With a Crown Division title, local bragging rights and the potential to earn the district’s top seed on the line, there is no shortage of motivation for Skyline and Issaquah this week in the final regular season football game for both.
Mat Taylor, the head coach of the two-time defending 4A state champion Spartans offered up some thoughts before the game in a chat with the Reporter earlier this week.
Taylor on the steady improvement of his defense, which has allowed only 48 points combined in the last five weeks and not surrendered more than 18 since the second week of the season in a 38-23 win over Coeur d’Alene (Idaho):
We always have a tremendous amount of confidence our front seven would be our strength.
The big question was how our secondary would be. We graduated all of them and their backups for the most part. That was something we were going to have to wait and see. The kids did really well and against Eastlake, we had three interceptions. Myles O’Connell and Blake Sypher have solidified themselves and stepped up as safeties.
Cole Blackburn was a kid we felt the most comfortable and a kid we feel highly confident in on the edge. Michael Cowin has done a tremendous job too.
This (Issaquah) is the first test of someone who will throw it more than they run it.
On the Eagles’ offense, which includes senior running back Jack Gellatly, a seasoned signal-caller in Jack Neary and a host of wide receivers that Bennett has praised since fall camp for their consistency:
They have a totally new identity and it seems to be working.
They would run spread, but they were a 21 personnel team (two running backs, one tight end).
They have had a Gellatly there for the last 10 years. You can see they have a belief system in what they are doing and they do a really good job with it.
Tommy Nelson, all their receivers are doing a really good job. Then, Jack Neary is a tremendous quarterback right now.
On the excitement of playing a rivalry game, with a division crown on the line and a crowd of a few thousand that will be oppositely adorned in Blackout gear (Issaquah) and Saintly all-whites (Skyline):
I think the biggest thing, going back to (former head coach Steve) Gervais and something I’ve had an emphasis on, the most important game is when you play your rivals.
We want to make sure this is a game we get up for.
I traveled down to Issaquah when they were freshmen and it was a hard fought game. I remember how excited I was to beat Issaquah when they were freshman.
If I have to get them fired up, we have issues. They know the importance of this rivalry and not to take anything for granted.