The Eastlake Wolves opened their 2017 season Friday night with a conference matchup at Issaquah. The Wolves came into the game looking to replicate the success of 2016's record-setting offense building on familiar playmakers (including all-conference returners Hank Pladson, Spencer Thompson and Chris Nelson) but led by a new quarterback, senior Connor Brown. Defensively, the Wolves biggest question mark was linebacker where only senior Jack Hart returned with meaningful varsity experience under his belt. Issaquah had the opportunity to open the season at home and with plenty of motivation from last year's 49-7 drubbing by the Wolves in the back of their minds.
Even before the opening kickoff, the Wolves faced adversity as they entered the game without returning starters Nelson and senior receiver/cornerback Hunter Klinge, thrusting sophomore Garret Carney into the starting backfield.
When the game ended 2 hours later, Eastlake had answered all its questions in the affirmative in a 42-14 pounding of the Eagles. In his first start, Connor Brown etched his name in the Eastlake record book, throwing 6 touchdown passes on the night. Senior receiver Jaxon Williams caught 3 of Brown's TDs, with senior Hank Pladson adding 2 more. One of Pladson's TD catches was a ridiculous, one handed "did you see that?!?" catch. Junior Nate Sutter caught the other touchdown.
Brown got strong protection all night from his offensive line of Spencer Thompson, William Woodgate, Sam Milton, Connor Doran and Zach Kennedy. The O line also opened running lanes for Jack Hart and sophomore Garret Carney who ran the ball effectively.
Defensively, the Wolves played well up front but let Issaquah receivers slip behind their secondary several times. Issaquah didn't have the passing game to take advantage of the mistakes but the Wolves will need to tighten things up to contain elite passing teams.
Eastlake jumped out fast with two long Brown-to-Williams touchdowns in the first 5 minutes, plus two Jack Matheson PAT conversions putting Eastlake up 14-0. After the teams traded possessions, Issaquah got their offense in gear, marching into Eastlake territory for the first time. Senior linebacker Reed Payne made a tackle-for-loss, setting Issaquah back to 3rd and 11 but Issaquah came back to hit their biggest play of the game, a 30-yard pass completion which gave them first-and-goal. Issaquah punched in the touchdown to cut the score to 14-7 with 9:27 remaining in the first half. Eastlake quickly responded with a drive featuring a nice run/pass mix with Hart and Carney rumbling for 28 yards, and the drive was capped off by a 22 yard Brown-to Sutter touchdown with 6:55 left in the half (21-7).
On the ensuing kickoff, Eastlake's Andrew Edwards and Carney set the tone with a big hit on the return. Later in the drive, Eastlake noseguard Spencer Thompson sacked Issaquah's quarterback for a 10 yard loss and Issaquah turned the ball over on downs. As the half ran out, Eastlake went to the locker room up 21-7.
On the first possession of the second half, Reed Payne stepped up again, pressuring the Issaquah quarterback into a bad pass, intercepted by Hank Pladson and returned to the Issaquah 28. After Carney ran for 6 yards, Brown hit Sutter for 11 yards before throwing a 12 yard touchdown to Pladson who reeled in an "OBJ" caliber one-handed catch. Matheson nailed his 4th PAT putting the Wolves up 28-7 early in the 3rd quarter.
The Eastlake defense forced a 3-and-out, giving the ball quickly back to their offense. This time, Eastlake used the ground game with Jack Hart pounding the Eagles for 31 yards on 3 straight runs before Brown and Williams connected for the 3rd time, this one from 29 yards out for another touchdown. Matheson hit the PAT and the Wolves extended their lead to 35-7 with 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
The teams traded possessions as Eastlake began rotating players into the game building valuable depth with in-game experience for Soham Paul, Teagan Tolliver, Andrew Plummer, Nick Villegas and Cameron Knutsen. Issaquah kept battling and aided by a 15 yard quarterback scramble, scored with 9 minutes to go in the game, cutting the lead to 35-14.
In answer, the Eastlake offense put together one more drive, this one powered by sophomore running back Carney who carried the Wolves down the field with 47 yards rushing on the drive before Brown hit Pladson with another touchdown, this one for 11 yards. Matheson was perfect with his 6th PAT of the night and extending the lead to 42-14 with 5 minutes left in the game. Issaquah tried to mount one final drive but a monster sack by Brodie Leslie set the Eagles back and they couldn't find the end zone again.
For the game, Brown completed 19-of-25 passes for 304 yards and 6 touchdowns. Pladson was the top target with 9 catches and 2 TDs but Jaxon Williams would not be outdone, adding his 3 TDs. On the ground, Jack Hart and Garret Carney each averaged 8 yards-per-carry, contributing 51 yards and 72 yards respectively. Jack Matheson showed the Wolves kicking game is in good hands, nailing 6-of-6 PATs.
Defensively, it was a team effort. While Pladson, Carney and Sutter paced the team with 5 tackles each, it was the defensive line of Thompson, Woodgate and Kennedy that controlled the line of scrimmage against the powerful Issaquah rushing attack. The Eagles outgained the Wolves on the ground but had no passing game to stretch the field and Eastlake held Issaquah to no explosive plays.
Next up for the Wolves is defending league champion Woodinville, next Saturday (September 9th) at Pop Keeney. Last year the Wolves battled Woodinville in a close game that the Falcons pulled out 21-16, clinching their undefeated regular season.