Play got underway as the Eastlake Wolves (pre-season ranking of 45th in the state) kicked off to the Lakes’ Lancers (ranked 30th in the state). The Lancers didn’t waste any time showing their toughness and scored on an 80-yard drive that ended with a touchdown.
This fired up the Lancers, who stopped the Wolves on their first drive when they intercepted Ben Howard’s pass after his receiver slipped. The Wolves shrugged that off and showed they had the mental toughness and the determination required to win. The Wolves defense shut down the Lancers on the next series and they punted after three plays.
This gave the Eastlake offense an opportunity to put the ball in the hands of Daniel Bradley, who had his first of many long yardage plays; he ran for 30 yards before several Lancers brought him down. The Lancers D toughened up after that and stopped the Wolves’ drive. The Wolves punted the ball.
The Wolves defense then countered with the aggressive play of Hank Pladson. He hit the receiver hard enough to pop the ball out and up in the air and that allowed Noah Morse to pick it off.
The offense took over at the Lancers’ 22 yard line and threw a 9 yard completion to Daniel Bradley. Ben Howard then handed the ball off to Daniel Bradley and watched as he sprinted into the end zone for 6 points. The Wolves missed the PAT and the Lancers took over on offense.
The Wolves stopped the Lancers when Parker Lester intercepted a 40-yard bomb. The offense didn’t capitalize on that turn over, and after three plays, Ben Howard punted the ball. The Wolves defense took over and Noah Morse showed that his time in the weight room and on the wrestling mat was paying off when he slammed into the Lancer ball carrier and drove him into the turf to end the first quarter.
Ben Howard started the 2nd quarter showing his quickness and composure when he tucked the ball under his arm and ran for a 12 yard gain. Four plays later Eastlake punted and the Lakes’ offense marched 40 yards down the field to score. The Wolves got the ball back and answered quickly as Daniel Bradley ran confidently behind the blocking of Eric Plummer, Kyle Sihon, Spencer Thompson, Ryan Stinnet, Ryan Guptil, and Noah Morse. The line had their hands full all game as they had to block the big Lancer D-line that had two players who each weighed over 280 lbs.
After a few short gains, the o-line opened up a big hole and Daniel Bradley ran through it and then he outran the Lakes’ secondary and ran 58 yards and entered the end zone for a TD. He was just warming up for this night that he would finish with
248 270* yards, three touch downs, and 47 yard TD pass to Hank Pladson. The Wolves failed to convert the extra point when the center snapped the ball over the placeholder’s head. The score was now 14-12. The Lancers, demonstrating their strength and athleticism, quickly marched down the field and threw a 20-yard TD pass to go up on the Wolves 21-12 as the half came to an end.
The large crowd of Wolves’ fans cheered loudly as their warriors entered the field for the second half. The fans were confident that they had a good chance to win this epic battle. The team didn’t let them down as Hunter Klinge received the kick off and exploded up the field for 20-yard gain. A few plays later, Daniel Bradley found a crease and sprinted for 50 yards and another TD. Taige Thornton did his job and kicked the ball through the uprights. The scoreboard added another point and illuminated the score: 21-19.
The momentum was shifting and there was no doubt that the Wolves intended to win! The Wolves defense flexed its muscles and stopped the Lancers again when Morse and Guptil sacked the Lancer QB for a 6-yard loss; Eric Plummer then sacked the QB again for a 7-yard loss forcing the Lancers to punt the ball.
Cody Cox was eagerly waiting for the punt; he received the ball and returned it 27 yards. Soon after that, Ben Howard threw a perfectly timed pass to a well-covered Hank Pladson who caught the ball anyway for a 47 yard gain. The Lancer defense stopped the Wolves from scoring, but Taige Thornton put points on the board with a strong field goal kick and Eastlake was up for the first time; 21-22.
The Wolves’ defense will be a force to be reckoned with this season. Cody Cox showed that he is a key part of that D as he slammed into their ball carrier, jarred the ball lose, and Hank Pladson picked it up as the 3rd quarter came to an end. The Wolves couldn’t capitalize on that turnover and eventually punted the ball.
The Wolves’ defense kept the Lancers from gaining a first down and forced the Lancers to punt again.
The Eastlake coaching staff made a great call, an option pass play that was executed flawlessly; Ben Howard pitched the ball to Daniel Bradley who rolled out right, squared his shoulders, stopped, and threw the ball to a wide open Hank Pladson who scored after the 47 yard reception. The score was now 21-29.
Even though the Eastlake fans roars echoed throughout the stadium, the Lancers weren’t about to surrender. They quickly answered with a 50-yard kickoff return. After a few plays they ran the ball into the end zone. With the score 27-29, the Lancer decided to go for two to tie the score, but the Wolves were ready. Spencer Thompson showed his strength and resolve when he stuffed the Lancer ball carrier and stopped him just short of the goal line.
The Wolves ran the kick off back for a few yards, Chris Nelson carried the ball for two plays and it was third down and three. Ben Howard, who captained the offense throughout the game, showed that he has mastered the use of deceptive cadences when, as he barked out the count, the Lancers jumped offside; the fourth time that night. Daniel Bradley broke through their defensive line again, sprinted 59 yards, and was stopped just short of the end zone at the 1-foot line. The coaches were confident that the Lancers would key on Daniel Bradley and decided to have Chris Nelson carry the ball. He scored against the unsuspecting Lancers and put the Wolves up 27-35. Taige Thornton kicked the ball dead center through the goal posts scoring the final point of the game making it 27-36.
The Lancers took over with 2:05 left on the clock. It looked like they might make things interesting when they started to move the ball down the field, but Team Captain Eric Plummer demonstrated why he was awarded All Kingco honors last season. He shed several blockers and drilled the Lancers’ ball carrier ten yards behind the line of scrimmage. Then, as desperation set in, the QB forced a pass into coverage and Hunter Klinge showed his athleticism and speed when he intercepted the ball and returned it 30 yards before being tackled. That ensured the Wolves Victory. The Wolves fans, who made the fifty plus mile drive down to Tacoma, celebrated as the clock ticked down to zero.
When asked to name one of the keys to their victory Friday night, Eric Plummer, stated “Turnovers, 100%! We worked all camp on making big plays….that was something we didn’t do last year. We had 4 today!”
The victory carried the Wolf Pack home filled with pride. Next week the Wolves face Sedro-Woolly (ranked 48th in the state). SW also had a successful first game and beat Mount Vernon 24-0 this week. See you at Eastlake stadium for the match up.
Thanks to Ken Cardwell and David Bradley for sharing excellent photos.