EAST WENATCHEE — In a way, the playoffs are coming a week early to the Eastmont Wildcats. It will be up to their defense to get them to the real thing.
With a spot in the postseason on the line, the Wildcats will host undefeated offensive juggernaut Kamiakin in their regular season finale at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Eastmont will need to find a way to stop the best and most balanced offensive team in the Big Nine 3A to keep their hopes alive, but even that may not be enough — they also need a Hanford loss to Sunnyside to get the final playoff berth.
“We’ve gotta play the best game of football this season,” Eastmont junior linebacker/running back Josh Woodward said. “We’re expecting to see the best offense we’ve seen all year. … Just knowing that there’s a chance at beating Kamiakin, seeing how Sunnyside and West Valley played them close, everybody is pumped for a chance at an upset.”
To get Kamiakin’s offense off track, the Wildcats will need to rattle quarterback Jason Hutchison, who had thrown for 1,550 yards and 16 touchdowns to just two interceptions this season.
Eastmont junior defensive end Kyle Hoffman, who was a key to the Wildcats’ constant quarterback pressure in last week’s win over Sunnyside, said how well the Wildcats pressure Hutchison “will determine the game.”
“(Hutchison) is good at picking people apart. If you let him sit back there too long he’ll find a hole in the secondary,” Hoffman said.
“We know they’re athletic and fast, and the quarterback can sling it, but I have confidence in our defense,” said cornerback/wide receiver Trenton Osborn, who leads the team with three interceptions.
Though Osborn will find himself mostly getting familiar with Braves receivers Jesse Houser (385 yards, 22.6 yards per catch) and Brandon Larson (362 yards, 15.1 yards per catch), Kamiakin has a host of capable receivers that will targeted by Hutchison.
“All five of their eligible receivers are guns,” Eastmont senior and defensive captain Berlie Walker said.
The Braves are no slouches with the run game, either. Top running back Zach Umemoto is third in the league with 909 rushing yards, and he’s found the end zone 11 times (10 on the ground) this season.
“We need to make sure and wrap (Umemoto) up. No arm tackles. Make sure we have good technique,” Hoffman said. “I don’t know if we’ve seen a team as good with both (running and passing). The combination is going to be interesting.”
Going up against such a balanced and explosive offense, the Wildcats know they’re entering a pick your poison situation.
“It’s a little bit of a gamble to bring extra guys, but we’ve gotta be able to get pressure,” said Eastmont head coach Doug McGill, who also handles defensive coordinator duties. “(Hutchison) is elusive out of the pocket, and that’s tough on young DBs.
“They run multiple formations, which is what makes them so tough. It’s a conundrum for a defensive coordinator.”