Before Jalen Davenport’s dad passed away, he gave his son a motto to live by.
“Be the man that beats the man.”
The thousands of fans who packed into Mount Tahoma High School for Graham-Kapowsin’s 44-7 win over Lake Stevens in the Class 4A state championship game on Saturday got a live look into just how seriously Davenport takes that motto.
Davenport, the team’s rock at linebacker — he was the co-MVP of the 4A South Puget Sound League this fall — and an occasional running back, flies to the football, hits hard and runs ruthlessly. There was a run in the third quarter of the game that perfectly captured Davenport’s mentality: A run to the left side, where he bowled over one defender before spinning effortlessly out of another tackle and finally being brought down after a 39-yard gain.
There’s emotion behind every Davenport run. Passion, even. It’s personal.
“Personally, I never want to give up,” Davenport said. “I go out there, work hard and try to be the man that beats the man.”
Davenport’s dad, John Davenport, died last year from COVID-19 complications, on his 52nd birthday. He was hospitalized and intubated for more than a month. Davenport’s mom, La’Trevia, died after a lengthy battle with cancer two days before Mother’s Day in 2019.
It has not been an easy time for Davenport. The joy he felt winning a state championship with his teammates on Saturday was special, and he felt his parents there in spirit. Before every game, Davenport takes a knee on the sideline and prays.
“I’ve been talking to them before every game,” he said. “It just feels amazing to know that I did something that could have made them proud.”
The championship was Graham-Kapowsin’s first. The Eagles racked up 524 rushing yards, which is now the record for a 4A state championship game, surpassing Gonzaga Prep’s previous mark of 521, which came against Skyline in 2015.
“We just work hard, trust our line, trust each other,” Davenport said. “We all go out there, tell each other what we’re seeing, what we’re not seeing, how to hit the holes hard where the openings are and just go.”
In a game full of good plays, there was another that stood out for Davenport, though he won’t get a statistical credit for it. Before a play near midfield, Graham-Kapowsin quarterback Joshua Wood asked Davenport who he was going to block. The outside linebacker, Davenport responded.
Wood told Davenport he was going to get behind him, wait for his block and try to run for a touchdown.
“I got you,” Davenport told his QB.
Watch RB Jalen Davenport on this play. Wood asked him “Who do you have?” before the play. Davenport told him the outside backer. “So I was going to following him and be behind him and going to try to go score.”
“I got you,” Davenport replied. https://t.co/iQwCpWJt4n
— Jon Manley (@manley_tnt) December 5, 2021
And Wood did just that. Davenport got out quickly to the edge, laid down a hard block on the outside linebacker and Wood did the rest, breaking a couple tackles on his way to a 51-yard touchdown run.
Davenport has been holding his parents close to his heart all season long — literally. He wears a necklace with a small photo of his parents, to honor them.
“They’re always with me,” Davenport said. “It means a lot. I know how they’d be reacting right now. They’ve been supporting me all the way through, they have been.”