Eastlake won its homecoming game Friday evening over rival Skyline 24-17 in exhilarating fashion, after dropping a triple overtime thriller to these same Spartans nearly one ago year to the day on the same field.
Eastlake QB Grady Robison ran in the winning score for the Wolves with 55 seconds remaining in the contest, capping an amazing, improbable, and flat out gritty final drive.
This game mirrored the 2017 edition in many ways. The teams traded body blows for much of the contest. Like 2017 it was a low scoring (until the end), highly competitive game between two teams that appeared to be very evenly matched all night.
For fans who like a lot of scoring, the rain and cold were maybe not the only reasons to consider staying indoors on this night. In the first half the defenses dominated, or the offenses struggled - whatever the case, points were simply hard to come by for either team.
However, for the fans that stayed until the end, this was another electrifying finish in a rivalry that seems to always produce a competitive game. For Wolves fans, this is a win that will not soon be forgotten.
Eastlake senior defensive lineman Zach Kennedy, with tag team partner senior safeties “Sack” Rud and Carter Cox, led the opportunistic Wolves defense. The Spartans managed a first quarter field goal on their second possession, but that was all their scoring in the first half. Skyline moved the ball offensively, but time after time the Wolves came up with plays to stall Spartan drives.
Rud kept Skyline out of the end zone, and off the scoreboard entirely, on a drive early in the 2nd quarter, forcing a fumble on a bone-jarring hit in the red zone when the Wolves needed a big play. On the next series, Kennedy made a stop on 4th and 1 at the Skyline 43-yard line to force a turnover on downs.
Despite the defensive success, the Wolves offense simply could not find a rhythm early against the stout Spartans. The Wolves managed to seize a halftime lead only after senior linebacker Austin Gray broke through the line to block a Skyline punt late in the 2nd quarter. Taking over possession at the Skyline16 yard line, the Wolves were able to score with 10 seconds left in the half when Robison found Nate Sutter from three yards out for a touchdown. After a penalty that would be enforced on the point after try, kicker Ryan Curran calmly knocked through a 35-yard PAT and the Wolves carried some momentum and a 7-3 lead into halftime.
The third quarter started where the first half left off. The offenses traded punts; the defenses continued to have their way. But the offenses for both squads would soon find their stride.
On their second possession of the half the Wolves stalled again near midfield. After an errant snap sailed over punter Jackson Proctor’s head, Skyline took over at the Eastlake 16-yard line. The Wolves defense once again stiffened and kept the Spartans out of the end zone, and Skyline had to settle for another field goal to cut the lead down to 7-6.
The ensuing Skyline kickoff was short, and upback Cooper Williams returned the ball 10 yards to the Eastlake 40-yard line. After two Leroy Jackson rushes moved Eastlake into Skyline territory, Robison found his go-to receiver Sutter on a deep post to set the Wolves up at the Spartan 12-yard line. The Wolves could advance no further however and settled for a 29 yard boot by Curran to extend the lead back to 4 points at 10-6.
Eastlake then held the Spartan offense to a 3-and-out, and the offense put together a wild scoring drive in what turned out to be the most pivotal possession of the game, extending their lead before the end of the third quarter. Facing a 3rd and 8 at the Skyline 45, Robison scrambled out of trouble to extend a play and found receiver Grant Brewer for a 23-yard strike as Brewer broke off his route and worked back to his quarterback to find open space on the diving snare. On the next play, Robison fell on the ball after a fumbled hand-off. The Wolves retained possession, but for the moment lost their starting quarterback who was injured on the play.
The next three plays would be quite a sequence of events. Proctor entered the game at quarterback for Robison, and immediately the Wolves took a deep shot to Brewer that was in and out of his hands in the end zone. What looked like a possible touchdown on 2nd down turned in to 3rd and 16, and nearly turned into disaster. The Wolves took another shot deep on 3rd down, again to Brewer and again in the back of the end zone. This time, it appeared Skyline may have intercepted the ball, but the pass was ultimately ruled incomplete.
Now the Wolves faced a 4th and 16 in no-man’s land from the Skyline 28-yard line – too far out to try a field goal, too close to the end zone to punt. Despite double coverage, and with another two Spartan defenders playing underneath his target, Proctor floated a beautiful touch pass to Sutter between Skyline defensive backs at the goal line, and just like that the Wolves were up 17-6 heading to the fourth quarter.
Again, the teams would trade punts before Skyline put together back to back scoring drives. After Skyline kicker Carter Shane hit his third field goal of the evening to pull the Spartans to 17-9 with 5:46 remaining in the game, the Spartans tried to pull off an onside kick of sorts. Shane hit a chip shot of a kick over the Eastlake front line, and junior linebacker Jason Bryant made the crucial recovery of the kick for the Wolves.
Two runs netted no yards for Eastlake, and on 3rd and 10 Robison completed a pass that would have been good for a new set of downs at midfield, but was caught out of bounds, and the Wolves were forced to punt again.
Helped by a questionable pass interference call, the Spartans were at midfield after the first play of their drive. Four plays later, the Spartans found the end zone for the first and only time on the evening as quarterback Joe Green connected with running back Brenden Bice who found himself wide open over the middle from 27 yards out. Skyline then narrowly converted their 2-point conversion as Green sprinted out to the right and threw back to Bice at the 5-yard line, and the running back eluded two Eastlake tacklers on his way in to the end zone.
With the score suddenly tied at 17-17, Skyline seemed to have all the momentum. Skyline also had all three of their time outs, and with 2:30 remaining in the game there was an uneasy feeling among fans on the Eastlake side of the field. That feeling wasn’t helped by an illegal block on the kickoff return, and Eastlake started their drive deep in their end of the field at their own 13-yard line.
Robison started the drive by giving the Wolves a little breathing room and getting the offense ahead of the chains running 8 yards on a quarterback draw. After an incomplete pass stopped the clock, Jackson needed two yards on third down to move the chains and got three. The Wolves had fresh downs and something brewing.
More important than the downs it turned out, the Wolves had Robison and Sutter, who would connect on three successive plays covering 67 yards in a blink to set up the winning score. From the Eastlake 24-yard line, Sutter ran a deep out and Robison hit him at the sideline to stop the clock after a gain of 13 yards. From the Eastlake 37, and with a Skyline defender running stride for stride with him, Sutter elevated and caught a fade to the sideline at the Spartan 34 for a gain of 29. Perhaps because it worked so well the first time, the Wolves went right back to the same play this time Robison hit Sutter for 25 yards to the Skyline 9, setting up the final touchdown run.
After the score, the Spartans took over at their own 18 with under a minute to play but could not manage a first down against the inspired Wolves defense, a short run bunched in between three incomplete passes.
The loss leaves the Spartans at 3-3 on the year, and they drop to 1-1 in the division, while Eastlake moves to 4-2 overall, 2-1 in the division.
Eastlake travels to Newport High School next Friday, October 12, for a 7pm kickoff against the Knights in another Crest Division Matchup.
Each team committed a single turnover on a fumble, however Eastlake had 4 fumbles and recovered 3… each team committed 7 penalties… Skyline outgained Eastlake on the ground and in the air, and had an overall advantage in yards from scrimmage 365-319… Skyline also had an
advantage in first downs gained 20-14… a tip of the cap to the EHS offensive line, Robison was not sacked… the Wolves’ defense sacked Green 3 times and tallied 2 other tackles for loss in the game… Sutter kept his torrid pace of productivity going with 9 catches for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns… Proctor was not just productive in relief of Robison, he also had a solid night punting the ball including a 51 yard bomb in the first half.
Special thanks to statistician John Miller, spotter Eric Bryant, and photographers Chad Greene and Mark Sutter.