Issaquah’s recipe for success is simple, play great defense and control the clock on offense. The Eagles executed that plan effectively during their 12-3 road victory over Mercer Island.
“If you can shorten the game and run the ball, they can’t score,” Eagles head coach Josh Brookshire said. “We can win 3-0 and I’m okay with that. I feel like that’s what most coaches want to do. If you can control the ball, why not?”
The Islanders got on the board late in the first quarter with a 35-yard field goal to put them up by three. The drive for the Islanders began after a spectacular one-handed interception by cornerback Ethan Boyle.
The Eagles tied the game up in the second quarter after a 32-yard run from running back Isaac Pak. Issaquah would add another field goal late in the quarter to take a 6-3 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, both teams traded big plays on defense and special teams. Sophomore cornerback Steven Castro made an acrobatic interception, giving the Eagles the ball at the Mercer Island 27-yard-line. Despite the good field position, the Eagles offense came up empty-handed after a field goal attempt was blocked.
The Eagles forced the Islanders to punt the ball on their next possession, but a fumbled snap on an Issaquah punt gave the Islanders the ball back in Eagle territory. The momentum from the special teams play was short lived for the Islanders. Issaquah cornerback Cutter Hillock made a behind-the-back interception on the first pass of the drive.
The Issaquah secondary made key plays all night, including defensive backs Hillock and Castro, who both had a pair of interceptions in the game. Brookshire said the secondary has plenty of talent that was overlooked by people outside the program.
“I think we have three or four really special kids back there,” Brookshire said. “They know what they’re doing. I think a lot of people didn’t know they were there in the building, but they were there.”
In the fourth quarter, the Eagles would add two more field goals to finish the scoring. Despite not finding the end zone, the Issaquah offense was able to move the ball effectively, controlling the clock and giving their defensive playmakers a well-earned rest.
Issaquah quarterback Keagan Barnwell said the offense was able to make enough plays after a rough start.
“It was a little shaky,” Barnwell said. “But we got the job done and came out with a win and that’s all that matters. It was a really big team win.”
Barnwell said that at times, it was difficult for the offense to control their emotions after the Eagles defense made key plays.
“It’s real hard to come down from the hype of the defense making plays all the time,” Barnwell said. “But we got it done (offensively) and got going.”
For the second straight week, the Eagles had a fumbled snap on a punt that gave their opponents good field position. Brookshire said those mistakes can be chalked up to being a young, emotional team.
“In high school football things like that are going to happen,” Brookshire said. “The kids just get kind of charged up. We’re a very young team. We only returned 10 seniors, so we have a lot of young people in during key situations and we’re going to learn with them.”
Next up on the schedule for the Eagles is a showdown with the Liberty Patriots (2-0) on Friday, Sept. 20, at Issaquah High School. Barnwell said the offense will need to focus on finishing drives in practice before their next game. The Patriots won their second game of the season 56-14 over Cedarcrest. The Eagles defense will have to have a tough test against a Liberty offense that has scored over 50 points in their first two games of the season.
Heading into a game against another undefeated opponent, Barnwell said the wins are bringing the team closer together.
“We’re on fire,” Barnwell said. “People don’t know about us, but they’re going to find out.”