For the vast success Beau Baldwin has had as football coach at Eastern Washington University – three Big Sky Conference titles and the 2010 Football Championship Subdivision title in his six seasons — he accomplished something new Wednesday.
He signed the reigning Gatorade state player of the year in Washington.
That happens to be Camas High School quarterback Reilly Hennessey, who many consider to be the top senior in-state signal caller.
“We’ve never had what I considered to be the top quarterback in the state,” said Baldwin, a Curtis High School graduate. “It is a big deal. We feel very fortunate to be signing a guy like Reilly Hennessey, who has so many of the intangibles to be a great quarterback at the next level.”
The Eagles continued their annual raid of the state’s talent. Twenty-two of their 26 signees hail from in-state programs.
“The way I see it, we are going to recruit the state first,” Baldwin said. “That is our locker room.”
Hennessey is coming off a season in which he passed for 3,387 yards and 38 touchdowns. He was also voted as The Associated Press’s Class 4A state player of the year after leading the Papermakers to a 13-1 record, losing to Chiawana of Pasco in the state title game.
“I like the way he delivers it out of the shotgun quickly, and on top of that, he has the arm strength to make all the throws we require within our offense,” Baldwin said. “And he is very, very athletic with great feet.”
Of course, Eastern still has quarterback Vernon Adams — last season’s runner-up for the Payton Award, given to the top FCS player — for at least another season, so Hennessey’s services won’t be immediately needed.
Some others, however, might be asked to come in and play immediately.
Because Eastern lost three senior cornerbacks to graduation, the Eagles are looking for replacements. They could come from a group of incoming freshmen in Josh Lewis (Steilacoom), Asan Neil-Evergin (Timberline), Stu Stiles (Mount Spokane) and Mitch Fettig (Olympia).
And the Eagles need to stockpile offensive linemen — and they signed six of them, including Fife’s Monike Sarte, Gig Harbor’s Owen Taylor and Federal Way’s Jay-Tee Tiuli.
“The sky is the limit for (Tiuli) on potential. He is big, light on his feet and made a huge jump up in his senior year,” Baldwin said. “Monike could be an offensive lineman or defensive lineman — he is incredibly strong and a team leader. And Owen … is a tough inside guy and a real thumper.”
Tiuli chose Eastern over Idaho, Montana and Central Washington.
“They are telling me to come in here and battle, and that is what I want to do,” Tiuli said.
Added Sarte: “I feel like I can get a starting spot, but it will be a challenge.”
Other locals to sign with Eastern Washington on Wednesday include defensive end Nick Foerstel (Tumwater), receiver Terence Grady (Kentwood) and defensive tackle Patiole Pesefea (Foss).
TUMWATER DUO WILL BE TOGETHER 5 MORE YEARS
Jayden Croft and Christian Cummings first were football teammates on the Thurston County Youth Football League’s T-Birds.
The trend continued through high school, where they led Tumwater to back-to-back Class 2A state championship game appearances. And it will continue in college.
“Eight years plus another five,” Croft said. “It’s been awesome.”
The duo’s letters of intent were among the first to come through the fax machines in the Central Washington University athletic offices for new coach Ian Shoemaker, who was hired right after Christmas.
Croft is projected to be a quarterback (one of three Shoemaker signed) while Cummings is expected to be a running back and kickoff returner.
Other locals part of Central’s 25-player class include Franklin Pierce’s Brett Carter (linebacker/defensive end), Tahoma’s Elijah Suka (linebacker), Auburn Riverside’s Drew Wallen (defensive back), Kent-Meridian’s Quincy Carter (athlete) and three offensive linemen — Samuel Fisher and Chandler Streuli (Enumclaw) and James Moore (Bethel).
Running back Teague James, the 2,000-yarder rusher for Graham-Kapowsin High School this season and The News Tribune’s All-Area player of the year, signed with Eastern Oregon on Wednesday. James is one of two Eagles players to sign with the NAIA school, with Nate Harden the other. ... Curtis High School linebacker Calvin McLain, also a News Tribune All-Area selection, has accepted an invited walk-on spot at Washington State. ... Lakes High School wide receiver/special teams returner Caleb Lyons will walk on at Montana.firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com