Eastlake finding encouragement in stability | 2013 Reporter Prep Football Preview

The Wolves welcome a third head coach in less than a year, and hope to make it back to the playoffs in the always treacherous 4A KingCo.

For the past 12 months, things have been anything but easy for the Eastlake football program.

The Wolves opened 2012 fresh off the best season in program history in 2011, one that was included the first ever win over Plateau rival Skyline, a 4A KingCo title game appearance and a win in the 4A state tournament.

Eastlake coaches and players knew things would be tough before last season began, tasked with replacing every starter on both sides of the ball. But when longtime head coach Gene Dales was forced to step down due to personal reasons after two games, both losses, things went from bad to worse.

Or at least they were supposed to.

Defensive coordinator Pat Parnell, in only his second year on the staff, guided Eastlake to a shutout win over Seattle Prep to finish the non-conference season and then guided the Wolves to a 4-4 record down the stretch, including a KingCo crossover win over Inglemoor and near-miss against Roosevelt four days later. Parnell returned to his role as an assistant for the 2013 season as the program welcomed its third head coach in less than a year in former Skyline defensive coordinator Don Bartel.

From the outset, Eastlake players have taken to the enthusiasm of their new leader.

“I love listening to coach Bartel talk, he is a great speaker,” senior defensive lineman Brandon Kaufman said. “I think he has motivated the whole team and a lot of people have really bought in.”

What exactly Bartel has been talking about is not what those on the outside might expect.

After a previous stint at Eastlake before spending four years as the head coach at Enumclaw, last year Bartel helped rebuild a Skyline defense that won another 4A state title and knows the lay of the land around 4A KingCo. While many coaches are preoccupied with offseason conditioning numbers and finding top-level talent, Bartel said the most important thing is reminding his players to enjoy their time together as a team.

“There is a lot of pressure to win,” he acknowledged. “But if we don’t realize winning is a byproduct of doing other things really well, like being good teammates, we are going to repeat sins of the past.”