Jacob Eason, one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits, has led unbeaten, top-ranked Lake Stevens into the Class 4A state high-school playoffs. Rabid Georgia fans already are flying in for a glimpse.
LAKE STEVENS — Georgia football fans can’t wait to see touted Lake Stevens quarterback Jacob Eason in a Bulldogs uniform.
Some of them haven’t.
Cal Batchelor, a financial adviser from Savannah, Ga., traveled with three friends to watch Eason, a University of Georgia recruit widely regarded as one of the top high-school quarterbacks in the nation, play in a football game.
Jacob Eason file
Some fast facts about the Lake Stevens star:
Height: 6 feet 5
Stats: 8,594 career passing yards, completing 64 percent of his passes for 88 TDs. Has 2,366 passing yards (70 percent), 29 TDs as senior; 2,829 yards, 32 TDs in 2014l; 2,941 yards, 23 TDs in 2013.
Rank: Five-star recruit rated the No. 2 QB by Scout.
College: Committed to Georgia in July 2014.
“We’re all alumni,” Batchelor said. “We try to go to one away game a year. When Jacob committed to us, and gosh, that’s been a couple years, we thought it would be fun because he made such a big commitment to us, to show him our commitment to him.
“We thought that was the least we could do, to hop on a plane and fly across and show up in our Georgia attire and watch him play a football game,” Batchelor said. “And we actually got to meet him before the game, which was great.”
For Georgia fans who didn’t have an autumn trip to the Seattle area on their calendar, the Atlanta Journal Constitution brings Eason’s performances to them.
Nate Gettleman, the video director for the Everett AquaSox minor-league baseball team, produces a weekly video on Eason for the newspaper’s DawgNation website.
“Every week when I go to the field, Tony Eason, Jake’s dad, always mentions that he liked the video … other journalists will ask me if I’m the guy doing the DawgNation videos,” Gettleman said.
“They’ve been linked on USA Today. They’ve gotten a pretty good response.”
Several of Gettleman’s videos include Georgia fans that have made the trip or now live in the Seattle area. His video on the Vikings’ 42-7 victory over Mariner of Everett in mid-October ends with Eason chatting after the game with two young boys, signing their Georgia football helmets, and then posing with them for a photo.
Eason is known as “Skinny” to teammates, teacher, friends and almost the entire Snohomish County community. It’s not because of a lanky frame, but because of a dubious childhood haircut. He earned the quarterback job as a freshman, but broke his arm that season. He has led Lake Stevens to the WesCo 4A championship in his last three seasons as a starter.
This year, the Vikings are a perfect 9-0 in the regular season, in big part due to Eason’s connection with his receivers, whom he has played with or against since elementary school. But Lake Stevens also boasts a 1,000-yard rusher in Andrew Grimes, and a defense that has not allowed more than 14 points in a game since a 49-21 victory over Meadowdale of Lynnwood in the season opener.
The Vikings, No. 1 in The Seattle Times Class 4A rankings, open the playoffs at home on Friday against Tahoma of Maple Valley (7-2).
Vikings quarterback coach Lew Widmann, who played the position during his high- school career at neighboring Snohomish, said the 6-foot-5 Eason obviously has the talent and arm strength to play at the next level, but needs to get stronger to compete in the rugged Southeastern Conference.
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“Everybody there is big and fast and strong … my nervousness for him stems from the size and speed of all those other guys,” Widmann said. “Is he ready for that beating? Because he is going to get hit.”
Tony Eason, no relation to the former NFL quarterback of the same name, knows the difference between high school and major-college football. He played wide receiver at Notre Dame.
“There’s no guarantees, there’s no givens,” Tony Eason said. “But just getting that chance, so he can go in there and learn — start at the bottom of the totem pole and climb up, he’s extremely excited about that.”
It’s homecoming night and the stands at Lake Stevens are packed as the Vikings have a chance to clinch the WesCo 4A title against Kamiak of Mukilteo, a team they rallied to beat last season, 37-34.
The Oct. 23 game, broadcast live on ESPNU, is the Vikings’ first appearance before a national television audience.
After practice Thursday before the game, Vikings coach Tom Tri had told his players to savor the opportunity, but not get caught up in the excitement.
“It’s cool. It’s really cool,” Tri says. “It’s special, but none of that matters. Ultimately, all that matters is what happens on this field.”
Almost two hours before kickoff, the stadium parking lot is almost full. The concession stand manned by the wrestling booster club runs out of burgers about a half-hour before game time.
The standing-room-only crowd includes Brian Schottenheimer, Georgia’s offensive coordinator.
Kamiak is forced to punt on the opening possession. On the Vikings first play from scrimmage, senior Amado Attipoe bursts off the right side for a 54-yard touchdown run.
On the first play of the Vikings’ second series, Grimes scampers 40 yards to key a 75-yard scoring drive to make it 14-0.
The early success on the ground opens up the passing game. Eason, who has played with or against many of his teammates since fourth or fifth grade, finishes with five touchdown passes and runs for another in a 63-7 victory.
“After this week, I’m ready for some good, old-fashioned high-school football again,” Tri says after the game.
“I love the distractions, I really do. Well, I shouldn’t say I love them, but it’s cool that our kids have earned the right to have those types of distractions. And quite honestly, I thought they handled it very well.”
Thirty minutes after the game, Eason is the only player still on the field in his uniform, posing for pictures and signing autographs for dozens of young fans.
“I used to come and watch the game in the stands and watch Jake Nelson (Central Washington) and the other quarterbacks,” said Eason, who is enrolling early at Georgia.
“Now, I am one of those guys and I have all these kids watching me and I want to be the best for them while I can.”
Some 2,700 miles away, Bulldogs fans were keeping digital tabs on their big recruit.
Chris Kirschner of the Journal Constitution tweeted, “Miss #UGA football today? Well, watch highlights of Jacob Eason’s 6 TD game last night.”