If it’s good enough for Mike Trout, it’s good enough for Connor Eaton.
Before this year’s first game at Anna-Jonesboro, the West Frankfort quarterback and some friends journeyed to Subway for lunch. Eaton chomped down on a sweet onion chicken teriyaki footlong sub. The Redbirds won 24-21.
Same meal the next two weeks before games against Pinckneyville and Sparta. Same outcome. West Frankfort wins.
“We’re staying with it as long as we win,” Eaton said before practice Wednesday.
With Eaton at the controls, that might be a while longer. The 6-foot-0, 190-pound junior has rushed for nearly 550 yards in the first three games and thrown for another 150, boosting his status as one of the top dual threat QBs in the area.
While the passing total might not sound like much, two things should be considered: The Redbirds have played from the lead almost all season, and the conditions haven’t been conducive for passing. They have played every game in the rain or on muddy fields, which tends to make offenses more conservative.
With clear skies and warm temperatures on tap for tonight’s SIRR Ohio opener with visiting Harrisburg, West Frankfort coach Brian Beery plans to open up the attack.
“Obviously, his rushing stats are phenomenal,” Beery said. “The weather hasn’t cooperated this year, but we’ll try to air it out a bit more this Friday.”
By air or land, Eaton is capable of a big play on every snap. As a sophomore, he rushed for almost 1,100 while throwing for 600. And that was in just his second year of football – period. A wrestling and baseball standout, Eaton didn’t come out for football until his freshman year.
Beery said the biggest change in Eaton from last season to this season is that he’s retained nearly everything taught to him. That’s allowed the seventh-year coach to teach more advanced concepts instead of constantly focusing on basics.
“Retaining the knowledge from last year has helped,” Eaton said. “I know where the holes are at now. Last year, I just ran where I saw grass. This year, we get more yards and it looks a lot better.”
Another difference in the offense is that Beery is trusting Eaton to check off plays at the scrimmage line if needed, a freedom he never would have granted him last year.
“It says a lot for his knowledge of the game,” Beery said. “It blows my mind that he’s a three-sport athlete and still has room for improvement. He spends maybe 4-5 months on the game. He loves it, and does a great job.”
Eaton might be better at wrestling and baseball than football. He finished fifth at the 170-pound weight class last February in Class 1A. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him contend at a higher weight class this winter with more strength and better quickness than your average 195-pounder.
As a baseball player, Eaton hit .515 with three homers and 21 RBI, walking 22 times and fanning only five in 92 plate appearances while posting a .968 fielding percentage.
For now, Eaton’s focus is on helping the Redbirds get to places they haven’t been in a while in football. A win tonight would mark their first 4-0 start in 14 years and push them within one more victory of being playoff-eligible.
“Our first three games weren’t that easy,” Eaton said. “If we could start conference play with a win and go to 4-0, that would feel good. We still have to play some tough games. Starting out with three wins has boosted us all up a lot.”