Friday’s cross-river rivalry between the Eastmont and Wenatchee football teams ended in a dull murmur, and at this point, that’s not much of a surprise.
An elated Panthers squad celebrated another lopsided league win — its third in as many outings — while the Wildcats trotted off the field disappointed, despite showing some good things on both sides of the ball early.
Sophomore quarterback Nick McGill made some good passes downfield in his first career start, Brian Burt ripped off a series of good runs and the Eastmont defense made Wenatchee quarterback Dillon Sugg’s life hard with an aggressive, relentless rush.
The problem is, the Wildcats couldn’t make the most of those early positives and the Panthers were, well, electric.
Sugg utilized the abundance of talent surrounding him to lead his team into enemy territory time and time again, and running back Isaiah Brandt-Sims imposed his will on the ground. Suddenly it was 24-3 going into halftime, and you knew there was little hope of witnessing a comeback.
It was another anticlimactic finish in what has been a very one-sided rivalry.
It just seems like something’s missing at this point.
There’s no questioning Eastmont’s effort coming into Friday, and it’s obvious both sides wanted to win really, really badly.
“There was a pep assembly, and the talk is all Eastmont, Eastmont, Eastmont. Rivalry, rivalry, rivalry,” Wenatchee coach Scott Devereaux said after the 44-10 victory.
But proximity might be the biggest driver in all of this intensity. One thing’s for sure: it’s not the even-handedness. These teams aren’t exactly swapping wins.
The Panthers are on the winning side of this back-and-forth historically, and it’s not even close.
They lead the series all-time 34-10. They have 12 shutouts in that span and have outscored Eastmont 1,196 to 472. Devereaux is now 9-2 against Eastmont. It’s unfair to blame the Wildcats though, because Wenatchee’s enrollment dwarfs theirs.
But when you strip away the emotion and look at the raw numbers, nothing jumps off the page and screams ‘rivalry.’
“I think we’ve had a pretty good run of teams,” Devereaux said. “I think that’s been the biggest thing. I think we’ve had some pretty good football players come through here the last 10 years. That makes a difference. I don’t think it’s anything special that I’m doing. Crazy game like this, you never know what’s going to happen, but our kids have kind of figured it out.”
Friday’s outcome was just another chapter in a long line of Panthers wins, and it shouldn’t come as much of a head scratcher.
Sure, Wenatchee is incredibly talented at just about every position this year, and this may be the most athletic Panthers squad in Devereaux’s tenure. Brandt-Sims could do big things at the collegiate level down the road playing for Stanford. Sugg has looked like a college-caliber quarterback all season, and he has a supporting cast that makes him look that much better. Heck, even the Panthers backups can create problems with their speed.
But a 34-point win doesn’t even register as much of a shocker when you take into account their average margin of victory against Eastmont was 16 points going into Friday.
Anybody who wants to argue otherwise can look back and point out the coin landed on the other side during the two schools’ first meeting last season.
The Wildcats had a state-caliber team then and beat Wenatchee 34-14 on a neutral site. They went on to win their first league title in 27 years, but still couldn’t sweep their opponent in regular season play. And that season was somewhat of an anomaly. Given the program’s history, it could be awhile before they have another season like that.
“This team is not last year’s team,” Eastmont coach Doug McGill said. “This team is its own team, and we’re still trying to find our identity.”
When it’s all said and done, this annual meeting is a reason for both sides to get fired up. It’s an easy way to get your players excited about playing the game. It’s not a contest between two evenly matched programs at this point.
For Eastmont, it’s an opportunity to play the spoiler, at least most seasons. For Wenatchee, it’s a game it should expect to win most of the time.
Sure, there’s plenty of fanfare all around, and both sides view it as a big game. After all, the Wildcats jumping up to the 4A classification adds state playoff implications.
But when you look beyond the fervor bred by proximity, there’s not a whole lot left to get excited about.