It was the first day of fall and another perfect evening welcomed the fans that navigated the construction around Pop Keeney Stadium and the adjacent town to attend Thursday evenings game between the Inglemoor Knights (ranked 219th) and the Eastlake Wolves (ranked 25th). The crisp night provided an opportunity for many to wear jackets adorned with the colors and emblems of their favorite team. Each fan migrated to their respective sides of the stadium and settled in for the evening as the Knights’ band was busy pumping up their fans with fights songs and other familiar tunes. The Wolves’ kickoff return team entered the playing field, lined up, received, and returned the Inglemoor kickoff to start the game.
The Wolves’ moved easily down the field with several long yardage plays; the two most impressive were beautifully thrown passes from Ben Howard that were caught by Hank Pladson for a long gain and Cody Cox who ran into the end zone. Cox then caught another for a two point conversion; score 0-8.
The ruckus celebration from the Wolves’ and their fans was soon muffled when, on the next series, Inglemoor’s offense gained 13 yards on their second play from scrimmage and then scored on a 42 yard TD reception. They converted their PAT; score 7-8.
Inglemoor’s kick-off pushed the Wolves’ receiver back and stifled his chance of a return. Chris Nelson ran hard behind the strong blocking of his offensive line and gained 9 yards of the 142 yards he would gain. This caused the Knights’ defense to cheat up and that provided some room for Cole Brinkman that didn’t go unnoticed. He beat his coverage and had to slow down to wait for Howard’s pass to reach him 30 yards down the field. He grabbed it eagerly, turned, and bolted another 20 yards down field. The Wolves’ progress slowed after two unfruitful runs and an Eastlake penalty. Then Howard dropped back for a pass, dodged a few defenders, and noticed that Hunter Klinge was open in the end zone. Howard quickly launched the ball and Klinge caught it to score the Wolves’ second TD. Taige Thornton ran onto the field, paced off to get positioned for his first, of what would be four, PATs of the day; score 7-16.
Cameron Lynch kicked the ball 50+ yards to a Knights’ returner who caught it, out-maneuvered several Wolves’, broke a few tackles, and gained 29 yards on the return. On the next play Ryan Guptil exploded off the ball, put his hands up and in the face of the Knights’ QB and tackled him. However, the QB managed to get his pass off just before Guptil tackled him. This pressure caused him to rush and the ball floated like a wounded duck and landed on the ground away from his receiver. On the next play the receiver ran a clean route, looked in as the pass arrived. Then, just as it touched the receiver’s hands, Klinge, who had timed his aggressive pursuit just right, slammed into him and the ball fell to the turf for an incomplete pass. This made it fourth down and the Knights’ punted the ball to Cox, who caught the ball, juked a few defenders and pick up 17 yard Howard’s hand-off, accelerated through a hole created by his O-line, and sprinted 52 yards down the field for the Wolves’ third touchdown. The two point conversion was unsuccessful; score 7-22 with 3:43 left in the first quarter.
Lynch kicked the ball 45 yards down field to a Knights’ returner who caught it and returned it 15 yards before being brought down by a pack of ferocious Wolves. Inglemoor gained 14 yards on first down and faltered on the next three plays due to the strong defensive play of Jacob Mohrhardt. The Vikings’ punted on the fourth down. Cox received it and ran back 15 yards.
The Wolves’ offense lined up on the field with a few new faces. One of those belonged to Max Gardiner who wasted no time making an impact. He ran a nice route, caught a pass from Howard, and bolted 52 yards down the field before being stopped at the 19 yard line. The Wolves’ progress slowed as they lost a yard, threw an incomplete pass, and had a 19 yard TD reception negated by a block-in-the-back penalty. Then, on third and 16, Pladson caught a 6 yard pass from Howard, turned hard, and ran over several defenders before being brought down at the one yard line. On fourth and goal, Nelson took the ball from Howard, punched through a mass of bodies, and used his powerful legs to drive the Vikings backward as he crossed the end zone to put 6 more points on the scoreboard. Thornton demonstrated he worked out the issue that caused the kicking miscues that plagued him in prior games by kicking his third PAT attempt and it sailed through the uprights; score 7-29.
If the football could talk, it would have been screaming “please don’t” every time Lynch grabbed it for a kick off. He pounded it for the fourth time and it sailed 50 yards down field to a Viking returner who caught it and returned it 30+ yards. Andrew Plummer jogged onto the field for the first time as a defensive varsity player (middle linebacker). He looked like he might be a bit anxious and his older brother, Eric Plummer, a starter and team captain, said a few words that seemed to calm him down.
On the next play, the Vikings’ runner followed the strong blocking of his o-line and gained six yards before Andrew, Eric, and a pack of fellow Wolves stopped him. This play was followed by an Inglemoor penalty for having too many men on the field. Their QB threw a pass 30 yards down field and Parker Lester hit the receiver as the ball arrived and it fell incomplete. Brendan Stevenson joined the defense at outside linebacker. He sprinted hard from the right side of the defensive line launched his body in the air, and raised his hands in the face of the QB who quickly launched the football to avert a sack; it fell incomplete. The Vikings’ punted the ball and the Wolves’ returner bobbled it and dropped it. The Wolves’ fans gasped as the Wolves’ player was hit just as he picked it up. The ball fell to the turf as the sounds of pads crashing into each other echoed throughout the stadium. Luckily, he managed to hold on to it and the Wolves’ offensive jogged on to the field.
Eastlake marched down the field on this series; key plays included a 15 yard reception by Klinge and a 20 yard reception by Brinkman. However, the Vikings capitalized when the Wolves’ receiver stumbled in the end zone and they intercepted a pass to stop the drive.
The Vikings’ first play from scrimmage, a 23 yard pass completion, sparked a strong drive that included a 15 yard reception. However, their progress slowed after a couple of incomplete passes and short runs. Then a Wolves’ player hit the Viking’s QB after he threw the ball and they were penalized, providing the Vikings’ an automatic first down. The Vikings then gained 7 yards on a sweep and scored on a 3 yard run up the middle. They missed their PAT; score 13-29.
Jack Reischman picked up the Vikings’ squib kick and returned it a few yards to the 43 yard line. Nelson gained 6 yards on first down. After an incomplete pass, he took the hand off and plowed ahead for an additional 12 yards. Nelson then took a handoff and fought hard to gain 5 more yards. The play was negated by a Wolves holding penalty and the referee placed the ball on the 27-yard line. Cox scored on the next play as he caught a pass from Howard at the 19-yard line and ran past multiple Viking defenders before crossing the goal line for the score. Thornton converted the PAT; score 13-36.
Lynch’s abuse of the football continued as he again slammed his foot into it sending it 52 yards down field. The Inglemoor returner showed his speed and shiftiness when he again avoided multiple tacklers and gained 24 yards before being tackled. The Vikings began moving the ball as they gained 8 yards on a run that followed a Wolves’ penalty. Then their drive was slowed when Jack Heffley broke through the line, and grabbed the QB as Mohrhardt joined in and helped bring him down for a sack and 5 yard loss. This flustered the Viking QB who overthrew his receiver on the next play. Jaxon Williams exhibited his athleticism when he jumped about four feet off the ground and plucked the ball out of the sky. He then returned it with an impressive run in which he dodged defenders, slowed to follow the blocks of multiple Wolves players, and eventual accelerated to out run the remaining defenders for 65 yards Touch Down! Thornton kicked a successful PAT; score 13-43.
The clock had 31 seconds left on it for the half, when Lynch again showed no mercy toward the ball as he kicked it 55 yards down the field. The Vikings’ returner picked it up and returned it 9 yards before being tackled by several Wolves. The Viking QB had barely touched the ball when Jack Hart, blitzing on that play, sacked him for a 1-yard loss to end the half.
Lynch’s severe dislike for the ball had not eased at all and he drilled it 49 yards down field. The Inglemoor offense took the field after a 12 yard return. Avery Bosworth sacked the Viking’s QB on first down. Inglemoor showed a little life as they gained 10 yards on a run followed by a 10 yard reception. However, a false start penalty and a few short yardage plays stalled their drive and they had to punt. Eric Plummer bulled over the blocker in front of him and the punter’s eyes enlarged with fear as he rushed at him. To avert being crushed, he rushed his kick, and it wobbled in the air and landed a meager 20 yards down field. The Wolves’ took over at the 42-yard line.
Cox gained 7 yards on first down run. Then, Plummer showed why he earned All-Kingco accolades last season when he pulled right from his guard position, sprinted down the line, and drilled an unsuspecting defensive lineman who was thinking he was going to make an easy tackle just as Plummer slammed into him. The block cleared a huge hole for Nelson who gained 22 yards before being taken down. Nelson followed that with a 9 yard gain and then a 10 yard TD run. Thornton successfully kicked the PAT; score 13-50.
Lynch lightened up on the ball kicking it 40 yards down field where it was received by a Viking who returned it 13 yards. On first down, Reed Payne and his brother Colin Payne tackled the Vikings receiver for a yard gain. On the next play they caught the running back 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage and slammed him down into the turf. Brinkman stepped in front the Viking receiver he was guarding and intercepted the pass.
Connor Brown entered the game as the Wolves’ QB. On first down he handed the ball off to Nelson who took it and pounded ahead to gain 5 yards. Brown then connected with Nate Sutter on a hard slant; Sutter ran for a few more yards and was tackled for a 12 yard gain. This was followed by a no gain run and two incomplete passes. Then Hart made a TD saving tackle after 12 yard punt was picked up and returned 20 yards by a Viking defender.
The Vikings’ gained 11 yards on their first play. Their next pass play was broken up, they gained a few yards on another, a holding penalty sent them back to the 25 yard line, and then the QB threw an incomplete pass. Their hopes of scoring where crushed as a Wolves’ player intercepted their next pass and was tackled at the 12-yard line.
The Wolves’ next series was uneventful and the Wolves punted on the fourth play of the drive. Inglemoor showed they weren’t ready to call it quits as they began moving the ball down the field. Elijah Dereemer, Guptil, and Stevenson tackled a Viking for a 5 yard gain; William Woodgate, also playing for the first time in a Varsity game, made a tackle that stopped them for no gain as the third quarter came to an end.
Many of the fans decided to leave and the stadium seating was thinning out as the fourth quarter began. However, the Viking faithful stayed behind and in concert with the band cheered loudly in support of their team. The Inglemoor running back gained 6 yards before he was stopped by Reed Payne’s hard hit that separated his helmet from his head. Their QB connected with his receiver for a 6 yard gain. Then, the Vikings correctly assumed that the Wolves’ defensive coordinator’s would call for an all-out blitz and quickly threw a pass to an open wide receiver who caught the pass for a 21 yard touchdown reception. The Vikings missed their PAT; score 19-50.
Brinkman returned the kickoff 20 yards. Nelson, eager to keep up his impressive running performance, gained an additional 4 yards on first down. A few plays later, Andrew Plummer stepped on the field for the first time as a varsity offensive player. He took the hand off and gained a few yards for a Wolves’ first down. A few plays later, Jack Rudd, also stepping on the field for the first time as a Varsity athlete, ran his route well, caught a 6 yard pass and was quickly tackled. Jack Titus entered the game for the first time. His excitement was dampened quickly when a Viking intercepted a pass thrown toward him and ran it back forty yards for a TD. They converted their PAT; score 26-50.
Brinkman returned the kickoff 27 yards. Austin Gray entered the field for his 1st time, took the hand off, and pounded ahead for a 5-yard gain. Dalton Chandler entered the game for his 1st time, ran a QB keeper, and was hit behind the line-of-scrimmage for a 2 yard loss. He regained his composure and charged ahead for a 3 yard gain on the next play. The Wolves’ punted on fourth down. Brody Leslie, who entered the game for his 1st time, ran by a Viking who was attempting to block him and he along with a few other Wolves, tackled the Vikings’ returner. Two more Varsity newbees, Hunter Snyder and Sam Marks, jointly tackled the Vikings’ runner. Then the Viking’s fourth down attempt failed and they turned the ball over on downs.
The Wolves’ offense that ran on to the field was full of mostly rookie players. Their exuberance made it hard for them to focus and they turned the ball over. The Inglemoor offense had time for one play that was not successful and the clocked ticked down to zero and the game came to an end. The Wolves’ recorded their 4th win of the season and advance their record to 4-1 for the season! The starters applauded their teammates who took their inaugural step on the field that night and had made their first mark in the Wolves Football record book. Then as they always do, they huddled around their coaches. Head coach Don Bartell and his staff gazed at the faces of his newly debuted players and he smiled as he shared this moment with them.
We hope you will come out to cheer on the Wolves next week Friday as they take on the 11th ranked Bothell Cougars. It will be an exciting game and you should get there early as Eastlake’s stadium will surely be a packed!