Whenever the Eagles needed a big play, their defense stepped up in a 20-0 opening-night victory over the Kent-Meridian Royals.
The Issaquah defense came up with three turnovers and stopped the Royals multiple times on fourth down to earn the shutout. One of the leaders on the Eagles defense, senior defensive back Cutter Hillock, was not surprised by their performance.
“It’s something special this year,” Hillock said. “Our defense clicked and we’re coming to hit hard this year.”
Hillock said it was exciting to see new varsity players step up on defense, including sophomore defensive back Ragen Kiefer, who had an interception in the third quarter, and junior linebacker Dinitri Acuna, who made some big tackles. Hillock said they are going to be a physical defense that wants to make big plays
“All of our defense is swarming to the ball every single play,” Hillock said. “We’re all coming for the big hits and coming for the ball.”
The win was not only the first of the season, but it was also the first under new head coach Josh Brookshire. Even though the win came in the first game of the season, Brookshire said it felt like it was a long time in the making.
“I feel like we were working for two years to that game and it was really only four or five months,” Brookshire said.
The Eagles may have a young team, but Brookshire said there is plenty of talent on both sides of the ball that a lot people might not know about yet.
“We’re kind of a big secret,” Brookshire said. “Nobody knows who we are, so why don’t we go out and show it?”
In the first quarter, the Eagles were able to move the ball on offense, but a missed a field goal, and a failed fourth-down conversion kept the game scoreless.
Early in the second, the Eagles took the lead on a 1-yard touchdown run from senior running back Isaac Pak to make it 7-0. On the ensuing kickoff, Issaquah recovered an onside kick and added a field goal to extend its lead to 10-0.
The third quarter saw the Eagles struggle to move the ball on offense. Throughout the night, the Eagles had costly penalties, but Hillock said he’s not worried about that being an issue moving forward.
“It’s first-week jitters,” Hillock said. We have a lot of young guys, but it will clean up.”
Late in the third quarter, the Eagles made a potentially costly mistake when a high snap on a punt gave the Royals good field position, but the Issaquah defense was up to the challenge. The Eagles came up with a crucial defensive stand, stopping the Royals on fourth-and-7 from the Issaquah 10-yard line.
“Our defense is unbelievable and we knew it,” Brookshire said. “We felt it in the spring. They can be a real special unit. They’re still coming together, but they’re really talented and we’re going to lean on them a lot.”
In the fourth, Issaquah found the end zone for the second time when junior quarterback Keagan Barnwell completed a pass to senior wide receiver Jack Githens. The Eagles added one more field goal from junior kicker Arpan Kundu to finish off the Royals, 20-0.
Next week, the Eagles will be going up against Mercer Island on Sept. 13. The Islanders won their season opener, 14-6, over Mountlake Terrace. Brookshire said there isn’t one specific thing they want to work on before next Friday, because everything can be better.
“We’re looking to improve on things every week,” Brookshire said. “We have some technique deficiencies to fix. Our guys are still learning the systems, everything is really different from what they were running before.”