EAST WENATCHEE — The Wildcats have a lot to live up to following last year’s dominance.
Caelen Massey was named league MVP, Wesley McIlwaine earned first team All-State as a DB, Carson Tally ran for over 1,000 yards and Eastmont finished unbeaten in the Big 9 for the first time since they joined the division. After beating cross-bridge rival Wenatchee 14-13 in the final week of the season, the Wildcats earned their first 4A state bid, though they fell to Puyallup in the opening round 45-10.
Massey is gone, following graduation, along with a few other starters but the Wildcats should have a similar outlook with seven returners on both sides of the ball.
“I think we look good,” head coach Mike Don said last Friday. “We had a good summer and good fall program so far, we’re just trying to get ready but we feel comfortable with where we are at. We have some all-league kids coming back and some quality young talent coming up (also).”
Don expects big things from his senior quarterback, Carson Everhart, who now has a full offseason under his belt and will get the nod from the get-go — as opposed to last year where he started in week 4.
“We think he will have a much better year, he had all offseason to prep as the guy instead of jumping in during the season and he got better as the year went on,” Don said. “He has more control of the offense and it never hurts to have Tally back there. He’s a big, strong kid that plays with a lot of heart. He’ll have a special year for us.”
Don also gave high praise to freshman Austin Ruffins, who will get some time at tailback.
“He’s six-foot, 170 pounds and is probably the third fastest kid in the program,” Don said.
So the offense will remain potent. What about the defense though, which ranked at the top of the Big 9 in points allowed and yards given up per game?
Eastmont lost middle linebacker Jaron Schneider but will return their All-League DB’s from last season (McIlwaine, Oscar Calvillo and Jordan Jessup) as well as linebacker Jeremy Gregerson and defensive lineman Dominic Torres – both of whom were named to one of the All-League teams.
Given that, there is little reason to expect the Wildcats will have much of a dropoff on that side of the ball.
If Eastmont can take care of business the November 7 meeting with Wenatchee will likely decide the Big 9 champion.
The Wildcats open their season with four non-league games before starting league play in October and will travel to Wilson to take on the Rams this Friday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Eastmont’s home opener is next Friday against Pasco.