It’s not uncommon for siblings and cousins to follow each other through school or even play the same sport – especially at a small school.
But when your last name is Isaak at Almira/Coulee-Hartline, it carries a completely different set of expectations.
Senior Dane Isaak knows all about those expectations, and he hopes to carve out a special place in that legacy on Saturday, when his Warriors (11-0) face Quilcene (10-1) in the State 1B championship game at noon at Mt. Tahoma High School.
Dane is the last Isaak – for now – in a long line to play quarterback for ACH. He follows three brothers and a cousin in that regard.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Isaak said. “All my brothers played in a state championship. I already played in one, but as a backup freshman year, but this is kind of the first real championship that I’ve been a part of.”
Dane’s oldest brother Derek played from 2008-11, then came Drew from 2010-12. Dallas was next from 2013-15 before cousin Maguire took over from 2016-18. Dane got the job in 2019, battled through the COVID seasons and has the team on the brink of a state title this season.
“I’m pretty lucky and pretty blessed to kind of have this last name of mine,” Dane Isaak said. “It’s something I’m thankful for every day, not just for sports but because it is a good family and good dudes to hang around with in general.”
He hopes to join Dallas (2015) and Mac (2017) in guiding ACH to a title.
Including this season, ACH has made seven trips to the semifinals with an Isaak at the helm in the past 11 seasons, with two titles and two second-place finishes.
“I feel it’s definitely something to live up to,” Dane Isaak said. “Only one of my brothers accomplished a championship, which is hard to believe in some cases, but it’s kind of almost ‘one-upping’ my other brothers.
“It’s a constant competition between all of us, and all of our lives and all of our high school sports really, so it’ll be cool if I can get this and kind of have bragging rights over my two oldest brothers.”
“I have actually been here through all of it, really,” ACH coach Brandon Walsh said. “As for Dane, I mean, he’s just a great kid. He works hard in the weight room and offseason. He’s part of a special group, one of a senior class that is here.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a group that worked harder than this group to get to where they’re at.”
Walsh couldn’t say whether Dane’s instincts at quarterback are learned or inherited but praised Isaak’s decision making and vision on the field.
“Especially in our offense, where we run a lot of option and stuff like that,” he said. “He just makes good decisions and he makes them quick.
“I would say kind of both,” Isaak said. “I feel like I’ve kind of had the expectation to be quarterback all my life, so I’ve kind of thought about it and visualized it. But even freshman year, like normal quarterback things I wasn’t really educated on, but luckily, I’ve had the coaches to help me with that, which has definitely brought me a long way these four years I have been with the ACH program.”
He naturally learned a lot from his brothers.
“As a kid, it’d be me watching from the sidelines and then going behind the bleachers and trying to replay what Derek did with my friends,” he said.
Even though ACH appearing in the 1B playoff semifinals has become commonplace, there’s nothing common about it.
“It’s still one of the coolest things you’ve ever been a part of each time you go,” Isaak said. “Like freshman year, I still remember warming up in the Tacoma Dome – sad that we don’t get to be there this year. But yeah, it’s just a cool experience, no matter what – if you’re starting or even if you’re a bench player.”
The title game will feature contrasting offensive styles. ACH likes to spread things out and spread the ball between several players. Quilcene will line up in the I formation and pound it up the middle with one big back.
Bishop Budnek carried 35 times for 187 yards with four touchdowns when the third-seeded Rangers knocked off second-seeded Odessa 36-12 last week in a semifinal.
“We’re going to have to hit him with everybody,” Walsh said. “The kid’s a stud. He’s big (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) and runs hard, and we’re gonna have to gang tackle like crazy. I mean, that’s the goal.”
ACH’s option attack is led by Isaak, but he gets plenty of help. Grady Murray scored six touchdowns – three rushing and three receiving – in the top-seeded Warriors’ 68-32 semifinal win over fifth-seeded Naselle. Parker Roberts is another strong option to carry the ball for ACH.
All three players earned first-team all-league honors.
“In my opinion, Grady Murray is the best receiver in the state,” Walsh said, “even though he only has six or seven receptions on the season.”
Dane’s cousin Reece Isaak (6-3, 250) and Cooper Correia, both seniors, pave the way up front.
Walsh counted himself fortunate just to have another week to coach and be around his team.
“I told the kids after the game or Saturday, where we’re at is a product of their hard work in the offseason and not just because we played good on Saturday,” Walsh said. “It’s because they’ve put in all the time and the effort.
“So for me, as a coach, when we get to this point, it’s very rewarding in that aspect.”
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