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This could be the year the 4A CBBN breaks through in WIAA playoffs, 4 takeaways

Eastmont caps off league's stellar weekend showing with 21-14 victory at playoff contender Timberline on Saturday in Lacey

LACEY, Wash. - Gunnar Peterson became Eastmont High School's new rushing king - and the Wildcats continued to show they will be one tough customer in the 4A CBBN race.

Peterson rushed for 166 yards on 27 carries, and quarterback Luke Gale had two passing touchdowns and another rushing score as Eastmont beat Timberline, 21-14, at South Sound Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Wildcats took a 21-6 lead by marching 87 yards in 10 plays, capped by Gale's 36-yard touchdown pass to Adrien Ruffins with 4:39 to go in the third quarter.

Timberline made it interesting, scoring late on Synjae Colston's 12-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Ragland with 2:45 to go to cut it to 21-14.

But Eastmont recovered the onside kick, and Gale converted a last-minute third down to seal the deal.

Here are four takeaways from the game:


2023 Washington high school football: Eastmont at Timberline

The league had already been trending in the right direction, but this might be the breakthrough week that sends a message to the rest of the classification.

It started with Moses Lake's 15-14 victory over No. 5 Kamiakin on Thursday. Then, Sunnyside beat 5A Inland Empire Conference co-favorite Post Falls, 41-33, on Friday.

And the Wildcats capped the action with their wire-to-wire victory over the Blazers, who are favorites to nab one of the playoff spots from the 3A SSC.

"Our league has come a long ways since I came here nine years ago," Eastmont coach Mike Don said. "You are seeing better and better football."

The last time a 4A CBBN program won in the WIAA playoffs was 2015 - Moses Lake's 28-27 victory over Bellarmine Prep. 

That streak of futility could end this fall.

"We are knocking on the door for that, and we have teams that can do it," Don said.


2023 Washington high school football: Eastmont at Timberline

Last week in the season opener at Mead, senior running back Gunnar Peterson hauled in the program's career rushing touchdown record.

But needing 67 yards Saturday to overtake Carson Talley (2,572 yards in 2020) for the all-time rushing mark, Peterson was determined to get it done in Week 2.

And he did, setting the record with his 8-yard run early in the second quarter that set up Gale's 1-yard touchdown sneak.

"I was chasing this one pretty hard," Peterson said.

Don said his standout, who has offers from two NAIA schools in Montana and Whitworth in Spokane, has become a complete running back.

"We are seeing a whole new level of how he plays where he is running through people and dragging guys," Don said.

"He is special. Gunnar Peterson is one of a kind. Some college will be very lucky to snag him up."


2023 Washington high school football: Eastmont at Timberline (Mike Don)

A few years ago when the Wildcats were one-and-done blowout victims in the WIAA playoffs, Don pointed to a discrepancy in physicality between state contenders such as Camas and Eastlake and his team.

That gap has closed considerably.

Peterson is a bull in small spaces. Landon Moore refuses to go down on outside runs at wingback. And Eastmont's front seven on defense won't be pushed around anymore.

"The mentality our kids have learned to bring as far as physicality has just grown and grown and grown," Don said. "It comes with confidence and time put in (with the weight room)."


2023 Washington high school football: Eastmont at Timberline

With Jacob Nadeau returning from injury as the starting quarterback, Timberline installed a new offense in the offseason - a spread shotgun Wing-T attack.

But Nadeau broke his collarbone again in the first game and is out indefinitely. That leaves backup Synjae Colston to learn it on the fly.

Aside from a couple of long jump-ball completions, the Blazers offense was held in check Saturday - 130 yards, including just 32 yards in the second half.

We have to be better at being organized getting out of our (shotgun) sets and into our spread sets," Timberline coach James Jones said.

"And (Colston) ... wasn't going to be out here. He is learning, and he is swimming a little bit."