Easton Holmes was never that interested in football while he was in elementary school. He simply played because it was something to do. “My dad did it, so I guess I will too,” was his overall thinking back then.
However, by the time seventh grade rolled around, his mindset had changed dramatically. He had become fully engrossed in the sport. “That’s when I really got into it,” Holmes said. “And I sat on the bench the entire season.”
“I never played because I was terrible at it,” Holmes answered.
Holmes is now a 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior at Rainier High School and one of the state’s top defensive linemen in the 2B classification.
His coach calls him unblockable, but rewind to the beginning of his middle school playing days and you’ll find a kid entering the early stages of that awkward pre-teen growth phase. His mind and heart were ready to play, but his body and lack of coordination had other plans for him.
“I wasn’t strong enough. I was still very short,” Holmes said. “I really couldn’t do much of anything out there.”
Understandably, he started leaning toward quitting. Here he was putting in all the work, but seeing none of it translate into success.
As frustration mounted, it was on more than a few occasions where he wondered, “What’s the point?”
The answer was quite simple for Holmes. It was his teammates. “They kept me going,” Holmes said. “That’s why I stuck it out.”
Even though he was riding the bench, and getting roughed up the few times he did step onto the field, it was his friends that made it all worth wide. Eventually, he grew into his body. He got faster, stronger, and quicker. Physically, everything changed.
What remained the same throughout was the strong bond he had with his teammates.
“That’s why we all work so hard,” Holmes said. “For each other.”
Long gone are the days of Holmes being a middle school football pushover. He is now a terror on the gridiron, earning co-defensive MVP honors in the stacked 2B Central League during his junior campaign last year.
“He really came into his own at camp between his freshman and sophomore year,” said Terry Shaw, who is entering his sixth season as the Mountaineers head coach. “He would have flashes and you’d say, ‘How did you make that play?’”
Once the 2016 season started, those bursts of greatness became more abundant, earning Holmes a spot on the first-team all-league list as a defensive end. He was even more dominating as junior in 2017.
“He’s got a great motor and I have never had a kid who is better with his hands. Defensively, he just makes plays. No one can block him,” Shaw said. “A lot of what Easton does is in traffic. You’ll just see a pile of people and then the ball carrier goes down and Easton’s wrapped around his ankles.”
Holmes registered 72 tackles, including 25 tackles for losses and three sacks in 2017 – numbers he plans to improve this year.
“I was actually very surprised,” Holmes said about receiving co-defensive MVP honors last year. “I just didn’t think I was that good. I was very happy and very honored to be called that, but I think I can do more this year.”
“There’s definitely things I need to work on, especially on the offense side,” said Holmes, who will make the shift from left guard to right tackle on offense this season.
Holmes enters his final season of high school football with lofty expectations for both himself and his team. Tops on his list is a consecutive trip to the state playoffs – something that hasn’t happened at Rainier in 26 years.
The Mountaineers are coming off a 7-3 season where they advanced to the state playoffs for the first time since 1992.
With Holmes leading the charge, Rainier was downright devastating on defense in 2017, outscoring its first three opponents a combined 146-0 and opening the year 5-0.
Their season last year came to an end following a first round state playoff loss to league rival Napavine,
“My class has been really football oriented. It’s all we really care about,” Holmes said. “I’m excited to get the season started. I’m looking forward to seeing how our defense does. We lost a lot of seniors (from) last year, but we have guys who are ready to step up.”
Featuring one of the largest senior classes in quite some time at Rainier, the Mountaineers also return senior quarterback Zach Lofgren, a first-team all-league pick last year, and a pair of honorable mention recipients in senior Travis Honaker and junior Brodie Klein.
“This is a unique class of seniors. They’ve experienced success the last couple years and they’re hungry,” Shaw said. “There’s leadership in the class, but there’s no alpha. Which is good. Their leadership surfaces in their own way and there’s no ego. It’s been a fun group to coach.”