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Wolves Sports

KingCo 4A | The starter, from the start

Posted Thursday, August 30, 2007 by Seattle Times
KingCo 4A | The starter, from the start

By Chris Chancellor
Special to The Seattle Times

SAMMAMISH -- The same scenario played out every autumn.

Eastlake quarterback Ryan Robertson was under center for his team at every level since he took his first snap as a fifth-grader. And it stayed that way until a year ago, when coach Gene Dales named Tanor Johnson his starter.

The coaching staff wanted to utilize the athletic Johnson's play-making ability.

That left Robertson, now a 6-foot-3 , 203-pound senior, on the sideline for the first time in six years.

Or at least it appeared that way.

In the team's opener against Hawaii powerhouse Punahou, the Johnson-led offense stagnated in the Wolves' 23-16 loss in the Emerald City Kickoff Classic at Qwest Field. Robertson came in and completed 12 of 23 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown.

Dale said the Punahou game convinced him the Wolves had to throw.

"I made a decision that he was going to be our guy the rest of the way," he said of Robertson. "We saw that Ryan had a chance to be an excellent, true quarterback."

And his good attitude caught the coach's eye, too.

"Last year was the hardest experience I've had to face," Robertson said. "Not being the No. 1 guy and having to work hard to be the No. 1 guy and then finally getting a shot. I realized that if you work hard, things really do work out for you."

The topic never came up again as Johnson returned to his do-everything role and Robertson passed for a school-record 2,496 yards and 24 touchdowns.

The Wolves finished 9-3 (7-1 in KingCo 4A) and advanced to the state quarterfinals, where they lost 21-20 against Spokane's Gonzaga Prep. Eastlake graduated its top rusher (Dane Steel) and two leading receivers (Justin Helwege and Johnson), but Robertson is convinced the Wolves have plenty of talent returning this season. The offensive line, which includes Washington recruit Drew Schaefer, looks particularly strong.

"I've never been hurried or anything from the backside," said Robertson, who needs about 2,000 yards to break 1999 Eastlake graduate Matt Berry's school record for career passing yards.

One of his primary wide receivers will be Cory Mackay, who expects the offense to be better partially because of Robertson's talent and experience.

"I think he's the best quarterback in the state," said the 6-4 Mackay, who saw a pair of well-regarded in-state quarterbacks, Evergreen's Luther Leonard and Lakes' Calvin Schmidtke, in camp this summer. "He's got the best arm ... he's more consistent than them."

That might be the ultimate compliment, save for the one by his coach.

Robertson turned 17 on July 9, almost as young as some of his junior teammates. If he were a junior this season, Dale said, "we might be talking about a guy who would break all the state records."

Robertson, who has no scholarship offers but likes Washington and Arizona State, has a 3.49 grade average. He's relaxed enough to enjoy wakeboarding, but serious enough to enroll in Advanced Placement calculus this fall.

"I'm pretty proud of the way he handles himself," Dales said. "Academic schools are going to be in his choices for the future in addition to the sports schools."

Copyright 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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