The Issaquah Eagles and Newport Knights traded big defensive plays all night, but a missed extra point in the second quarter proved to be the difference in the Eagles’ 7-6 win over the Knights on Oct. 4.
The Knights (0-5) had the ball at midfield down by one with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles (3-2) defense was up for the challenge. Eagles defensive lineman Stephan Sweeney got past the Knights offensive lineman and crushed quarterback Nolan Rouse, forcing his second fumble of the game and giving the ball back to the offense.
“It was a rush of adrenaline,” Sweeney said about the forced fumble. “I just hit (the quarterback) and it was the best thing ever.”
Running back Isaac Pak picked up a first down on the ensuing drive, and the Eagles ran out the clock to secure their third win of the season.
In the first quarter, both teams managed to run the ball effectively but both opening drives ended on failed fourth-down conversions.
After another fourth-down stop by the Issaquah defense, the Eagles offense started their drive at the Newport 29-yard line. The Eagles took advantage of the positive field position, marching the ball down to the Knights’ 3-yard line. Pak found the end zone on fourth-down and goal at the 1-yard-line to put them up 7-0 early in the second quarter.
On the ensuing Newport drive, the Eagles defense came up with another fourth-down stop to give the ball back to the offense at the Newport 34-yard line. The Eagles gave the ball right back after Pak fumbled on a second-and-7 at the 31-yard line.
Once again, the Issaquah defense came up big, forcing a Newport punt that went out of bounds at the Issaquah 40-yard line. The drive for the Eagles ended on the first play when Pak caught a pass from quarterback Keagan Barnwell and then coughed up the ball, which Newport recovered at the Issaquah 38-yard line with 1:28 left in the second.
The Knights got on the scoreboard when wide receiver Joey Winter caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone from quarterback Rouse with eight seconds left in the first half. The point-after attempt went wide, making it a 7-6 game at the break.
Neither offense was able to move the ball in the third quarter. In the fourth-quarter, Issaquah defensive lineman Ryan Baker recovered the first of his three fumble recoveries when Newport running back Nirun Turner lost the ball, giving the Eagles the ball at the Knights’ 6-yard line. Facing a third-and-goal at the 4-yard line, a high snap sailed over Barnwell’s head and was recovered by Newport.
Issaquah head coach Joshua Brookshire said they have to work on cutting down the mistakes.
“There’s a lot of little things to clean up,” Brookshire said. “We’re still making young high school football mistakes, which are acceptable for the first three weeks, but they’re really not acceptable in game five.”
With the Knights facing a long fourth down at midfield, Rouse dropped back to pass, but was hit by Sweeney, causing a fumble that was recovered by Baker with 3:40 left in the fourth quarter. The Knights defense held the Eagles offense, forcing them to punt with just over two minutes left. For the second time in the quarter, Sweeney forced Rouse to fumble the ball, and once again, Baker was there to recover for Issaquah. Sweeney said the pass rush got off to a slow start in the game, but they turned up the pressure when it mattered.
“At the end, we really picked it up and we were locking it down,” Sweeney said.
Brookshire said the team works on scenarios during practice to prepare for close games like that.
“They maybe had their best week of practice all year,” Brookshire said about his team. “They knew they were going to have to play against a really good opponent. We stressed fundamentals and we ran our base scheme, we didn’t do anything special. Our kids just came out and executed our base scheme.”
The Eagles face another tough opponent when they travel to face the Mount Si Wildcats (3-2) on Oct. 11. The Eagles will look to clean up some mistakes before they face the talented Wildcats.
“We have a lot of little steps that we still need to take,” Sweeney said. “We did good, but we still have room for improvement.”