Brandon Wellington will play at the University of Washington, Matt Laris at the University of California, making them the first two Crusaders to sign at BCS schools in the five years since Jeremy Thielbahr arrived at Eastside Catholic as football coach and athletic director.
SAMMAMISH — For Matt Laris and teammate BrandonWellington, this day marked something different for the Eastside Catholic football program. Wellington will play at the University of Washington, Laris at the University of California, making them the first two Crusaders to sign at BCS schools in the five years since Jeremy Thielbahr arrived at Eastside Catholic as football coach and athletic director.
“I just feel a great deal of pride for all of these kids,” Thielbahr said, waving his hand around the room to where all the signees milled about with friends and family after the signing ceremony in the Eastside Catholic gymnasium Wednesday afternoon.
Harley Kirsch, the quarterback who led the Crusaders to the last two 3A state titles, including the rally from a 28-point deficit last December against Bellevue, signed with Cornell of the Ivy League. Devon Arbis-Jackson, who caught 52 passes from Kirsch (for 890 yards) picked Central Washington, defensive back Jonathon Webster (74 tackles) went with Columbia University and linebacker Noah Failauga (68 tackles) with San Jose State University.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been dreaming of playing Pac-12 football,” said Laris, who signed his letter of intent at the school on Wednesday afternoon.
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Brooke Weedman and teammate Tia Beck signed with Gonzaga University for women’s soccer, while Alex Beauchene and Paul Lewis picked Western Washington University and Loyola Marymount, respectively, for men’s soccer.
For Weedman, her path to signing day was a bit rocky.
She started playing soccer at age 4 and began her high-school career at Skyline, where she played for two years. Disenchanted, she chose to leave the Spartans and enroll just down the road at Eastside Catholic.
“When I came here, everything just changed,” said Weedman, referring to her outlook on soccer and the positive athletic environment at Eastside Catholic. “There have been so many ups and downs. But I knew Gonzaga would give me the same experience as here.”
Kirsch said his recruiting process was a bit of a rollercoaster.
“It started off pretty quick, with a lot of schools. A lot of Pac-12 schools, even,” said Kirsch, who finished with 3,600 yards passing and 37 touchdowns.
As time went on, though, some cooled. Others came into play.
“I really started thinking about what I wanted in a college, (and) academics became more and more important to me. In the end, I’m so lucky.”
Academics played a role for Jackson, as well.
A few years ago, he watched his brother D.J. May sign out of Federal Way High to play at Wyoming.
“He was so inspiring to me and my little brothers,” Jackson said of May.
Until quite recently, Jackson didn’t know where he’d be going, however.
“I struggled with the school part,” said Jackson. “Then, as we moved forward, I got my grades up. I’ve pictured sitting here since I was a baby. Finally, it’s my turn. It’s kinda just the working hard, finishing the school part. I’m going to college.”