Buddy Bland returns ‘home’ to coach hard-working Issaquah Eagles

September 2, 2014

By David Hayes

After Issaquah High School parted ways last season with head football coach Chris Bennett, the administration turned to a familiar face to fill his shoes — Buddy Bland.

By Greg Farrar The Issaquah High School Eagles’ top athletes include (from left) senior offensive/defensive lineman Oliver Lekressner, senior wide receiver/defensive back Luke Watanabe, senior offensive/defensive lineman Parker Simon, junior quarterback Cam Humphrey, senior tight end/linebacker Chason Hawkins, senior offensive/defensive lineman Andrew Dieken and senior running back/linebacker Mikey Giannopulos.

By Greg Farrar
The Issaquah High School Eagles’ top athletes include (from left) senior offensive/defensive lineman Oliver Lekressner, senior wide receiver/defensive back Luke Watanabe, senior offensive/defensive lineman Parker Simon, junior quarterback Cam Humphrey, senior tight end/linebacker Chason Hawkins, senior offensive/defensive lineman Andrew Dieken and senior running back/linebacker Mikey Giannopulos.

After leading the Eagles for seven seasons before resigning in 2006, Bland chose to focus on teaching his video production class at Issaquah.

However, Bland never completely stepped away from the game — he was Skyline’s offensive lines coach during the Spartans 28-0 run that led to two state titles in 2007 and 2008. He returned to Issaquah to coach the Eagles offensive line in 2011 and 2012. He jumped at the chance to start is 16th year as head coach.

“I always said if I got another shot to be a head coach again, it would be at Issaquah,” Bland said. “I’ve always liked it there. The kids work as hard in the classroom as on the field.”

Bland holds a mixed bag in returning to helm the Eagles program — while he replaces Bennett, who was named KingCo Crown division coach of the year, the Eagles only managed to produce a 6-4 record.

So, his priority for the Eagles this season is a return to an emphasis on the basics.

“My goal at the start of every season is to play Issaquah football,” he said. “You start with the little things. And when you do the little things well, everything else will take care of itself.”

2014 Eagles schedule

All games start at 7 p.m.

Sept. 5 vs. Skyline
Sept. 12 at Bothell
Sept. 19 vs. Inglemoor
Sept. 26 at Eastlake
Oct. 3 vs. Olympia
Oct. 10 vs. Newport
Oct. 17 at Mount Si
Oct. 24 vs. Woodinville
Oct. 31 at Redmond

Just two weeks into practice, Bland has yet to name starters. But he’s already spotting the team’s strength he hopes to build upon for a successful season.

“They’re hard working. It may be a cliché, but we’re young and talented,” Bland said. “And the older kids are not going to let the young guys set the tone. They’re leading by example, working hard.”

Without any returning All KingCo players — nine Eagle seniors that were first-team selections and five named to the second team graduated — Bland is relying on several of this year’s seniors to step up to fill the gaps. Several that Bland singled out to keep an eye on this season include:

  • Andrew Dieken — offensive/defensive line
  • Luke Watanabe — wide receiver/defensive back
  • Chason Hawkins — tight end/line backer
  • Oliver Lekressner — offensive/defensive line
  • Mikey Giannopulos — running back/linebacker
  • Parker Simon — offensive/defensive line

He’s also looking for junior Cam Humphrey to step up as the team’s quarterback.

“They’re a great group of guys, known for their leadership and hard work ethic,” Bland said.

The Eagles won’t get much time to hone their game plan under their new head coach — they get thrown directly into the fire of kicking off the season Sept. 5 against defending KingCo champ Skyline High School.

“This is probably one of toughest KingCos I’ve ever seen,” Bland said. “And starting off with Skyline is one heck of a ‘welcome back.’”

He also expects a tough game Sept. 12 against Bothell, which he sees as the program other schools aspire to be like.

Regardless where the Eagles finish, Bland, now in his 25th year of coaching, doesn’t see himself leaving again.

“Issaquah has always been home to me,” he said.

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