EDMONDS — In the first two games of the 2013 season, the Edmonds-Woodway defense flexed its muscle against Everett and Mountlake Terrace, not allowing a single point in 96 minutes of football.
The defensive effort in those two games merely set the tone for the type of team the Warriors would be. Edmonds-Woodway would go on to win its first eight games, outscoring opponents 314-107 in that span en route to a 4A Wesco South championship.
The leader of that defense, senior linebacker Mac McLachlan, is The Herald’s All-Area Defensive Player of the Year.
C beat out 10 other local defensive stars for the award. Warriors head coach John Gradwohl got the honor of informing McLachlan.
“I just got the biggest smile on my face,” McLachlan said. “I was driving home and I just couldn’t contain myself.”
Gradwohl said he was excited to hear his guy had won, especially with so many other talented nominees.
“I thought there were some great athletes in the league this year all the way around,” he said. “For anybody to be singled out I just thought was difficult. So for him to be singled out I just thought was an incredible honor for him.”
McLachlan has started at linebacker for the Warriors since his sophomore season, being named All-Wesco each year. As a senior, McLachlan finished with 69 tackles, three interceptions and helped the Warriors’ defense hold opponents to 19.7 points per game.
“This year I knew that I had to lead the team completely and I just had an all-around great defense around me,” McLachlan said.
McLachlan specifically gave credit to the team’s defensive line, led by seniors Travis Bakken and Theo Lebesis, for allowing the linebacker to be able to make plays against the run.
Gradwohl was able to rely on McLachlan’s leadership and said the senior really became another member of the coaching staff.
“The inside linebacker is really kind of a quarterback of the defense,” Gradwohl said. “They make all the adjustments. The offense, they know what plays they are going to run. The defense has to react to formations and everything else. Coaches can’t stand out there and do it, so you need a coach out there on the field. Having someone who’s played and has as much experience as Mac was excellent for us because he understood everything we were trying to accomplish and was able to make adjustments.”
Cascade head coach Joe Cronin and his Bruins got a heavy dose of McLachlan in Week 5 in a matchup that featured the last two unbeatens in the league.
“It’s tough to run up the middle on him,” Cronin said. “He knows what he’s doing. He hits you hard. He’s very physical and you can tell intelligence-wise he knows the game of football and he knows tendencies.”
McLachlan helped the Warriors stay unbeaten with a 28-14 win over the Bruins. His performance must have stuck with Cronin, who gave McLachlan his vote for defensive player of the year. That might have had something to do with the Warriors doing something no other team was able to do this year, contain quarterback Josh Smith. Smith, a first-team All-Area quarterback in his own right, threw for nearly 2,000 yards and rushed for another 764 on the season, but he finished with negative rushing yards against Edmonds-Woodway.
“They did the best job of anyone we played all year of taking (Josh) out of the game plan,” Cronin said. “I’m not sure exactly what they did defensively, but they seemed to do a good job on focusing on Josh not running to outside and try to force us to the inside where they had McLachlan making plays.”
Not only was McLachlan making plays on defense against the Bruins, he also scored two touchdowns on offense, catching a 12-yard pass from quarterback Davis Giles and running in another from 2 yards out.
McLachlan rushed for 488 yards and five touchdowns and had another 174 yards receiving and two touchdowns for the season. In addition to starting at linebacker for three seasons, McLachlan also played fullback for all three of those seasons — Gradwohl said he was just too talented not to.
“Like a lot of guys around the league, when you have someone that’s that good you want to play them as much as you can on both sides of the ball,” Gradwohl said. “It’s tough to have him sitting on sidelines.”
After finishing the regular season 8-0 and winning the Wesco South championship, the Warriors faced upstart Lake Stevens in the seeding week for a third consecutive season — and for a third straight year the Vikings got the better of the Warriors, winning in a shootout 53-49.
Lake Stevens sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason threw for over 500 yards and six touchdowns as the Warriors gave up the most points they had all season, which didn’t sit well with McLachlan.
“We get pretty frustrated whenever we allow a point on the board,” McLachlan said.
The loss was made even more painful for McLachlan given the fact the Warriors had lost to the Vikings three times in three years by a combined 12 points.
“That was a hard one, especially since we played them the last three years,” McLachlan said. “Our coverage wasn’t as good as it was all throughout the year, but their quarterback is something else. He’s definitely the best quarterback we’ve seen. He kind of picked our secondary apart and found receivers. We just couldn’t adjust quick enough to fix us.”
The following week the Warriors lost to Federal Way 37-20 in a quad-district playoff game, ending the Warriors season and McLachlan’s career at Edmonds-Woodway.
“I wish we could have gone further, but I’m happy with the way the season turned out,” McLachlan said.
Despite not advancing to state, McLachlan has no regrets.
“I’ve had a good career here,” McLachlan said. “Each year getting better and smarter and becoming a leader on the team has definitely been fun. I’m happy. It was a fun time here.”
And for Gradwohl, his challenge becomes finding players to step in and fill the role of players like McLachlan.
“We’ll miss those guys, but like every year you just kind of have to reload,” Gradwohl said. “It’s not that many times that you get guys like Mac and Travis to come around in one class, so we’ll be doing a little bit more reloading next year.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.