Bland back on sidelines for Issaquah football | Prep spring football

The Eagles reached the postseason last year, and had a host of first team all-conference selections, and turn to a new face at the helm in 2014

Spring football practices are wrapping up around the region, with coaches preparing to take their teams to summer camps, passing leagues and training, with the fall season just over the horizon.

The Reporter caught up with each of the four prep football coaches in Issaquah and Sammamish to take a look ahead to 2014 and some of the stories that will play out in the fall.

4A KingCo changes in a major way in 2014, as Garfield, Roosevelt and Ballard leave the league, while Mount Si joins Class 4A. The conference will not feature two separate divisions, and will use a round-robin schedule in football.

2013 season: Things began unceremoniously for Issaquah, which beat only lowly 3A foe Interlake in the non-conference schedule, losing games to Mount Si and O’Dea.

But the 4A KingCo slate proved far more favorable, and a win over rival Newport put them in position to take the division crown in the final week, before a 30-17 loss to Skyline. Issaquah beat Redmond in the KingCo crossover round before ending the season with a 51-21 loss to Union.

Early outlook: Last year’s team was decidedly senior dominated, and the departure of that group leaves a sizable void in production heading into 2014.

New (and old) head coach Buddy Bland and his staff will have to sort things out quickly in the personnel department, replacing nearly all of their offensive output from 2013.

All-KingCo losses: 1st Team offense: Jack Neary, QB (Offensive co-MVP); Jack Gellatly, RB; Derek Chapman, WR; Shay Dingfelder, OL; Tommy Nelson, WR; 2nd Team offense: Jacob Peterson, OL; 1st Team defense: Dingfelder, DL; Nelson, DB; Chapman, DB; 2nd Team defense: Peterson, DB; Gellatly, DB; 1st Team specialist: Jason Schwartz, K; 2nd Team specialist: Chapman, Returner; Coach of the Year: Chris Bennett

All-KingCo returners: None

Summer camp: Steve Gervais Academy team camp

Biggest question: What do the Eagles look like without a Gellatly?

Two-way all-conference selection Jack Gellatly is gone from last year’s squad, ending a family legacy that lasted for more than a decade on the gridiron for the Eagles.

But more important than his place in history was his impact in the offensive and defensive backfields, where a punishing running style and knack for big plays made him a factor in opposing game plans.

Talking point: Issaquah turns to former head coach Buddy Bland, after Chris Bennett did not have his contract renewed following a division coach of the year season.

Buddy Bland is anything but a stranger to Issaquah football.

The former head coach was the last to take the Eagles to the Tacoma Dome for a state semifinal, served as an assistant under Bennett and has also been a teacher at the school for 15 years.

“The current senior class were sophomores when I last coached,” he said. “The one thing I do know, and that I’ve always been impressed with, is the work ethic of the Issaquah football player.”

The most difficult work for Bland’s 2014 squad will fall on the coaching staff.

Issaquah must replace the 4A KingCo Offensive Player of the year in quarterback Jack Neary, as well as a trio of other first team selections on offense in Gellatly, offensive lineman Shay Dingfelder and wide receivers Derek Chapman and Tommy Nelson.

The task is no easier for a defense that graduated five first and second team selections to the all-conference squads, including each of its four starting defensive backs.

Bland said rising junior quarterbacks Cam Humphrey, who tossed four touchdowns in 2013, and Jack Thomas-Heinrichs are rotating with the first team during spring and will see equal reps until a starter is chosen during the fall.

The only underclassman to score a rushing or receiving touchdown in 2013 was rising senior running back Ray Littles.