Lake Stevens’ Grayson Murren competes against O’Dea High School in Seattle on September 17, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Lake Stevens’ Grayson Murren competes against O’Dea High School in Seattle on September 17, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Lake Stevens standout QB ‘so glad’ to be back from injury

After an injury threatened to end his senior season, Grayson Murren is leading the Vikings’ offense again.

Grayson Murren had waited years for the opportunity to quarterback the powerhouse Lake Stevens football team.

It was finally his time. The Vikings were rolling. And the playoffs were just around the corner.

So when he received news of his X-ray results last month, it was a devastating blow.

He’d fractured the fibula in his left leg.

And the rest of his senior season was in jeopardy.

“I was so sad,” Murren said. “And it kind of killed me, because football is like my life. I love playing. … I knew I had little time left, and I didn’t really know if I was gonna be able to come back or not.”

Over the next few weeks, the doubt and uncertainty lingered.

But Lake Stevens kept winning. And Murren’s leg healed in time.

Last Saturday, Murren returned to make his first start since the injury, helping lead the Vikings to a 35-14 win over previously unbeaten Gonzaga Prep in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.

“It was like the greatest feeling ever to be back on the field,” Murren said. “… I’m so glad I got back (in) time. I was just so happy.”

With Murren’s return, the high-powered Lake Stevens offense has its trigger man back.

The talented 6-foot-5 senior has been highly efficient as a first-year starter this fall, completing 70.7% of his passes for 1,505 yards, 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions in slightly more than seven games of action. He has shown excellent command of the Vikings’ intricate spread offense, while dispersing the ball in rhythm to their array of explosive playmakers. And he’s done so while taking only one sack on 117 dropbacks.

Murren and No. 3 seed Lake Stevens (10-0) face No. 2 seed Eastlake (12-0) in a 4A state semifinal Saturday afternoon at Bothell’s Pop Keeney Stadium.

“He’s accurate, he’s extremely athletic, he’s a smart kid, (and) he loves watching film and learning about defenses and just understanding what his reads should be — whether teams are dropping into man or zone coverage, or whether they’re bringing five or six on a blitz,” Vikings coach Tom Tri said. “He just recognizes those kinds of things, makes quick reactions and has made good decisions for us all year long.

“It’s been just a huge blessing to get him back and let him finish the way that he deserves to finish,” Tri added.

Murren spent his sophomore and junior seasons entrenched as the backup behind two-time All-Wesco 4A first-team quarterback Tanner Jellison, a three-star recruit who is now part of the University of San Diego football program.

“Grayson, I think, was probably the second-most talented quarterback in Wesco last year,” Tri said in August, just prior to this season. “It just so happened that he played behind Tanner.”

Murren, who also is an all-league basketball player, took over the starting quarterback role heading into this season. But he had to wait an extra two weeks to make his first varsity start, due to Lake Stevens’ first two games being canceled because of COVID-19 protocols following positive tests within the program.

Murren finally made his long-awaited starting debut in Week 3, helping lead the Vikings to a victory over 3A state powerhouse O’Dea. The following week, he threw six touchdown passes in a rout of Archbishop Murphy.

And from there, it was smooth sailing for Murren and Lake Stevens until a Week 8 clash with previously unbeaten Kamiak on Oct. 22. Murren tossed three more touchdown passes that evening, lifting the Vikings to a tense 35-28 win over the upstart Knights.

But late in that game, with his team just a yard or two from a go-ahead score in the closing minutes of a tie contest, Murren ran a third-down quarterback keeper toward the goal line.

As he tried to extend into the end zone, Murren injured his leg.

“I was getting held down by a bunch of people … and a bunch of lineman bodies fell on my left leg,” he said.

Murren stayed in the game for the ensuing play, handing the ball off to star running back Jayden Limar for the eventual game-winning 1-yard touchdown run.

“As soon as I got up, I could tell something was wrong,” Murren said. “But I didn’t know it was to that extent.”

Murren learned the extent of his injury the following day, when he went to the doctor and received X-rays showing a fractured fibula. It meant he’d be sidelined for at least the next few weeks.

“It was not the news that I wanted and it hurt me a lot,” Murren said. “I just had to hold it down for my team (and) pull my emotions together, … so my teammates wouldn’t see me down.”

Murren said he spent about a week in a hard cast. After that, he gradually began walking again and doing physical therapy to regain movement.

All the while, he kept throwing.

“That’s all I was doing,” Murren said with a laugh. “I was just sitting on a knee or sitting on the ground throwing footballs. … I was just dying to get back.”

Tri also praised Murren for being like an extra coach when he was sidelined.

“He was really coaching up our (backup quarterbacks) and helping the receivers with routes,” Tri said. “… He just helped provide comfort and wisdom to those two young quarterbacks.”

Meanwhile, the Vikings rallied around their injured senior and kept finding ways to win.

In its first game without Murren, Lake Stevens pivoted to a Wildcat-heavy rushing attack and beat league rival Glacier Peak 34-28 to claim its eighth consecutive Wesco 4A title.

Then after freshman backup quarterback Kolton Matson returned from a season-long injury the following week, the Vikings went back to their normal spread offense. And with efficient performances from Matson and a heavy dose of a strong Limar-led rushing attack, Lake Stevens rolled to a Week 10 playoff rout of Emerald Ridge and a first-round state blowout of Richland.

“That was kind of the inspiration of the whole team for those three weeks — we’ve gotta keep winning till we can get our quarterback back,” Tri said. “Whatever it takes to win.”

Murren said he was cleared to return to practice on Nov. 12, the day before the Vikings’ state opener against Richland.

Matson played quarterback for nearly the entirety of that game. But Murren made a brief appearance at the end of the first half, heaving a pair of deep balls downfield that fell incomplete. Tri said they brought in Murren for that situation because he has about an extra 10 yards of arm strength.

After that brief cameo, Murren returned in full for last Saturday’s state quarterfinal. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 214 yards, guiding Lake Stevens to touchdowns on five of its eight non-end-of-half possessions.

“It’s great to have him back,” Vikings standout senior receiver Drew Carter said after the quarterfinal victory. “That’s my guy, man. I’ve missed him. I’ve been playing with him since I was like 9 or 10. … And so to have him back, it’s a great feeling.”

Tri said Murren’s return provides a sense of stability and familiarity for the offense.

“When we lost him for those three weeks, we had to get very creative and do some different things that fit the strengths of what we had,” Tri said. “But now that he’s back, we feel like our whole offense is open to us, and Gray’s gonna do a great job of leading us and putting points on the board for us.”

For Murren, the past five weeks have been a roller coaster of ups and downs.

“It’s been like a whirlwind of emotions,” he said. “… It was a hard time, but I overcame it. And it made me a better person.”

And now, Murren and the Vikings are one win away from making the program’s fourth-ever state championship game appearance.

“It would mean the world,” Murren said of reaching the title game. “… It’d mean everything.”

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