Nobody really talks about it — but then again, the goal never really changes for the Issaquah football team.
“The goals are always the same,” head coach Chris Bennett said. “We want to win our division, we want to win that KingCo Championship game, we want to get back to the playoffs and we want to get back to the (Tacoma) Dome.”
That hunger for success perhaps lingers a little more for this year’s seniors. As sophomores, the group lost a heart-wrenching state championship game to rival Skyline, before falling to Bothell in last year’s state quarterfinals.
“They’ve had a great run in the championship game and the quarterfinals, and I know they’d like to get back there to try to make amends,” Bennett said.
The Eagles certainly have the core to reach those aspirations, led on offense by a senior-laden backfield and receiver corps.
Running back Taylor Wyman reached first-team All-KingCo status as a junior. In nine KingCo games, he rushed 139 times for 839 yards and five touchdowns. He received most of the carries due to an injury to star running back Grant Gellatly, who didn’t play until the playoffs.
“What we missed in Grant last year, we really gained in Wyman getting the experience,” Bennett said.
Senior fullback Nik Landdeck, known for his hard hits at middle linebacker, will pave the way for Wyman.
At receiver, Issaquah returns three of its four starters from last year in seniors Evan Peterson, Adam Dondoyano and Spencer Warren.
Peterson, a first-team All-KingCo selection, continues to creep up the list as the school’s all-time leading receiver.
The Eagles, who were huge on the offensive and defensive lines in past years, lost some key components to graduation, but return two significant pieces in seniors Jay Deines and Jeff Crocker. According to Bennettt, both players stand close to 6-foot-6, 250 pounds.
“We’ve been fortunate with some size the last two years, and having Jay and Jeff back — that helps,” he said.
Senior Paul Goertz will start at center, while junior Austin Richert will move from fullback to guard. Big junior tight end, Eric Lemke (6-4, 235) will also provide some bulk on the line.
One area of uncertainty resides at the quarterback position where the Eagles will have their fourth different starter in four years.
Junior left-hander Ethan Kalin (6-0, 215) moves into the position in 2010, replacing Ryan Bergman.
“He’s got a lot on the ball,” Bennett said. “He’s got really good velocity, arm-strength and he can make all the throws. It’s just getting comfortable at doing it.”
The depth at receiver has already helped the young quarterback adjust. He put forth several big performances over the summer, including a championship at the Lakewood Passing Tournament.
“The receivers are ready to go and just trying to bring Ethan along in the pace where he can catch up,” Bennett said. “He’s done that, he’s had a great summer.”
With focus and avoiding the injury bug, Bennett likes his team’s chances in a Crest Division that appears to have a lot of parity.
“These guys are pretty well grounded,” he said. “You can’t put the cart before the horse and start thinking about that. You can’t lose sight of what else is important.”
In order to find success, Issaquah will also have to find a way to win on the road. The Eagles, who have just three home games, play four of their first five games away from home, including their non-league season opener against Heritage of Vancouver, set for 5 p.m., Friday, Sept. 3.