The 19 seniors on the Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) football team have not lost a home game in their varsity careers – three straight unbeaten seasons – and are the No. 3-ranked team in the state in the 1A classification entering the postseason.
The Eagles finished 1-8 in 2019. Over the past four seasons – since this year’s senior class started high school – the Eagles have gone 33-3, the last two losses coming in the state quarterfinals the past two seasons.
The only thing missing on the resume is a long run at state – and it’s on everybody’s mind.
“It is. It’s just a motivator,” senior Oz Melzer said. “ ‘We’re gonna get further than last year.’ That’s just what’s on your mind. You’ve just got to work that much harder than you did before. If you want a different outcome, you’ve got to prepare differently.”
The Eagles (8-0) start their state quest against Chelan (6-3) from the Caribou Trail League in a District 6/8 crossover Friday at Union Stadium.
What might be more impressive than the on-field success, however, is the list of colleges to which some of the best players on the team are applying.
Dartmouth. Brown. MIT. The engineering program at University of Washington.
Pretty impressive for a school with fewer than 400 students.
“It’s really important,” running back Hiro Patterson said. “Football players get the reputation as ‘meatheads,’ you know, just ‘dumb football players.’ But being smart, we use our brains more than just brute force.”
Classmates Calvin Mikkelsen, Melzer and Patterson drive each other in athletics and academics – including the second-level calculus class they all take together.
“Me and Calvin and Hiro, we’ve all kind of been motivating each other,” Melzer said.
“It’s been like kind of a competition that’s been driving us. … It’s just nice to have someone who you can work not only against to compete with, but to work together to achieve things.”
Mikkelsen and Melzer have been classmates and teammates since the first grade. Patterson joined the others in the seventh grade.
“Oz and I have played every single football game together since first grade,” Mikkelsen said, noting both of their fathers have been coaches for them along the way.
“Most of us have been together since between like third grade and sixth grade, and pretty much all the seniors have played together since seventh grade,” Mikkelsen said. “It’s a pretty special group and we have a big group of seniors for such a small school.”
“It’s kind of just like second nature,” Patterson said. “I know this guy is going to do (their job). I only have to do my job. I know what I have to do and I know everyone else is gonna do the same.”
Lakeside coach Devin Bauer said the trio’s influence started on the program before they were in high school.
“Those three started in eighth grade, coming up and lifting with us at the high school,” he said. “It helped that they’re all so smart that they were taking high school classes in eighth grade.
“They were here bringing in their buddies. We have a huge group of seniors that have all contributed in ways and they’re best friends and it’s just great.”
Mikkelsen always played quarterback growing up, but he selflessly changed positions the past two seasons while two-time Northeast A League MVP Kole Hunsaker helmed the offense. He never considered a transfer.
“Kole last year – unbelievable guy,” Bauer said. “But what Calvin’s doing is unbelievable, too. Smart, but good football players as well. And unselfish.”
“I’d never played tight end before sophomore year,” Mikkelsen said. “It was just the best thing for the team. We had to find a way to get both of us on the field.”
Now, Mikkelsen (6-foot-2, 215) is behind center again and could land MVP honors . He is attracting offers from all kinds of schools – from the Ivy League to the University of Idaho and others – and college programs see him at a variety of positions.
“Most of them are talking about playing tight end, and a few are to play quarterback,” he said. “And then I’ve also been talking about playing defense at linebacker – and then one talking about playing running back. So yeah, it’s pretty much all over the place.”
Wherever he lands, the program is getting an athlete who carries a 4.0 grade-point average and has been all-league in football and basketball.
Melzer, who Bauer called the “resident tough guy of the team,” is planning to study aerospace engineering and has applied to MIT, Georgia Tech and UW, among others.
“I got an offer of admission support from (MIT) football program. So that would be the dream,” he said. “I just want to go somewhere good for engineering and if I have the shot, play football.”
Melzer has thought about how the last time he’ll play football with teammates he calls brothers is rapidly approaching.
“It definitely is on your mind when you’re playing,” he said. “Every game matters that much more. It makes it really easy to be motivated.
“Every game is so significant because it can be your last – especially now with it being postseason. It’s do or die.”
Patterson – who has been all-league in football, basketball and baseball and could play any in college – relished the idea that he and his teammates are role models to younger players in the community.
“My dad’s actually a teacher at Wellpinit,” Patterson said. “He was coaching the middle school and all those little kids are coming up to me because my dad was talking me up to them.
“If I have these type of people supporting me and looking up to me, I’ve got to be the best type of person I can be and kind of do that for them.”
Melzer said Patterson was a rock star with the younger players.
“You see some kids with Hiro, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, sign this football,’ and they’ll ask for gloves and stuff.”
“(Patterson) is a special, special athlete,” Bauer said.
“And just a cool guy. Just all the stuff he does and his unselfishness – nothing goes to his head. He’s very level-headed, works with the younger kids, all that good stuff.”