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Wolves Sports

Eastlake talent show takes stage vs. Bothell

Posted Thursday, October 12, 2006 by CASEY MCNERTHNEY

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Eastlake talent show takes stage vs. Bothell
KingCo 4A front-runners meet Saturday

By CASEY MCNERTHNEY
SPECIAL TO THE P-I

SAMMAMISH -- At the start of Tuesday's practice, Eastlake coach Gene Dales approached his team in gym shorts. The players wore the same, along with shoulder pads and helmets. Dales didn't want them to get injured, so he told the Wolves they'd focus on 45 minutes of offensive and defensive drills.

"We want to concentrate on executing," Dales said.

So far, that hasn't been much of a problem.

No KingCo 4A opponent has beaten the Wolves, who have a 5-0 conference record (5-1 overall) and are ranked No. 6 in the state, regardless of classification.

Their only blemish is a 23-16 loss in the season opener to Punahou -- a Hawaii school then ranked No. 1 and now ranked as the state's No. 2 by the Honolulu Advertiser.

The five wins have furthered the legend of Eastlake players such as Tanor Johnson, a quarterback turned receiver who averages 15 yards per reception and has kicked for 30 points, following a season in which he accumulated 878 all-purpose yards and was an all-conference kicker.

The wins have made stars out of running back Dane Steel and junior quarterback Ryan Robertson, who threw for 302 yards (21 of 31) and a school-record five touchdowns against then-No. 8 Woodinville.

"Dane's going to be the school career record rusher by the time he's done here," Dales said of Steel, who has 533 yards this season and is closing in on the Eastlake career record of 1,309. "And he's very much sacrificed for teammates, being a good blocker on pass protection."

The career rushing record is just one school mark expected to fall. With three regular-season games remaining and a postseason berth likely, Johnson is on pace to break the career scoring record; senior wide receiver Justin Helwege is expected to set the career mark for receptions and receiving yards; and Robertson is on pace to set the completions record.

The Wolves have talent at every position, Dales said, and the only downside is that many of the most deserving athletes aren't recognized.

Guys such as 6-foot-2 senior Taylor Corr -- a cornerback whom Eastlake coaches consider to be the state's best -- and Kurt Thirtyacre, who grabbed one of the Wolves' 12 interceptions this season in a 48-0 victory over Garfield.

"I don't know if any (opponents) know their name, but we know that any time a pass goes their way, they're definitely going to break it up," said running back Jared Fagan, who scored in the second quarter of last week's 48-21 win against Lake Washington.

Eastlake needs to execute a headline-making game Saturday against Bothell -- a team that also lost its season opener to an out-of-state team (Lake Oswego, Ore.) and has rebounded to an undefeated record in KingCo 4A.

Though they haven't met since 2003, Eastlake players didn't need film to learn of Bothell's talent.

As eighth-graders in the Greater Eastside Junior Football Association, Steel said he and Fagan and nearly a dozen other current teammates lost in the championship game to Bothell, which also beat Eastlake for two previous youth league titles.

Fagan said he remembers playing against Cougars quarterback Cody Atkinson, who has five touchdowns and more than 700 passing yards this season. Many of the former youth league players still compete for Eastlake and Bothell, Fagan said, and the same players carry the same rivalries.

"We have so much animosity for what happened in the past all bottled up, and it's going to come out in this game," Steel said.

"In youth league, Bothell was the team to beat, and we never did.

"Now it's time for some revenge."

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