High School Sports

Capital quarterback Grant Erickson maturing after pressure-packed debut last season

Capital sophomore quarterback Grant Erickson runs through drills during preseason football practice at Capital High School in Olympia on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016.
Capital sophomore quarterback Grant Erickson runs through drills during preseason football practice at Capital High School in Olympia on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. toverman@theolympian.com

Grant Erickson isn’t sure Alex Everson even remembers him.

Six years ago, Everson was Capital High School’s starting quarterback, leading the Cougars to a 12-1 record and a Class 3A state semifinal appearance during his senior year.

The team’s waterboy that season?

A giddy Erickson, years away from a major growth spurt in height — he’s now 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds — who was simply ecstatic to be associated with Capital’s program.

“(Everson) was my idol,” said Erickson, a sophomore, who is projected to be Capital’s starting quarterback this season.

“I don’t think he knows that. He probably doesn’t even remember me, but he was my idol growing up. He was never the biggest guy or the most athletic guy out there, but he just always got the job done. He never got too excited. He played the game the way it should be played, and I looked up to him for that.”

Everson, who was listed at 5-8 during his high school playing days, is now an assistant coach on John Johnson’s staff, working with Erickson, who is the blueprint for what a quarterback should look like, and the polar opposite physically from his mentor.

“It’s actually been really cool it worked out this way,” Erickson said. “It’s been great getting to learn from him.”

And while their sizes differ greatly, their approach to the game is 100 percent the same — play hard, stay even keel, and be a leader on and off the field.

“He (Erickson) reminds me a lot of Alex,” Johnson said. “Grant has this calming effect on the players, and you need that with your quarterback. He has this quiet confidence when he’s out on the field. Players see this and think, ‘If he’s not rattled, why should we be?’ 

Erickson didn’t feel as calm last year, when he was thrust into Capital’s starting role as a freshman after senior quarterback Cody Jenkins exited with a finger injury early in the season.

Erickson was under center when the Cougars played eventual 3A Narrows League champion Lincoln — an undesirable task considering the Abes featured one of the state’s premier defenses.

“Coming in as a freshman you never think you’re going to play varsity,” Erickson said. “I was actually pretty nervous before the game, but once we started playing, the nerves went away and it was just playing football.”

Something Erickson stands out at.

It was the young quarterback’s high school debut — and on the road, no less.

He came through, completing 19 of 28 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns. The Cougars lost, 71-46, in a contest better suited for the basketball court, but one lasting memory was how strong Capital’s future looked at the quarterback position.

“I think that game was his coming-out party,” Johnson said. “We threw him in there and he excelled.”

Erickson’s playing time would lessen later in the season when Jenkins returned, and the Cougars advanced to postseason play, but a foundation was set for the younger quarterback.

Jenkins’ injury was hardly the only one Johnson’s team suffered last year — early on it seemed as if multiple starters were exiting games each time Capital took the field.

However, a three-game winning streak to cap the regular season pushed the Cougars back into the playoffs — a common occurrence under Johnson.

“Last year didn’t go the way we envisioned,” Johnson said. “A lot of that had to do with injuries, but the kids fought through it and still found a way to get into the playoffs. It’s a motivated group this year.”

Spearheading the list of determined players was Erickson, who added nearly 20 pounds as he became a common sight in the Cougars’ weight room this summer.

“The goal this summer was just improve in all aspects of my game,” Erickson said. “I needed to get bigger and stronger for football and basketball. That was something I really concentrated on. I went to a couple quarterback camps. I just wanted to do everything I could do to improve.”

Check back in six years and odds are there will be no doubt who the 2016 waterboy’s favorite player was.

CAPITAL COUGARS TEAM CAPSULE

Coach: John Johnson, 10th year

2015 record: 4-6, tied for third in 3A Narrows League; lost in regional round.

Offense: Coordinator (set) — Darren Tinnerstet (multiple). Returning starters — 8. Top players — OL David Ainuu, 5-11, 255, sr.; WR Carson Bertelli, 5-9, 170, sr.; OL Brad Clark, 5-10, 230, sr.; WR Jack Collard, 6-4, 190, jr.; WR Chase Martin, 6-0, 175, sr.; OL Max Salcedo, 6-2, 220, sr.; TE Chris Schnellman, 6-4, 205, sr.; RB Chase Vandiver, 5-11, 205, jr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) — Johnson (multiple). Returning starters — 8. Top players — LB Ainuu, 5-11, 255, sr.; DL Sam Altman, 5-10, 200, sr.; DB Collard, 6-4, 190, sr.; DL Dan Garland, 6-0, 250, sr.; DB Ryan Guscott, 6-11, 180, jr.; LB Salcedo, 6-2, 220, sr.; LB Nate Smith, 5-11, 200, sr.; LB Nate Tyler, 6-0, 185, jr.

Outlook: You won’t have to strain your eyes to catch a glimpse of 6-foot-6 sophomore quarterback Grant Erickson. He’s added nearly 20 pounds and plenty of confidence since he was briefly thrust into the starting role as a freshman — against 3A Narrows champion Lincoln, no less. He completed 19 of 28 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns in that game. This season, he has a group of veteran receivers, some back from injury, in Bertelli, Collard, Martin and Schnellman. Prepare for an air raid.

REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE

All games at 7 p.m. Home games at Ingersoll Stadium; road games at the campus of the opposing high school, unless otherwise noted.

Sept. 2: Capital at River Ridge, at South Sound Stadium

Sept. 9: Black Hills at Capital

Sept. 16: *Capital at Timberline, at South Sound Stadium

Sept. 23: *North Thurston at Capital

Sept. 30: *Capital at Peninsula

Oct. 7: *Central Kitsap at Capital

Oct. 14: *Capital at Yelm

Oct. 21: *Gig Harbor at Capital

Oct. 28: *Capital at Shelton

*3A South Sound Conference game

Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473, @smithlm12

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