It’s just crazy to think that we could be the first group to do that,” Jayden said. “So I try not to think about it, just because it’s a lot.
“I (just) take it one game at a time.”