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Superb Defensive Effort Not Enough as Wolves Fall

09/30/2018, 11:30am PDT
By Josh Brookshier

Games in late September usually do not have so much meaning, but Friday evening’s tilt between Eastlake and Mount Si had playoff implications, and plenty of storylines. In the end, the Wolves fought hard, particularly on defense, but it was not enough as they were defeated by the Wildcats 21-7.

This was a game Eastlake needed to win to stay on top in the KingCo Crest division, and a game they wanted as teams jockey for playoff positioning. For the Wolves, there was also revenge in mind for a heartbreaking – and shocking – home loss to these same Wildcats a year ago. Eastlake entered at 3-1, and already had a win in conference and a share of first place coming into the week.

Meantime Mount Si came into the game boasting a 4-0 record, all out of conference, and averaging a staggering 46 points per game behind an up-tempo offense led by University of Oregon-bound quarterback Cale Millen.

On this night, scoring would not be easy for either squad.

Eastlake’s defense was resilient throughout the game, bottling up the Wildcats’ running game and getting timely pressure in the passing game. When the Wildcats were able to move the ball, virtually all the yards coming through the air, the Wolves still found ways to get stops. The Wolves were tested early in the game. On the second play from scrimmage Mount Si would break off a big gain and set themselves up in the red zone while hundreds of fans still stood in ticket lines on Schusman Avenue. The Wildcats would be denied, turned away by the Wolves defense without a score.

The teams traded punts and possessions through most of the first half before the Wildcats got two quick touchdowns in an offensive flurry in the last four minutes of the 2nd quarter. An Eastlake drive was stalled late in the half after a controversial helmet to helmet call on a block during a catch and run by receiver Nate Sutter. Sutter hauled in a short pass on a wide receiver screen from quarterback Grady Robison and cut across the field behind his offensive line. As the defense pursued, what appeared to be a clean block was flagged, negating a first down for Eastlake. After an incomplete pass and a short Robison scramble, the Wolves were forced to punt.

Mount Si took over with great field position at the Eastlake 35-yard line and wasted no time as Millen found speedy receiver Colby Botten on a backside post for a touchdown, and just like that the Wildcats led 7-0.

Eastlake nearly landed an equalizing counterpunch. Sutter took the ensuing kickoff at the one-yard line and dashed up the Eastlake sideline before being pushed out of bounds by the Mount Si kicker near midfield. Running back Jalen Bright entered the game and instantly energized the Eastlake sideline with consecutive runs of 18 and 17 yards putting the Wolves at the Mount Si 20.

With all their timeouts and still plenty of time on the clock before half, Eastlake seemed poised to score. The drive ended as a Robison pass was intercepted at the goal line, and Mount Si would take over possession with 1:49 remaining before halftime.

The Wildcats got chunks of yards quickly, crossing midfield in only three plays. After a Mount Si touchdown was wiped off the board due to holding, the Wolves gave up a long catch and run, further aided by a facemask penalty, and the Wildcats had the ball at the 10-yard line. From there, Millen would throw into the void left by a blitzing linebacker, finding speedy running back Cole Norah out of the backfield for a 10-yard score. The Wildcats carried a 14-0 lead into halftime.

The Wolves came into the 3rd quarter ready to receive the opening kickoff for the second half, but still not quite ready to do much offensively, punting after a quick three-and-out. When the Wildcats had the ball at midfield after the punt, the Eastlake defense rose to the challenge and got the stop it needed to stay in the game. Mount Si got as close as the Eastlake 27, but their drive started going backward. Zach Kennedy would sack Millen on a bull rush for a loss of 8 yards. Two plays later 3rd and 26, the Wildcats would try a screen pass, but Kennedy tipped the pass behind the line of scrimmage, the ball falling harmlessly on the turf, and the Wildcats were forced to punt.

Eastlake then mounted their only scoring drive of the evening, with Robison leading the charge and the offense as a unit showing a great deal of poise throughout the drive. On a slick quarterback keeper deep in their own end of the field, Robison broke past the entire Mount Si defense and appeared to have an 85-yard touchdown run – only to be wiped out by a questionable “holding” call. The spot foul did not negate all the yardage however, and Eastlake had the ball at the Wildcats’ 44. Just when it appeared the Wolves may stall again, on 3rd and 8 Robison found tight end Brody Leslie over the middle on a short throw – and long run – that got the Wolves down to the 7-yard line. Two plays later, Robison found Sutter on a touch pass in the back corner of the end zone and the Wolves were right back in the game at 14-7.

After a terrific effort by Austin Gray to hold on to the Mount Si returner on the ensuing kickoff, the Wolves defense had Mount Si backed up to its own 14-yard line. The Wildcats would go to the air once again, and Millen would complete all 6 passes on the drive as Mount Si marched the field with their high-octane passing game, setting up first and goal from the Eastlake 5-yard line, still early in the 4th quarter.

The Wolves defense led all night by a surging and disruptive line, then appeared to have stopped the Wildcats for a turnover on downs for the second time in the red zone.

After a scramble and two short runs, on 4th and goal from inside the 1-yard line, the Wildcats quite literally got sneaky. Trying to appear confused about their play call coming out of a time out, Millen quickly ran up under his center and ran a quarterback sneak. The Wolves’ defensive line surged, holding their ground, and when the side judge ran in toward the scrum clearly marking the ball down short of the goal line, the Wolves defense was, for a moment, ecstatic. Moments later, somewhat inexplicably, and after most of the Eastlake defenders had made their

way to the sideline, the head referee held up both hands indicating the initial call was overturned, and the Wildcats had their third touchdown of the game putting them ahead 21-7.

The Wolves kept fighting, but in the end, they found themselves too often behind the chains in long yardage down and distance situations. Mount Si mounted what appeared to be a final scoring drive late in the game, however the Wolves’ defense held, and Sutter blocked the Wildcats’ field goal attempt giving Eastlake one last possession with 3:12 remaining. The Wolves drove the field late, only to be turned away after a strange intentional grounding call with less than a minute to play, and Robison was then sacked on the final play of the night.

Eastlake (3-2, 1-1) hosts Skyline (3-2, 1-1) next Friday October 4, 7pm kickoff

Game Notes: Leslie led all Eastlake receivers with an 18.3 yard per catch average… Bright did not play in the 2nd half due to injury… the Wolves’ defense tallied 6 more sacks led by Kennedy’s 2 and Cameron Lynch with 1.5…… Linebacker Garrett Carney led Eastlake with 6 tackles, and defensive backs Carter Cox, Jack Rud, and Vini Monteiro each recorded 4 stops.

Eastlake Wolves raised their record to 3-1 on the year and remained unblemished in KingCo League play with a workmanlike victory over Issaquah, 20-7. For a game that never felt in doubt, this one wasn’t easy for the Wolves, who bounced back from a non-conference loss last week.

Perhaps unexpectedly, this game was a battle of bend-but-don’t-break defensive efforts by both squads. The Wolves raced out to a 13-0 lead only to be stymied until they eventually tacked on a final touchdown early in the 4th quarter. Meanwhile the Eastlake defense was particularly stingy against the run and kept the Eagles shut out until the late stages of the game when a comeback seemed altogether unfathomable.

The opening series of the contest was a precursor for the evening as Eastlake rover Jalen Bright recorded a sack for an 11-yard loss on Issaquah’s second play. After the Eagles were forced to punt, the Wolves began their first possession with the ball on the plus side of midfield, and patiently drove 47 yards in 7 plays for an early score.

Quarterback Grady Robison ran for a touchdown from 8 yards out for the Wolves on a drive that featured two third down conversions. Robison completed passes to three receivers, including a 13 yard hook up with Vini Monteiro on a fantastic look off to bait Issaquah’s coverage out of the middle of the field.

The Wolves’ defense would put the offense back in business quickly. After crossing midfield, Issaquah stalled as William Woodgate recorded the first of his two sacks of Issaquah quarterback Trevor Morine for a 6-yard loss on third down, forcing a punt. Eastlake took over at their own 24-yard line and despite a holding call on the first play of the series, the Wolves would march the field and Robison found Nate Sutter on an 11-yard toss at the end of the first quarter. Eastlake failed to convert a 2-point try but carried their 13-0 lead through three quarters.

Issaquah mounted three scoring threats in the second quarter, each quashed by the relentless Wolves defense. Eastlake blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt, and later in the period would chase down Morine on 4th and 3 from the Wolves’ 7-yard line, forcing an intentional grounding and turnover on downs. Issaquah managed one last gasp before intermission, but safety Jack Rud thwarted the effort with an interception at the goal line on the final play of the first half.

The third period began with a 27-yard burst on the opening kickoff return by sophomore speedster Leroy Jackson. On their first play from scrimmage Eastlake seemed poised to add to the score after Monteiro made two sensational moves to elude would-be tacklers on a catch and run to put the Wolves at the Issaquah 25. The promising drive quickly deteriorated as the Wolves lost yardage on penalties. The teams would twice trade punts in the quarter, but on their third possession the Wolves began again in plus territory.

On the legs of Robison and Bright, who provided a spark on the drive with physical, bruising runs into the teeth of the Issaquah defense, the Wolves mercilessly pounded the ball into the red zone. Robison would find Sutter, this time from 9 yards out, to push the score to 20-0.

Issaquah continued to battle, finally getting on the scoreboard with 6:17 remaining. The Wolves fumbled on their next possession to give the Eagles one last hope, but Bright was on the spot again, this time registering a sack on 4th and 5 in Eastlake territory to force another turn over on downs, and the Wolves would run out the clock.

Eastlake travels to Mount Si next Friday, September 28, for a 7pm kickoff against the Wildcats in a critical KingCo match up.

Game Notes:

The Wolves recorded 6 sacks and unofficially 10 tackles for loss... Robison completed 15 of 24 passes, finding 7 different receivers… On 8 targets, Sutter finished with 6 catches for 80 yards, but also caught the other two balls but both those catches were ruled out-of-bounds... Eastlake moves to 2-0 in KingCo.

Special thanks to statistician John Miller, spotter Eric Bryant, and photographers Chad Greene and Mark Sutter.

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