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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Sports >  High school sports

‘We were tired of losing’: Lakeside football eyes another league title, reaching new heights as a program

Oct. 19, 2022 Updated Wed., Oct. 19, 2022 at 5:23 p.m.

Lakeside Eagles’ Calvin Mikkelsen, left, and Kole Hunsaker stand outside of Lakeside High School on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. The Eagles are out to an undefeated season and have a 23-2 record since 2021.  (Taylor Newquist/The Spokesman-Review)
Lakeside Eagles’ Calvin Mikkelsen, left, and Kole Hunsaker stand outside of Lakeside High School on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. The Eagles are out to an undefeated season and have a 23-2 record since 2021. (Taylor Newquist/The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo
By Taylor Newquist The Spokesman-Review

Listen to the Lakeside Eagles and their goal of winning a state championship sounds simple.

Rising through Washington’s 1A ranks is anything but.

Three years ago, Kole Hunsaker took his first snap under center for the Eagles. Three weeks later, the freshman quarterback won his first game, the only game Lakeside won during the 2019 season.

The 1-8 record was the worst in over 15 years for the Eagles, who typically hovered around the middle of the Northeast A League.

“We were tired of losing,” Hunsaker said outside of Lakeside High School on Oct. 11. “We wanted to turn it around.”

There was plenty of time to work.

Lakeside emerged from the COVID-delayed spring season in new form, outscoring opponents 181-93 en route to a 5-1 record. The team dedicated its rise to a newfound commitment to the weight room. It didn’t stop there.

Hunsaker, whose father Tim played tight end at Eastern Washington University from 1991-95 and was a standout at Almira/Coulee-Hartline, won NEA MVP in 2021 as the Eagles surged to their first unbeaten league championship.

Lakeside was flying high. The Eagles rolled Omak 42-0 in the first round of the state tournament.

It was the team’s best season since 2001 – their only other trip to the state quarterfinals – but it was stopped in the second round after allowing 10 unanswered fourth-quarter points in a 10-7 loss to King’s.

That loss stuck with them more than the accolades.

“We all think back to that game every day,” Lakeside all-league tight end and linebacker Calvin Mikkelsen said. “Coaches and players think about what we could’ve done differently.

“Everything was about trying to go further the next year.”

In addition to Hunsaker and Mikkelsen, the Eagles returned three all-league players this season: Sadahiro Patterson (running back/defensive back/returner), Tomio Yamada (wide receiver/defensive back) and Ben Watson Jr. (offensive line). They have shot out to a 7-0 start, after a 64-14 win over Medical Lake on Friday.

Watson and Ethan Stueckle anchor the lines, self-titled the “Gnarly Dogs,” that have paved the way for Patterson and the Eagles’ rushing attack to gain 1,081 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns through Week 6.

Gaining yards on the ground is key to balancing the Lakeside offense, which has gained 1,134 yards passing. Still, most of the scoring comes through the air.

Hunsaker had 19 passing touchdowns to three interceptions going into last week’s game against Medical Lake, where he threw a 35-yard score to Mikkelsen and ran in a 24-yard touchdown in the first quarter, as the Eagles rolled to a 58-0 halftime lead.

Mikkelsen has been Hunsaker’s favorite target, catching 25 passes for 410 yards and six touchdowns through six weeks. The two have a special connection, not only because they spent the offseason working on routes together, but because they’re both quarterbacks.

Mikkelsen, a junior, is waiting in the wings to handle the snaps next season after Hunsaker’s departure.

“Next year should be my show,” Mikkelsen said.

That will have to wait. The Eagles close their regular season at Colville (6-1, 3-1) on Friday, then host Riverside (3-4, 2-2) on Oct. 28.

Colville has been resurgent after a down 2021 season, when they were sub-.500 for the first time in nearly a decade.

An experienced passing attack featuring three seniors – quarterback Cale Roy and wide receivers Allan McKeraghan and Colbie McEvoy – led Colville to a 35-28 win over 2A Shadle Park last week. The Crimson Hawks’ only loss came Oct. 7 against Freeman, which Lakeside beat 36-27.

Lakeside won’t take any opponent for granted, especially in the NEA, which has produced two of the past three State 1A titles that didn’t go to the Royal Knights. Royal has dominated the field with five of the past six state titles.

“I think top to bottom we have one of the toughest leagues in the state,” said Lakeside’s Devin Bauer, who began coaching the Eagles in 2016. “Always our goal is to go out and win that first and then we’ll focus on what comes after that.”

Lakeside is ranked No. 8 in the state’s RPI system, two behind King’s – which both Hunsaker and Mikkelsen agreed they’d like to see again in the playoffs.

“Get another shot at them?” Hunsaker said. “100 percent. I’d love that.”

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