Five Key Players
QB Harley Kirsch (6’3, 210, ’16) – In his first year as the starter, all Kirsch did was go out and complete over 70% of his passes for 3,535 yards with 35 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He’s relatively mobile, but he prefers to sit back in the pocket and make plays with his arm. He will be one of the top signal-callers in the Northwest both this year and as a senior in 2015 and should have plenty of schools after him following his junior campaign this fall.
DB/RB Brandon Wellington (6’0, 220, ’16) – Wellington, another junior-to-be, is a freakish athlete with a ton of skills. He is an intense player who brings physicality to the game. He’ll play both ways for EC this fall, but his future at the next level will likely wind up being at either linebacker or as a “rover”/strong safety. He recently committed to play at the University of Washington.
OL Alex Neale (6’3, 290, ’15) – He’s physical, he’s smart and he’s technically sound. The only drawback is his relatively short stature compared to some other top line recruits. While other linemen within the state are garnering the attention from major BCS-level programs, there hasn’t been a more impressive line prospect this spring than Neale. He recently committed to play at the University of Montana.
LB Anthony Masaniai (6’2, 230, ’15) – The unquestioned leader of a very good Crusader defense, Masaniai posted 127 tackles as a junior last year. Very good leader with several offers and looks from schools from across the country. Masaniai recently committed to Air Force.
DL/OL Deion Fetui (5’11, 305, ’15) – Fetui has been a stalwart for the Crusaders since he was a freshman. He’s a plugger on defense who would have a lot more in the way of offers if he wasn’t so darn short.
The Crusaders have been in the 3A Championship Game the past two years but, even though they lost some important players, head coach Jeremy Thielbahr and the rest of this staff may be fielding it’s best team yet this season.
At quarterback, the unquestioned top dog is Harley Kirsch, a lefty, who led his team to an 11-3 record as a sophomore last year by completing 70% of his passes for 3,535 yards with 35 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He does most of his damage through the air, but don’t sleep on his ability to use his legs or he’ll hurt you.
The tailback spot will see one of the most heated battles for playing time once the Crusaders hit the field for fall camp. The loss of Henry Jarvis, a two-year starter who racked up over 2,500 yards and 40 touchdowns, will be felt, but there is no shortage of talent waiting to take his place.
Vying for playing time will be seniors Addison Hull, Dominique Fetui and Fesili Wynn, junior Brandon Wellington and sophomore Chris Lafau. While Hull brings the speed, Wynn does a lot of damage between the tackles while Fetui and Wellington are battering rams. Remember Lafau’s name, he could wind up being the best of the bunch here by the time he graduates in 2017.
With Kirsch throwing for so many yards, there had better be a bunch of guys who can catch it and the Crusaders have receivers in spades.
Leading the way is Devon Arbis-Jackson, a skilled 6’1, 200-pounder who hauled in 72 receptions for 1,113 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore last fall. He plays the “H” receiver spot in EC’s offensive scheme and he will be flanked by the likes of juniors Matt Laris, Ryan Crnkovich, Jake Jackson and senior Myles Lewis.
All are good route-runners with enough speed, skill and athleticism to be play-makers from anywhere on the field.
The Crusader coaches are very excited about the possible emergence of sophomore TE Hunter Bryant. He’s big, he’s physical and he’s very, very athletic. He was injured for much of the 2013 football season, so this will be his first real taste of prep football.
Along the offensive line, Alex Neale leads a tough and experienced group.
Neal played center as a junior last year, but this fall, the hope is they can move him to one of the guard spots, but that will only happen if players like senior Connor Heger or sophomore Brody McKnight show they are ready to take over the reigns in the pivot.
With Kirsch being a lefty, the right tackle spot is very important and that job falls on the broad shoulders of junior Colin Stout who has quick feet and is technically sound.
Left tackle will be a battle between juniors Robbie Carter and Nick Alling and two other players who will be in the mix to either start somewhere or play big roles in the depth are Jacob Friedberg and John Kellum.
Eastside Catholic loves to platoon players if at all possible, but several of their players will also play both ways.
In the Crusaders’ 3-3-5 scheme, Cody Baker and Fetui are the big-time players up front, but Stoudt will also likely see a lot of playing time at one of the end spots and others — Neale, McKnight and Carter — will also be in line for reps.
Masaniai leads the way at linebacker and on one side of him will be senior Arend Broekmate, who the coaches say is another leader for the defense.
Joining those two will be senior Joey Warfield and junior Ricky Medeiros, two solid prospects who are very versatile.
While the rest of the Crusaders’ defense appears to be very good, the secondary may be the best unit on the entire team.
Wellington plays the “striker”/strong safety spot in EC’s system while seniors Matt Kvech and Reed Holland along with junior Jonathon Webster, all of whom can cover and are sure-tacklers, will rotate at the other safety spots.
Terin Adams, a transfer from Juanita, and Daniel Carlton, both seniors, along with Jackson and junior Jimmy Jolliffe will handle the duties at corner.
Senior Ian Dorney will handle all of the kicking duties and he has a strong enough leg to hit accurately from outside of 40 yards when called upon.
The Bottom Line: There isn’t a more talented team in the state than Eastside Catholic. They have size, speed, athleticism and very good coaching. The last piece of the puzzle — winning a state championship — is within their grasp, but all roads to a title go through Bellevue. The Crusaders are rolling and have enough talent in the system to be good for the foreseeable future, but getting over that hump to a 3A state title is their ultimate goal.
vs. Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills, Calif.) 9/5
@ O’Dea 10/17
vs. American Fork (Utah) 10/24