EAST WENATCHEE - It’s been a sweet season for the Eastmont Wildcats thus far, who are off to their best start in six years and proving to be one tough cookie in the Big 9 as they went into Friday night as part of a three-way tie for first place, including with their visiting opponents, the Sunnyside Grizzlies.
Eastmont opened the scoring midway through the first quarter on a 25-yard field goal off the right foot of senior Caelen Massey and layered their lead to ten points when Massey used both legs to find the end zone on a 57-yard touchdown dash less than three minutes later.
After kneading their play-calling throughout much of the first quarter, the Grizzlies’ offense finally began to leaven and countered back by swiftly whipping up a touchdown, followed by an onside kick recovery and another score which gave them their first lead of the game at a baker’s dozen to Eastmont’s ten-count.
But, just as Sunnyside was driving again and looking to up their lead even further, the Wildcats recovered a fumble and subsequently reclaimed the advantage when big senior Christian Tonga pounded his way across the goal line from four yards out to put Eastmont in front 17-13.
On the ensuing possession, the Grizzlies’ again rolled down the field and scored, going back on top 19-17 after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
As the first half was winding down the Cats were able to rise to Sunnyside’s challenge, however, by decorating the scoreboard with ten points in the final 90 seconds of the second quarter. First, by burning the Grizzlies on a 33-yard touchdown pass from junior Carson Everhart to Caelen Massey and then cashing in on senior Jordan Jessup’s lengthy interception return with Massey’s second field goal and 20th personal points of the contest to cool off in the locker room with a 27-19 lead.
As the teams greased up the gridiron for second half action, Eastmont came out piping hot by gobbling up their third turnover of the game on Sunnyside’s first play from scrimmage.
But, the Grizzlies had their bear claws ready on defense and baked up a donut they forced the Wildcats to swallow for the entirety of the second half.
That Sunny D helped the Grizzlies’ O in reheating and tying the score on a sticky sweet 17-yard touchdown reception, followed by a successful two-point conversion from 13 yards out after a holding penalty to knot things up at 27-a-piece.
With Sunnyside’s defense still proving harder than a stale fruitcake for the Cats offense to chew at, the Grizzlies had every opportunity from there to turn up the heat on Eastmont. But, time and time again they frittered away their chances on offense and wound up making their biggest blunder of the night late in the third quarter on special teams.
Junior Dominic Torres’ blocked punt and Christian Tonga’s subsequent recovery for his second touchdown of the game stacked the Cats back in front by seven.
Afterwards, it was Eastmont’s turn to let their defense dig in, by making Sunnyside cough up the ball for the sixth time in the contest and continuing to enjoy the Grizzlies’ butterfingers when attempting to move downfield, as the Wildcats never relinquished the advantage and put the icing on an impressive and hard fought 34-27 win.
“It was awesome for our kids,” said Eastmont head coach Michael Don after the game. “Defensively we struggled a little bit, but offensively we were rolling. In the second half Sunnyside made some adjustments, they blitzed a lot. We had a little trouble picking it up, but our defense stepped up, made huge plays, we had turnovers, special teams, we had (a) big return, blocked punt that’s what we’re looking for, at the end of the day you’re just trying to come out on top, it doesn’t matter how it happens and I’m really proud of our kids tonight.”
By topping Sunnyside, the sugar free expectations and pie in the sky season hopes of many are beginning to taste more like the real thing for Eastmont, as they now head into week eight with a 6-1 record overall and an unblemished 3-0 mark in conference play which has them in a tie with Wenatchee as the cherry on top of the Big 9 standings.
The Wildcats wrap up their regular season home schedule next Friday by playing host to the Eisenhower Cadets who are 3-4 overall and in fourth place in league play at 1-2.