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More than four decades have gone by and an untold number of students have graduated since the last time an Oak Harbor High School football team finished the regular season undefeated.
Over the years the Wildcats have fielded some outstanding teams, topped by last seasons class 4A state champions, but football historians have to go back to 1966 to find the last time the purple and gold finished with an unblemished record.
The long dry spell came to an end Friday night at Wildcat Memorial Stadium when Oak Harbor played probably its best game of the season on both sides of the line of scrimmage to defeat Cascade 21-7, emerge as the undisputed, undefeated WesCo North champion and secure the No. 1 seed going into the upcoming playoffs, which start Saturday night at Wildcat Memorial Stadium.
Graying members from the last undefeated team were happy about the Wildcats latest accomplishment and still follow the team.
Mel Elvebak, who played linebacker and guard for the Wildcats in 1966, said it was nice to see the team come back from last year and put themselves in a position to back up their state championship.
Its nice to have a second team in the club, said Elvebak, who owns Island Paint and Glass.
Back then, the Wildcats were a force in football. They finished their perfect season in 1966 ranked third in the state. Unfortunately, there wasnt a state playoff system around back then. In 1963, the team also went undefeated, but battled Anacortes to a tie during one game.
Will McGillivray coached the Wildcats back in the 1960s. Even though he is retired and living in Montana, he still follows the Wildcats and visits former players living in the area. He was complimentary of modern-day Coach Dave Ward.
This guy seems to be doing a great job. Im glad to see it, McGillivray said.
Jeff Short, who quarterbacked the team during Oak Harbors last undefeated season, thought it was fantastic to see the current squad go unbeaten. Even though he said the team he played for passed the ball around a bit, he noted the current Wildcats have a much more open offense.
Short, who is currently the deputy superintendent for the Fife School District, could find himself in an awkward position later in the playoffs. His son-in-law is a coach for Federal Way High School, and both teams could meet later in the playoffs should they keep winning. Unfortunately he said hed have to side with family should that situation arise.
Prior to the start of the 2007 campaign many people doubted the teams ability to put together back-to-back league championships but from the first day of two-a-day practices in the heat of summer, Coach Ward and his staff, along with the returning players who had been part of the 2006 state title squad, knew there was something special about this years purple and gold team.
Beginning with a 37-27 victory on the road over Marysville-Pilchuck back on Aug. 31, followed by the inaugural game at the new Wildcat Memorial Stadium, a 35-0 thumping of Arlington, Oak Harbor played solid football for nine consecutive games.
A come-from-behind 14-9 win at Meadowdale Sept. 14 kept the winning streak alive, and the Wildcats followed with convincing victories over Snohomish, Everett and Stanwood, giving up just 23 points in the three games.
Then came the Oct. 12 showdown with Lake Stevens in front of another sell-out, hometown crowd.
Last year, the Vikings were the only team to defeat the Wildcats and it nearly happened again.
Oak Harbor had to overcome five turnovers and rally from a 14-0 deficit to claim a 24-21 homecoming victory.
At Monroe on Oct. 19, eight different players scored touchdowns in the 47-21 win over the Bearcats, and the perfect season was capped by Fridays Senior Night victory over the Cascade Bruins.
Now, as defensive Coach Jay Turner said after the game, the second season begins.
Oak Harbors first step on the road to a state title defense will take place Saturday night against Bellarmine Prep in the first-ever playoff game at Wildcat Memorial Stadium.
Kickoff against the Lions from Tacoma, the fifth-seed from the Narrows League, is set for 7 p.m.
Wildcat fans who werent able to see Saturdays game against Cascade can catch a replay on Wildcat TV later in the week.
See page A-6 of todays Whidbey News-Times for details on the victory over Cascade.
The communitys support has not waned in the year since the football teams first state championship. If anything, the undefeated season coupled with the new stadium, has elevated the collective energy to an unprecedented level.
The business community is looking forward to the first home playoff game, said Jill Johnson, Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce executive director. This is our chance to showcase not only the best football and cheerleading teams, most enthusiastic fans, and our new stadium, but it is really our chance to show off our town.
Visitors to Oak Harbor wanting to remain inconspicuous need only don purple and gold. Flags bearing Wildcat colors will wave in support of the high school team, homemade signs in business windows will spell out their support and the reader boards around town will leave nothing to the imagination.
Anyone who owns just one purple and gold sweatshirt is going to be doing a lot of washing over the next couple of weeks, Johnson said. Our teams are doing incredibly well once again this year, from volleyball to football, the town is alive with Wildcat pride.
The chamber of commerce will do its part to support the team, but Johnson said the community is already well-versed in Wildcat appreciation not only for the team members as athletes but as quality young people.
So, when you ask what is the community going to do to show their support, my answer is that we are going to do what we always do, she said. We are going to show up, proudly wear our school colors and do the little extras that Oak Harbor does so well in order to turn a moment like the first home playoff game into a truly memorable one.
Staff reporters Nathan Whalen and Paul Boring contributed to this story.