During his sophomore year at Peninsula, Kenny Easton was a scout team player in the practice. But it didn’t take long before he started to open some eyes.
On defense, Easton stripped the ball on more than one occasion from then-senior running back Major Ali, now a running back at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. On offense, he had some big runs against the first-team defense. His senior teammates in the class of 2015 took notice, and gave him the nickname “Big Play Kenny.”
It stuck. Even Easton’s Twitter handle is “BigplayKenny.” And he’s earned it, as he’s been putting up big numbers all season as a running back for the Seahawks. With just two games to go in the season, Easton has rushed for 847 yards on 129 carries for Peninsula. Against Shelton earlier in the season, he rushed for 198 yards on 17 carries, with an 87-yard touchdown run.
“As a younger player, he just seemed to have a knack for making big plays,” Peninsula coach Ross Filkins said. “It just kind of came along organically.”
From the practice team to the first team, Easton has grown into a huge factor for the undefeated Seahawks, who face Yelm at 7 p.m. Friday (Oct. 21) at Roy Anderson Field.
“He’s been really steady,” Filkins said. “He’s committed to continuing to improve. He’s doing a good job for us running the ball, becoming a better blocker.”
Easton, quiet and humble, deflected the credit.
“We have a great offensive line,” he said. “Our team, this year, is a lot more disciplined than we were last year. We work together a lot better.”
He also credits the coaching staff for helping him become a more physical runner. Easton transferred to Peninsula from Shelton after his freshman year.
“They taught me how to run the ball with a lot more physicality,” he said. “With a lower pad level, just going north and south.”
He’s become the sort of prototypical Peninsula running back under Filkins: Big, strong and physical. While Filkins denied that the Peninsula coaching staff favors a certain type of player at the running back position, he said the program has been lucky to get kids who fit that bill.
“We’ve been fortunate over the years to have some athletic kids that have a bigger body style,” Filkins said. “We can trust them to not just carry the ball, but to block and really execute our offense. It’s more than just the talent of being a ball carrier.”
Easton, who enjoys snowboarding in the winter, is generally reserved off the field. But when he straps on the helmet, it’s a different story.
“That’s when he becomes ‘Big Play Kenny,’” Filkins said. “He’s very well respected by all of his teammates. They have a love for him. He plays really hard.”
Peninsula beat Central Kitsap last week, 38-7, to push its record to 7-0 overall, 5-0 in the SSC 3A. With just two remaining games on the schedule —against Yelm and a big showdown against Timberline for the league title — an undefeated regular season and a league title are within reach.
For Filkins, a league title isn’t something the Seahawks are thinking about yet.
“It’ll happen naturally if we just take care of one week a time,” Filkins said. “We just want to go 1-0 this week. We’re not looking at league titles and playoffs. We talk a lot as a team about understanding how important every second that we get out there is. Our practices are fun, we’re enjoying the time on and off the field. It goes fast. You have to live in the here and now.”