QB Harley Kirsch (6’3, 230, ’16) – Kirsch, currently committed to Cornell, is one of the top signal-callers in the state. He’s big, he’s smart and he’s athletic enough to make plays with his legs. He helped lead the Crusaders to the state 3A championship last season and he’ll do his best to repeat the effort this fall.
LB/RB Brandon Wellington (6’0, 220, ‘16) – Wellington will be a two-way star for Eastside Catholic this season after playing a vital role in their championship run last season. While he’s got the ability to be a playmaker on either side of the ball at the next level, he will likely play linebacker after he signs with Washington in February.
S/WR Jon Webster (6’0, 180, ’16) – The talented senior recently committed to Columbia, so he’s very intelligent and the coaches rely on him to get the secondary set up correctly. Webster showed his toughness as a junior, playing with a torn labrum for more than half of the season.
WR Matt Laris (6’4, 210, ’16) – Laris is the top target for Kirsch when he drops back to pass. The Cal commit is outstanding in the redzone and he’s clutch on third downs. Laris uses his big frame to outmuscle defensive backs, but he’s also a very good route-runner with the ability to find holes in zone coverage.
ATH Devon Arbis-Jackson (6’0, 220, ’16) – By the time he gradutes, Arbis-Jackson will have started for four years. He’s big, strong and athletic and he’ll be used by the Crusaders in multiple ways including as a tailback, a slot receiver and as a wideout.
In his five seasons as the head coach of Eastside Catholic, what Jeremy Thielbahr has strived to foster a program that competes every week and produces the best football players they can develop.
The past three seasons, EC has played for the 3A State Championship, winning one and losing the other two. The team they faced in each of those battles was Bellevue.
Last fall, the Crusaders hoisted the Championship trophy for the first time, unseating Bellevue which had won six-straight titles.
Can they do it again?
If you go purely on talent alone, the Crusaders look poised for another championship run with 11 starters returning — three on defense and eight on offense.
Heading up the offense is senior quarterback Harley Kirsch (6-3, 230) who led the Crusaders to the state title by throwing for 3,100 yards while completing 71% of his passes for 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
At tailback, seniors Brandon Wellington (6’0, 220) and Devon Arbis-Jackson (6-0, 220) will share a bulk of the carries and both bring different styles.
Wellington is a tough inside runner with enough speed to get outside while Arbis-Jackson is the player who can get into space and make guys miss.
Senior Matt Laris (6-4, 210) leads the way at receiver while Arbis-Jackson will also see plenty of time there as well.
Junior Hunter Bryant (6-3, 230) is an outstanding looking tight end prospect with size, athleticism and soft hands. He too will be a big target for Kirsch when he drops back to pass.
Along the offensive line, junior Brody McKnight (6’3, 310) is the headliner. He handles left tackle duties and could wind up being an All-State performer.
Two players the coaches absolutely love on both sides of the ball are seniors Colin Stoutt (6’3, 245) and Ricky Medeiros (6’0, 220). Both have been hard at work this offseason and that has paid off as both are expected to play quite a bit both ways for the Crusaders.
Eastside Catholic runs a 3-4 scheme most of the time and they will be young up front, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot of talent.
Sophomore Ryan Taylor (6’2, 235) will start at defensive tackle while fellow sophomore Ephraim Vea (6’1, 230) and junior Chris Lefau (6’0, 210) will both man the defensive end spots with Soutt and Medeiros will rotate in as well.
The leader at the linebacker spot will be Wellington who can make plays all over the field, but a youngster the coaches are very excited to get on the field is senior Parker Davidson (6’3, 200) who has the requisite size, speed and athleticism to be a playmaker on the outside.
The secondary will feature senior free safety Jon Webster (6’0, 180), the leader of the secondary, and senior Jake Jackson (5’11, 170), a three year starter, at one of the corners.
Both are also athletic enough to play receiver and they will both rotate into the offense to lend their services.
The Bottom Line: Thielbahr and his coaching staff have the Crusader program humming along. They are loaded with talent and experience at important positions and they are likely the team to beat in the 3A classification this fall. That being said, being the hunter is much easier than being the hunted and with a new role thrust upon them by their success, they will be tested often this fall.
@ Oceanside (9/4)
Vs. Bishop Blanchet (10/9)
Vs. O’Dea (10/16)