It’s the great debate: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Substitute chickens and eggs for a quarterback on the brink of history and an elite set of targets at his disposal and you have something similar going on with the Lincoln High School football team’s offense: Is quarterback Jordan Kitna racking up wins and touchdowns because his receivers are so good, or are his receivers dismantling secondaries week to week because of Kitna’s prowess?
As Lincoln (11-0) has advanced to the 3A state quarterfinals, a matchup with Eastside Catholic looming Saturday at Lincoln Bowl, it has done so with the most prolific offense in the state. Jordan Kitna leads Washington with 54 touchdown passes, throwing to a group of pass catchers who complement each other harmoniously.
Kitna is six TD passes away from joining Prosser graduates Kellen Moore and Jordan Durbin and DeSales product Brian Lindgren as the only quarterbacks in state history to throw for 60 in a season. He already tied the single-game record this year with nine against North Thurston on Oct. 10.
“I just want him to go get the record and go surpass it,” said his top target, Jayson Williams. “I’m glad I can be a part of this. He’s a great quarterback and he’s going to go far.”
Kitna’s year is a testament to his growth. He spent the offseason after last year’s season-ending district-round loss to Eastside Catholic working out at 5:30 a.m., working out after school and working out after that with his dad, Jon Kitna, on QB training. He said he gained 30 pounds, but he also gained maturity.
“Last year, Jordan might throw an interception and he’d come off to the sidelines like pouting or throwing a fit,” said wide receiver Alvin Johnson. “He would react in a way that almost made it tough for him to go back into the game.”
“That’s what I wanted this year, was just to have fun,” Kitna said. “I’m not as mad about the interceptions, those are going to happen. You let it go.
“The touchdown record and passing record and all that other stuff doesn’t matter as much. It’s just going to come with playing and having fun.”
Kitna has thrown for 3,506 yards, trailing only Shadle Park’s Brett Rypien (4,223). And he’s done that while spreading the ball around. Lincoln has six players with at least seven touchdown catches, where as some teams might have only one. And each brings something unique to the Abes’ offense.
TONY ARCHIE, TE
His teammates called him Quiet Tony.
But silence can be deadly.
He’s a deep threat — a great asset in a tight end. Though he has just 13 catches, he’s third on the team with 436 receiving yards — an average of 33.5 yards per catch.
“He’s real quiet, but he’s the silent assassin,” Kitna said. “You don’t really hear much, but then all the sudden he catches a ball and he’s gone.”
DEVAN BRADY, TE
There’s no silence from Brady.
Teammates said he is the first to lobby Kitna for a pass. And it seems to work.
“I’m like, ‘Jordan, I need a touchdown right now, let’s go. It’s been a while,’” Brady said, laughing.
But he has good reason. Kitna said Brady runs the best routes on the team.
It makes him a great security blanket and it’s why he’s been Kitna’s second-favorite target.
DEHONTA HAYES, WR
In order for Lincoln to take the next step, it needed Hayes to contribute on offense like he does defense.
Hayes was named to The News Tribune’s preseason all-state team as a defensive back going into the year, but he spent the offseason diving into the offensive playbook and has proved he can be a breakaway threat, especially on wide receiver screens.
“Last year we kind of threw him in, but he didn’t really have any idea of what to do,” Brady said.
“Coach (Jon Kitna) said that if we were going to win state, they needed me to play on the offensive side of the ball and show my versatility,” Hayes said.
ALVIN JOHNSON, WR
Despite being in the same room as the majority of his pass catchers, Kitna couldn’t help but say it.
Few catches compare to some of Johnson’s.
“I think the receivers are going to argue this, but he makes some of the greatest catches,” Kitna said. “I’ve seen some crazy one-handed ones.”
In last week’s first-round game against O’Dea, Kitna rolled out of the pocket, trying to buy time, avoided a few defenders and spotted Johnson, sitting open near the right pylon. Johnson caught the pass and dove into the end zone for his second TD of the day and what would be the deciding score in the Abes’ 35-30 win.
“I’m running around and stuff, and he knows where to go,” Kitna said of the former junior varsity quarterback.
DIONTE SIMON, RB
“Game manager” can be a curse word for some quarterbacks, insinuating they don’t make mistakes, but might not have a great throwing arm.
But what about when the term is directed at a running back?
“We always joke about him knowing the playbook better than the coaches because he’s the one always correcting them,” Kitna said. “Dionte keeps everybody in check. He’s telling the offensive linemen what to do, telling the receivers what to do, reminding me, ‘Hey, you got some motion here.’ He’s a game manager.”
JAYSON WILLIAMS, WR
And then there’s Williams. Sure, Leonardo da Vinci had some impressive works, but where would he be without the Mona Lisa? And where would Lincoln’s offense be without Williams?
Before transferring from Curtis, he said most colleges liked him for his blocking in the Vikings’ run-oriented offense.
“But once I came over here, everything exploded,” said Williams, who has offers from Montana, Montana State, Portland State and Eastern Washington. “It’s been a whole new experience.”
Kitna said Williams plays a different speed. He burst onto the scene this year as the top target in the highest-scoring offense of any 11-man team in the state. Even with the myriad of weapons at the Abes disposal, Williams leads all in receptions (55), yards (1,130) and touchdowns (11).
“He’s a gamer. He’s like Dez Bryant,” Kitna said. “He goes and gets all the 50-50 balls. He’s not scared to get hit. He’s not scared of anything.”
But the ultimate validation of this team would be a state championship. They said the sky-high offensive numbers are for naught if they don’t lead to the first state title in Lincoln’s history.
“That’s been our mindset the whole year,” Brady said. “It’s cool to have these touchdowns and these catches, but when it comes to Dec. 5 and we aren’t playing for the state title, then the season I had individually meant nothing.”
Said Williams: “We want to show that the 253 has some talent, that Lincoln has some talent. When we go all the way, it will mean a lot to this whole team and the community.”