In the moments after its 45-18 loss to Bothell nearly two weeks ago, it was difficult for Eastlake players and coaches to flush the disappointment of dropping a crucial KingCo Crest Division game.
But for three brothers, the longterm perspective outweighed the immediate frustration.
Senior captain Brandon Kaufman, a starter on the defensive line, was one of three brothers to suit-up for coach Don Bartel’s Wolves in the game, along with sophomore Jacob and freshman Zach, who was on the varsity sideline for the first time.
“It was pretty awesome,” Bartel said. “It makes it feel special.”
Brandon, a player his coach called, “One of the most genuine kids I’ve ever coached,” said his initial reaction to having his brothers at Eastlake with him was trepidation, but has turned to excitement as the year has continued.
In the loss to Bothell, Brandon and Jacob saw the field at the same time as part of the defensive line, while Zach suited-up for his first varsity action, offering the brothers an opportunity coaches know will extend far beyond their lone year together on the roster.
“At first, I thought it would be kind of annoying having my two little brothers here,” Brandon said. “But when I got to play with him, that was kind of cool.”
An assistant coach snapped a photo of the three together after the game and joked with Bartel he could barely get the three brothers next to one another for long enough, for their fear of standing too close.
“We have that gift they don’t have yet, that perspective,” Bartel said. “We know how important that is.”
He said each of the three has a unique approach to the game and obvious passion for the camaraderie among teammates.
While Brandon has ascended to captain and starter on this year’s team, Jacob has found a niche as a reserve on both sides of the ball and also played a critical role on scout team, a thankless but critical task for any prep squad. Bartel said his determination to be accountable to his teammates is readily apparent and one of the traits he believes will make him a standout for Eastlake in the near future.
“He is so dialed-in to whatever we’re doing,” Bartel said. “He’s a special kid in that way because we ask a lot of him and he gets it done.”
All three of the Kaufman brothers have also dealt with the illness of their father, something their mother Jeanette said has been difficult, but also offered a chance for the three to come together.
For Brandon, the most important contribution is giving Jacob and Zach the advice and support they need to leave their own mark when the time comes.
“I’ve always tried to lead the way, because I want them to be better than I am,” he said. “They only have one shot at high school football.”
While both of the two younger Kaufman brothers have always looked to Brandon for advice and as an example on the field and away from it, both agreed on the topic of surpassing Brandon’s achievements in the coming years.
“I want to do even better than him,” Jacob said.
Zach had a similar response when the question was posed, “What do you want your brother to see when he comes back to watch you for the next three years?”
“Better than him,” he said with a laugh.