SUNNYSIDE — The Eastmont defense did Friday what it has struggled to do all season in Big Nine play — make the big stop. In related news, the Wildcats earned their first league win of the season against Sunnyside.
The Cats defense logged a second-half shutout, led by junior Eli Brewer — who had five sacks and a forced fumble — and a pick-six from Christian Kinder to secure the 35-21 victory.
“It was nice to get a shutout in the second half. That was definitely good,” Eastmont head coach Doug McGill said in a phone interview after the game. “We got some big plays from our big play guys, which really helped swing that.”
The game certainly was not an assured victory for Eastmont from beginning to end. Sunnyside scored on its first two possessions to make it a 14-0 game. But speedy senior running back Brian Burt found space at the end of the first quarter and busted a 34-yard run for a touchdown.
Then senior Kai Spencer intercepted a pass on the first play of the second quarter. After quarterback Nick McGill connected with Phillip Moore to put the team within the five, McGill took it himself to make it a 14-14 game.
But the Grizzlies weren’t done yet. They capped an 80-yard drive — their second of at least three-quarters of the field in the half — with a one-yard plunge to give themselves a 21-14 lead going into half.
“We didn’t get off the bus very good,” Doug McGill said. “… Our technique wasn’t great in the first half, but the second half was a different story.”
Nick McGill connected with senior Carter Haehl — who was playing his first game back after suffering a concussion — for 33 yards, which set up another Burt touchdown, this time from 24 yards out.
Sunnyside looked to be driving in their next possession, but Killion McGinnis picked off a pass in the end zone to give the Eastmont offense the ball back.
A few plays after an ill-fated hook-and-ladder play gave the Grizzlies the ball on the Eastmont 35, Brewer broke into the Grizzlies backfield and forced a fumble that defensive line-mate Nolan Wirth recovered.
“As a defense, we’ve let up some big plays, but this game we just manned up and we had the same idea that we were going into it and we were going to be the Eastmont defense from last year that held everybody back,” Brewer said in a phone interview. “The mindset has changed a lot. We needed this, and our team came together and played our butts off to get it.”
In the fourth quarter, one Sunnyside drive ended on a Brewer sack, another on Kinder’s interception returned for a touchdown, and one more on a Tyke White sack.
“I think our defense is finally coming together and getting big stops and our offense is killer. We can score from anywhere on the field,” Brewer said.
The Cats sealed the victory when Nick McGill connected with Haehl for a 27-yard touchdown, giving Eastmont a two-score lead with just over two minutes left.
Eastmont (1-5) has a chance to play spoiler the rest of the season and will hope to maintain momentum against Eisenhower — a team that lost a heartbreaker to Moses Lake on Friday.
“I think the second time around, the advantage goes to the defense just because you are so familiar with the other team and with what they do and with what they don’t do so well,” Doug McGill.
Brewer said that is a message that he and his teammates can really get behind.
“I think we can play well these last few games,” the junior said. “We want to really mix up the Big Nine.”