The Eastmont football team has struggled to keep teams out of the end zone in its two Big Nine games so far this season, which is why its matchup with cross-river rival Wenatchee — which has an offense that has been on fire as of late — is a cause for concern.
“Giving up 86 points (combined against Davis and Eisenhower) of course is troubling. That’s why we’re back to basics — we’ve got a ways to go,” Wildcats head coach Doug McGill said in a phone interview Wednesday.
McGill explained that his team has been spending a lot of its attention this week in practice on the fundamentals — tackling and blocking — because the Wildcats are currently ranked last in Big Nine total defense while the Panthers are first in team offense.
What might be most troublesome for the Cats is how balanced the WHS attack has been — the Panthers have gained 617 yards on the ground and 741 through the air, while Eastmont has given up 664 rushing and 620 passing.
“You show up, and you go to work and you get ready to play Wenatchee just like you get ready to play anyone else. That’s why we’re simplifying and going back to basics,” McGill said. “They do have a lot of weapons. (Senior quarterback Dillon) Sugg is playing really well and (standout running back) Isaiah (Brandt-Sims) is Isaiah. Any defensive coordinator would be concerned with matching up with them because they can hurt you in a lot of ways.”
But McGill did note that his team has some weapons in its arsenal as well: senior running back Brian Burt has only 71 fewer rushing yards than Brandt-Sims — who leads the Big Nine — despite carrying the ball 21 fewer times.
“Brian obviously has been running really well for us these last couple of weeks, and I feel like Phillip (Moore) is a person who we’re going to get some more big plays from,” McGill said. “Kai Spencer and Carter Haehl (who has 164 yards and two touchdowns) have done great things when they get their hands on the ball. We do have some weapons, and it’s just a matter of time getting guys on the same page.”
Burt has caught the eye of Wenatchee’s coaching staff as well.
“The first thing that sticks out is their running back Brian Burt, he’s a playmaker,” Panthers head coach Scott Devereaux. “He has a lot of long touchdown runs, he’s fast, he’s athletic, hes a really good running back. He’ll probably be the fastest guy we’ve seen this year as a defense.”
Moore, who transferred from Wenatchee, showed he could also make the big play last Friday against Eisenhower. Devereaux said his team will have to keep Moore and fellow ex-Panther and current Eastmont quarterback Killion McGinnis from hooking up for a long reception.
“The one thing we struggled with, at least in the first game of the season, was defending the deep ball, and I think we’re going to see more of that this weekend,” Devereaux said.
What goes without saying, though, is that excitement will be extremely high for both sides, which can serve as an advantage for the underdog.
“If you’re born in East Wenatchee you’re raised to want to beat Wenatchee,” McGill said. “Just as their kids will be motivated as well. … I think it’s a shared excitement. All that being said and all that aside, it’s a really big moment in the league as well. We need to scrap and claw our way back into this thing if we want to play for the postseason, and we need to make the most out of every league game we have.”
History is not on the Wildcats’ side as the Panthers have won six of the last seven and 10 of the last 12. Devereaux is 8-2 all-time against McGill.
If Eastmont does complete the upset tonight, it could provide the team with a much needed identity — something McGill says the team has been lacking thus far.
“We’re still working on finding our identity on defense,” McGill said.
“… We need to do some growing up in a hurry.”