EVERETT — With a quarterback like Jacob Eason and receivers like Tevin Gray and Riley Krenz, just to name a few, the Lake Stevens running game is often an afterthought.
On Friday night it was center stage.
Junior Andrew Grimes rushed for 225 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns to lead the Vikings to a 37-34 win over Kamiak and the Wesco 4A championship.
“It’s really hard because we’ve got four or five receivers, we’ve got a quarterback who can chuck it all over the field and we’ve got to find some touches for, what I think, is an all-Wesco caliber running back,” Lake Stevens head coach Tom Tri said. “We’ve got to find a way to be creative and make sure we’re staying balanced.”
Predominantly, the Vikings stuck with the passing game in the first half. Eason completed 11 of his 20 passes, but managed just 130 yards — though he did throw two touchdown passes to Gray. Three of Eason’s completions went for negative yardage and though he hit some big plays, Kamiak kept the Vikings’ passing game in check.
“They just brought pressure,” Tri said. “Kamiak had a great gameplan. Offensively, I thought they came out and smacked us in the mouth and kept it out of our hands. They were just getting big chunks (of yards). Defensively, they were bringing pressure off the edge. Their front four guys were relentless and our pass game struggled a little bit, which is why we went to the running game in the second half.”
After the Vikings scored on their first possession of the game, the Knights responded with 21 unanswered points to ignite their home crowd. With time ticking off the clock in the second quarter, the Vikings got a much-needed score before halftime. With just seven seconds remaining in the quarter, Eason connected on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Gray.
The score seemed to spark the Vikings early in the second half. They forced Kamiak to punt on its first possession, and the offense didn’t even need to come onto the field. Junior Brandon Otis returned the punt 65 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 21.
Kamiak followed the touchdown with a lengthy drive, but it stalled after 10 plays and the Knights turned the ball over on downs.
That’s when Grimes took over.
The Vikings handed the ball to him on their first offensive play of the second half and Grimes rushed for 51 yards. On the next play he scored on a 3-yard run to give the Vikings a 27-21 lead after a missed extra point.
“I just had a fire,” Grimes said. “It’s the Wesco championship, how more jacked up can you be? I was just so excited to play this game. Our line did a great job and just came out firing on all cylinders.”
With Grimes running the ball effectively in the second half, Eason threw just one pass in the final two quarters.
“Teams are worried about (Eason) and then that opens up holes for me and if I make some good runs, then they’re worried about me and that opens it up for him,” Grimes said. “It’s kind of like we have each other’s backs. We’re working for each other.”
Kamiak answered the Grimes touchdown with one of its own. Early in the fourth quarter Kamiak quarterback Tyler Becker found Nate Shubert for an 8-yard touchdown pass and the Knights regained the lead at 28-27.
Becker finished the game 12-for-15 for 217 yards and three touchdowns.
The Vikings drove the ball deep into Kamiak territory on their next possession, but when Kamiak forced a fourth down on 7-yard line, Tri elected to kick a field goal to take the lead. Ignacio Ponce’s kick from 24 yards away split the uprights to give Lake Stevens a 30-28 lead.
The Vikings’ defense forced a three-and-out on the next possession. Trailing by two with under five minutes left, Kamiak was forced to punt.
On the very first offensive play, Grimes effectively put the game away, rushing for a 48-yard touchdown that gave Lake Stevens a 37-28 lead.
“We’re going to feed the beast,” Tri said. “If teams are going to leave four or five in the box, we’re going to give him the ball.”
No matter what happens in the final week of the regular season, the Vikings are the No. 1 seed from the Wesco 4A going into the postseason.
“Wesco champs was are original goal at the start of the year,” Tri said. “Obviously, we want to be a state-playoff team and make a deep playoff run and in order to do that, you’ve got to be Wesco champs — or at least it’s nice to be Wesco champs to give you that first round home playoff game and try to give us that better draw, hopefully.”
Despite a disappointing loss, Kamiak coach Dan Mack was proud of his team’s effort.
“I’m proud of them,” Mack said. “We stayed together as a family. They can look each other in the eye and know they gave it their best shot. Every mistakes is fixable. That’s exactly what I told them. Every mistake is fixable and we’re going to get back to school, make corrections. We need to tackle a little bit better. We’re right there.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Goddard Stadium
Lake Stevens – 7 7 13 10 – 37
Kamiak – 14 7 0 13 – 34
LS–Tevin Gray 12 pass from Jacob Eason (Ignacio Ponce kick)
K–Alex Indelicato 43 run (Tyler Becker kick)
K–Tyler Becker 5 run (Chance Lord kick)
K–Brock Merkley 47 pass from Becker (Lord kick)
LS–Gray 29 pass from Eason (Ponce kick)
LS–Brandon Otis 65 punt return (Ponce kick)
LS–Andrew Grimes 3 run (kick failed)
K–Nate Shubert 8 pass from Becker (Lord kick)
LS–Ponce 24 FG
LS–Grimes 48 run (Ponce kick)
K–Shubert 25 pass from Becker (kick failed
Records–Lake Stevens 6-0 league, 7-1 overall. Kamiak 5-1, 6-2.