There was an unusual quiet in the air as the Wolves fans entered their stadium and took their seats. The players seemed subdued as they took the field for warm-up with hopes of avenging an early season loss to the Spartans. The senior Wolves’ players appeared looking into the stands, maybe taking in the sights of the fans dressed in red, white, and blue to honor our veterans, or they could have been absorbed in thought reflecting on the years and many games they had played in this stadium. Then their gaze shifted across the field toward the visitor bleachers where the Spartan fans were already cheering loudly and their players were jumping and yelling with eagerness for the kickoff. Or maybe these Wolves’ were looking past the Spartans to the community fields where most had learned to play the sport they love; surely they were feeling a mix of emotions; nostalgia, pride, and others that they may not fully understand or will not appreciate for years to come. They regained their focus on the job at hand as the referee signaled for the captains.
The Wolves’ lined up for the opening kickoff, received the kick and returned it ten-yards. The Eastlake offense wasted no time showing why they had produced record numbers this season. They started with a mix of plays and moved the ball down the field. Key plays resulted in a 15-yard pass reception by Cole Brinkman and a 25-yard reception by Hank Pladson. However, the offense sputtered as the Skyline defense mixed up their attack scheme and the Wolves offense had trouble blocking them. This lead to a sack that stopped the Wolves and they were forced to punt the ball.
The Spartans offense started their drive with a ten yard gain. However, they too faltered after a 47 yard bomb that hushed the Wolves fans while it floated through the air, fell incomplete after slipping through the hands of their receiver. They punted and the Wolves took over at their 42 yard line. The Wolves’ offense again started strong. Daniel Bradley pounded through the Spartans defense for a 22 yard gain. Then Cody Cox made a great catch for a 7 yard gain. However, the momentum shifted after the Wolves’ QB bobbled the snap and was sacked for a 2 yard loss. Then Ben Howard threw a pass that sailed over his wide-open receiver’s hands. Then on 4th and 5, the offensive line did not pick up all of the Spartan rushers and Howard was sacked again for a 17 yard loss. The ball turned over on downs.
The Wolves’ defense stepped up on the next series behind the strong play of Spencer Thompson who made two key stops including a sack for a 3 yard loss. The Spartans punted. The Wolves’ offense moved the ball down the field. Nelson had a six yard gain and a 3 yard gain. Cox had a 10+ yard reception and the Wolves were threatening to score. Then, on the next play, Howard sprinted forward on a QB keeper and after running about 12 yards down the field was smashed into by several Spartans. One of them placed their helmet directly on the football: it was knocked out of Howard’s hands, fell to the turf and was recovered by a Skyline player at the 36 yard line.
Skyline’s next series was thwarted when Jaxon Williams sacked their QB for a 7 yard loss and Parker Lester broke up a pass on 4th and 3 forcing a turnover on downs. Eastlake’s Bradley had two strong runs for 25 and 9 yards gains. Then the Wolves threw two incomplete passes and on 4th and 2, Howard handed the ball off to Bradley who again pounded ahead and looked as if he would gain over ten yards when he was hit hard an fumbled the ball on the Spartans 27 yard line.
The Spartans offense dominated Eastlake on their next drive. They had runs of 4 and 7 yards. Then they had pass receptions of 7 and 3 yards. The Wolves defense tightened up to slow their progress. However, this opened things up in the secondary and the Spartans took advantage of it. They threw a long pass that was caught at the Wolves’ 25 yard line. The receiver then broke a few tackles and ran into the end zone for the first score of the night. After their PAT sailed through the uprights, the score was 7-0 with 4:20 left in the half.
Eastlake’s next drive was uneventful resulting in a punt on fourth down. Skyline also had an unproductive drive and turned the ball over on downs when they took a chance on 4th down and the Wolves’ defender tackled the Spartan’s receiver for a 1 yard loss just as he caught a quick hitch pass. The Wolves’ eliminated their turnovers on the next series and ignited their fans when Howard completed a 42-yard pass to Pladson and then scored on a 19-yard TD pass to Cox. Taige Thornton kicked the PAT to tie the score at 7-7 with 1:11 left in the half.
The Eastlake fans celebrating quickly came to a halt when the Spartans completed a 48 yard pass that brought them to the 20 yard line. Then their back had a powerful run up the middle for a 20 yard run into the end zone. They kicked the PAT and were up 14-7 with 14 seconds left in the half. The Wolves received the kick off and ran one play before the half came to an end. The half time lasted much longer than expected when a fuse for the stadium lights blew out and it took almost a half hour to replace.
The second half started as soon as the stadium was properly illuminated. The Spartans wasted no time quieting the crowd again when they scored quickly on a 67 yard TD reception. Their successful PAT put them up 21-7. The Wolves continued to have trouble picking up the Spartan’s defensive maneuvers and Howard was sacked for an 11-yard loss. After two more unsuccessful plays, Howard took the snap in his own end zone and got off a booming punt that sailed over 55 yards down the field.
The Spartans continued to be productive on offense. After a 12 and 19 yard rush, the Wolves defense toughened up and stopped them. They were forced to kick a field goal and the numbers on the score board changed to 24-7.
The Wolves showed their resolve when they overcame another sack of their QB for an 8 yard loss. They completed a 9 yard pass to Lester, a 13 yard completion to Brinkman, and a 17 yard completion to Pladson. Then, facing 1st down and ten at the 32 yard line, Howard threw a perfect pass to Lester for a touchdown. Thornton added a PAT and the Wolves closed the gap in score to ten; score 24-14.
The Spartans wasted no time in quieting the Wolves fans by putting together another perfectly executed drive. They gained yardage on six straight plays and then, after Noah Morse tackled their ball carrier for a one-yard loss, they connected on a 26-yard pass in the end zone; score 31-14.
The Wolves put together a strong drive but again stalled when they threw an interception at the Spartans 11 yard line. The Spartans managed the clock well on their next series and almost six minutes ticked off before they punted to the Wolves. Eastlake again marched the ball down the field. However, after two great catches by Pladson, Skyline intercepted a pass. Skyline put in their reserve players and eventually punted to Eastlake who got off a few plays before the clock ticked down to zero ending the Wolves hopes of progressing in the playoffs.
The Wolves, although disappointed with this loss, had a great season. They had one of the most successful offenses in the state and set multiple school records. Their team work and the great coaching they received was in evidence as they were awarded offensive player of the year, 5 first team, 5 second team, 4 honorable mention honors. The Eastlake program was also honored have an Assistant Coach of the Year award by the Kingco league.
Thanks go out to everyone in the Eastlake community for supporting the Wolves’ players and coaches. We look forward to next season and your continued support of the Wolves. Wolf Strong ~ Pack Strong!
And THANKS again to all of our photographer this season: Ken Cardwell, David Bradley, Chris Mohrhardt, Darla Padgett, Simon Puttick, Chad Greene, and Jeff Steinbok