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Versatile East Lake dispatches rival Palm Harbor University with ease

The Eagles are rounding into playoff form, with a few added weapons in the mix as the regular season winds down.
East Lake senior Luke Yoder ran all over his former team, Palm Harbor University, during a 42-7 Eagles victory.
East Lake senior Luke Yoder ran all over his former team, Palm Harbor University, during a 42-7 Eagles victory. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published Oct. 29

EAST LAKE — As potent as East Lake’s offense has been in this bounce-back season, averaging 43 points per game, it’s hard to believe that it could get even more versatile and powerful.

But with the slow, steady return of senior Jake Bechtel — last year’s starting quarterback — along with some other weapons, the Eagles could be flying even higher going into the playoffs. Just ask Palm Harbor University about East Lake’s potential after coming into Friday’s contest with district title aspirations but leaving on the short end of a 42-7 final score.

“Jake’s a great teammate to have around,” said current starting quarterback Caleb Coburn, who has contributed almost 1,600 yards to the offense for East Lake (8-1, 3-0 in Class 4 Metro, District 6) but also relishes having additional opportunities to shine.

Senior Night allowed Eagles head coach Bob Hudson to get Bechtel (3-of-3 passing for 60 yards), Coburn and standout PHU transfer Luke Yoder in the same backfield on occasion with devastating effect on what would turn out to be a 400-yard offensive night for the hosts.

Adding running back duties to his signal-caller role allowed Coburn to rack up 101 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding a passing touchdown on a 5-for-7 effort during a rainy first half. This joined with his seven-tackle effort as starting linebacker.

“I love playing every position I can,” Coburn said. “High school football is a limited-time thing and you only get to do this one time in your life.”

East Lake senior Caleb Coburn, who has been a rock at quarterback and linebacker this season, added running back on Friday night.
East Lake senior Caleb Coburn, who has been a rock at quarterback and linebacker this season, added running back on Friday night. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

Yoder joined with Coburn to rush for more than 100 yards in the first half, finishing with 178 ground yards on just nine carries with a touchdown while adding an 11-yard touchdown grab of a Bechtel toss in the third quarter to send the game to a running clock.

On the reunion with PHU, the team he gained 1,600 yards with last year, Yoder said: “I didn’t really think about it, I just take things one week at a time. There wasn’t really any trash talking (when I got tackled). (The Hurricanes) kept it classy and they’re a well-disciplined team.”

Senior Ryui Rivers, another returnee, was on the receiving end of Coburn’s touchdown pass while junior Raymond Barnes added a 9-yard run to the house to close out a perfect 6-for-6 touchdown effort for the Eagles.

“It’s been a progression (working the returning players into the rotation) but we’re finding ways to do it,” Hudson said. “We’re putting in different packages so we can use everybody.”

For Palm Harbor (5-4, 1-2 in 4M-6), having a young squad that will return six talented offensive starters next year takes some of the sting off of Friday’s loss. The Hurricanes are still on track for their first winning season since 2016 with a win next week against Dunedin.

Sophomore quarterback Will Seibert was asked to do a lot against the Eagles and he delivered, leading PHU with 113 yards on 20 carries. Sophomore Brady Messick (48 yards rushing) had the Hurricanes’ lone score on an 8-yard, fourth-quarter run.

“We came into this season and everyone doubted us,” Coburn said. “We were really underrated and here we are … 8-1, we’re going to be 9-1 (pending a win against Countryside in the regular-season finale) and we have a home playoff game. And no one expected us to go this far.”

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