It was perfect Friday night on the Plateau without a cloud in the sky as the Eastlake Wolves (whose ranking improved to 34th in the state) exited their locker room, ran through the crowds of cheering fans, and stepped onto their home gridiron. The players stared into the stands that were filling with their fellow students garbed in a rainbow of colorful Aloha gear. Moments later they focused on the task at hand as they warmed up and prepared to take on the Sedro-Wooley Cubs (ranked 46th in the state). As the crowds settled in and the sun lowered in the sky, the whistle blew and the Cubs kicker planted his foot into the ball sending it deep into the Wolves territory.
The Cubs’ defense shut down the Wolves’ offense and after three plays Ben Howard was forced to punt. The ball flew 40 yards downfield and the Cubs return was insignificant. Noah Morse showed that he would continue to be a force on the defense as he sacked the QB for a 3 yard loss. On the next play, the fans looked on with concern as Ryan Stinnet was helped off the field with an injury. The Cubs were forced to punt after Hunter Klinge tackled the ball carrier for a 2 yard loss, and punt they did. They booted the ball over 60 yards down the field forcing the Wolves receiver to move way, way back, and he had no chance for a return.
On the first play from scrimmage, Ben Howard sprinted 20 yards down the field on a QB keeper. Then Daniel Bradley had a powerful 6 yard run. The crowd erupted on the next play when Ben Howard threw a beautiful pass into the outstretched arms of Hank Pladson who ran his route perfectly, caught the ball, and outran Cub defenders for a 54 yard pass reception and Touch Down! The score remained 6-0 as the Wolves missed the extra point attempt.
Cameron Lynch entered the field as an active Varsity player for the first time with his kicking T in hand. He placed the ball just so and then kicked it 33 yards down field. The Wolves met the Cubs returner as he touched the ball and thwarted his attempt to move up field. The Cubs punted after only three plays due to the strong defensive play of Eastlake. The most notable was made by tackle Jack Hart who showed he was there to play hard when he shucked off the offensive lineman and pounded the opposition’s running back into the turf. The Cubs punter had another long punt and the Wolves were not able to return it.
Another strong defensive attack by the Cubs forced the Wolves to punt the ball from their own territory and Sedro-Wooley had excellent field position to start there drive. It looked as if the Cubs were going to even up the score when Hank Pladson stepped in front of their receiver, intercepted the ball on the Wolves 4 yard line, and weaved through several Cubs players for a 34 yard gain. However, an overly aggressive Wolves player blocked a Cub in the back so the run was negated and the ball placed back to the Wolves 8-yard line. The Cubs defense played tough and shut down the Wolves offense again to end the 1st quarter.
The 2nd quarter started with a 30 yard punt from Ben Howard and a 4-yard return by the Cubs putting them at the Wolves 34 yard line. Our defense showed they can be stout when it mattered and held the Cubs for three plays. On 4th down, the Cubs decided to leverage the powerful leg of their kicker who attempted a 40 plus yard field goal that fell short and the score remained 6-0.
The Wolves started what would be a very successful, albeit sloppy drive, from their own 20 yard when Daniel Bradley had a 15 yard run called back because of a penalty. This fired Daniel Bradley up even more and he ran hard for a 15 and a 6 yard gain. The ref placed the ball on the 48 yard line where Ben Howard took the snap from center, took a few steps back, turned and threw a picture perfect hitch pass to Cole Brinkman who, because the Cubs’ D had given him a large cushion, accelerated and gained 8 yards prior to any defenders reaching him. The crowd went silent and gasped as Ben Howard threw a 35-yard pass to a receiver who was well covered, bobbled the ball, and could not keep hold of it as it fell to the turf.
This didn’t discourage Ben Howard, who on the very next play, saw Cole Brinkman beat his coverage deep and threw the ball 30 yards down field. It sailed through the air until Cole caught it in stride, picked up speed, and crossed the end zone untouched. The score changed to 12-0. However, it was a costly drive for Eastlake as Daniel Bradley left the game for the day with an injury. The Wolves 2 point attempt was thwarted by the Cubs.
Cameron Lynch kicked the ball over 40 yards downfield where the Cubs return man scooped it up and returned it 15 yards. The Cubs played aggressively on the next series and gained 10, 12, and 15 yards on a series of successful run plays. Then they faltered after an off side penalty and a sack by standout Noah Morse for a 14 yard loss, and they had to punt on 4th down and 26 yards to go.
The Wolves punt return was negligible and the Wolves offense ran onto the field. Chris Nelson wasted no time demonstrating that he also was an effective running back. He took the first handoff of the series and maneuvered through a litany of Cub defenders for a 21 yard gain. Then Cody Cox caught a swing pass from Ben Howard for an 11 yard gain. With time running out in the 1st half the Wolves attempted a 40-yard pass to Cody Cox and a 35-yard pass to Hank Pladson; both were broken up. The last play of the half ended with Ben Howard being sacked as he waited for his receivers to get open far down field to no avail. The Wolves sprinted off the field to the locker room knowing they had a lot more work to do.
Sedro-Wooley came out for the second half and were fired up and ready to play. They returned the Wolves’ kickoff 18 yards and had a productive drive. Bryan Hornbeck, the Cubs star running back, showed that he could live up to the hype and unleashed his talent. He gained yardage on several plays with the highlight being a 35 yard run down to the Wolves 17 yard line. The Wolves big defensive lineman Spencer Thompson tackled their running back for a 4-yard loss. That was negated by encroachment on the next play. Hornbeck then ran hard on successive plays bringing the Cubs to the 2-yard line and they scored on the next play. The PAT was good and the score was now 12-7.
Hunter Klinge received the kick off at the 1 yard line and returned it 22 yards. Ben Howard located Cole Brinkman, who was open 7 yards down field and fired a bullet with pinpoint accuracy to him. Brinkman caught the ball in heavy coverage and was quickly tackled. After a few unsuccessful plays, Chris Nelson caught a 9-yard pass. It was forth down and about a yard. The Wolves went for it, but the Cubs sacked Ben Howard and took over the ball on downs in Wolves territory.
The Cubs continued to show the Eastlake fans that they made the long drive down to Sammamish with a mission to go home victorious. They gained 16 yards on their first run followed by a 5 yard gain. They concluded this drive with a ten yard touchdown run that along with their successful PAT kick added seven points that closed the gap to 2 points; the score was now 12-14.
Chris Nelson reenergized the Wolves crowd when he returned the kickoff 48 yards to the 49 yard line. The offensive line stepped up and created large holes that allowed Chris to dominate as he carried the ball and gained yardage on every play of the series. The last two carries included a hard fought 29 yard run that was followed by a 28 yard run into the end zone that put the Wolves up again. The 2 point pass attempt was unsuccessful and the score board illuminated the score; 18-14.
The Wolves defense was ablaze following the previous series and shut down the Cubs running attack. The highlight of that series was a tackle by Colin Booker who met up with and drilled the running back for a 4 yard loss. The Cubs were forced to punt ending the third quarter.
The next series was a costly one as Ben Howard left the game with an injury after being hit hard in the leg as he planted it and threw an incomplete pass. His replacement, Connor Brown, showed the fans that he could also play ball. He shook off the cobwebs with a hand off to Chris Nelson who ran a sweep right and gained 2 yards. Then he threw a beautiful pass to Max Gardiner for a 22 yard gain. Two more runs plays in which the Cubs held Chris Nelson to 1 yard each caused the Cubs defensive backs to cheat up. This gave Max Gardiner the space he needed to out maneuver his coverage and catch an 18 yard TD pass from Connor Brown. The Wolves missed their PAT attempt and the score was now 24-14.
The Cubs worked hard on the next series and marched down the field with an 18, 5, and 4 yard gain. They then completed a risky, but successful, shuffle pass that gained them 15 yards and put them in scoring position. They then gained on three successful plays that ended with a 5 yard run into the end zone. The PAT was good and the score was 24-21.
The Wolves received the kick off and had to punt after 3 lackluster plays to end the uneventful series. The Cubs helped reduce the pressure on the Wolves D when a strong return was called back and the ball placed on the 46 yard line, due to a block in the back penalty. Jacob Mohrhardt had a huge play when he beat his defensive man and sacked the Cubs QB for an 8 yard loss. This forced the Cubs to make a desperate throw with less than a minute remaining and Parker Lester took advantage of it and intercepted the ball.
The Wolves took over with little time left on the clock. Connor Brown handed the ball off to Chris Nelson who scampered down field for an 8-yard gain. The clock ran down to zero on the next play ending the game with the Wolves hard fought victory over the Cubs.
The Wolves players gathered around and listened to their coach provide some post game commentary as they woefully glanced to the sideline where three of their comrades stood injured.
We wish them a speedy recovery, and look forward to see them on the gridiron as they take on the 11th ranked Skyline Spartans this week.
See you at Spartan Stadium!
Thanks to Mohrhardt and Cardwell for pictures.