Late mistakes cut down Wildcats | Football

Dayne Herron, background, signals touchdown as teammate Brent Ryan (36) scores behind a wall of blocking Wildcats. - John Fisken / Whidbey News-Times
Dayne Herron, background, signals touchdown as teammate Brent Ryan (36) scores behind a wall of blocking Wildcats.
— image credit: John Fisken / Whidbey News-Times

It is not often you lose a football game when you never had to punt.

Mistakes, not fourth downs, stopped Oak Harbor on its final four possessions and Eastlake Catholic turned them into 28 points and defeated the host Wildcats 50-33 in the quad-district play-in round of the state tournament Friday, Nov. 4.

Regardless of the painful ending, the Wildcats produced one of their finest seasons in school history, going 8-2 while setting a school scoring record.

Head coach Jay Turner said at the end of last season, he figured the Wildcats would be in a battle with Everett and Shorecrest for the third and fourth Wesco playoffs slots this year.

But when fall camp started and the attitude and work ethic of the club became apparent, he knew this could be a special year.  Oak Harbor won its first eight games, finished second in the Western Conference and qualified for the playoffs for the first time in four years.

The Oak Harbor-Eastside Catholic game featured little defense as each team piled up the points. Both teams reached the end zone often but used different recipes to get there.

For the most part, Oak Harbor put together long, time-consuming drives with heaping teaspoons of Brent Ryan and Josiah Miller runs with a dash of Ian Kolste passing, Mike Washington receiving and Sheyenne Sams rushing.

The Crusaders cooked up quick drives with big plays.

Oak Harbor scored on five of its first six possessions. The only non-scoring drive came when it received the ball with just 11.8 seconds left in the half.

The Wildcats stopped EC twice (on a fumble recovery and the game’s only punt) and took a 33-22 lead with 5:52 left in the third quarter.

Then came the mistakes. Down to its third center because of injuries, Oak Harbor had trouble with quarterback-center exchanges throughout the game, and two muffed snaps stopped two drives.

The other miscues were a pair of Kolste interceptions. The picks hurt, but Kolste also hit two big fourth-down throws to keep scoring drives alive. He finished 10-for-15 for 134 yards and a touchdown while hitting seven of his first eight passes.

Washington caught six passes for 71 yards and a TD.

Ryan and Miller finished their high-school careers with outstanding nights. Ryan rammed his way for 137 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, and Miller added 169 yards and a score on 22 carries. Sams chipped in with several key runs for 60 yards on five tries.

It was fitting the twin pistons of the Oak Harbor offense engine, Miller and Ryan, would wrap up the season with almost identical rushing yards. Miller had 1,373, just one more than Ryan.

Unlike Oak Harbor, Eastside Catholic’s offense was centered around one player, quarterback Trey Reynolds.

The 6-0, 180-pound junior connected on 16 of 21 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns and a two-point conversion. He also ran for 138 yards and a score on 12 carries.

Oak Harbor finished with 511 total yards to 486 for the Crusaders from Sammamish.

Turner said lack of depth became an issue for his club as the injuries piled up. Besides missing starting center and linebacker Tucker Lundstrom, top linebacker Jon Lanningham missed the game and standout lineman Jeremy Foster sat the second half with a concussion.

At one point, the Wildcats were playing without all three starting linebackers, Turner said.

The tone of the game was set immediately. The Crusaders took the opening possession 80 yards in just five plays and in just under two minutes to go up 7-0.

The Wildcats followed with an 82-yard drive that took 10 plays and just under five minutes. The big play of the drive was a fourth-down, 30-yard pass from Kolste to Austyn Walker. Kolste later tossed an eight-yard pass for the score, hauled in by Washington with a jugging catch. Peter Franssen kicked the PAT.

The Crusaders gained 34 yards on their next play, but fumbled on the second and Oak Harbor recovered.

Fourteen plays later Ryan scored from the six, but the PAT was blocked.

EC went 73 yards in seven plays to regain the lead 14-13 with 9:42 left in the half.

This time it took 16 plays and six minutes for Oak Harbor to counter on a Ryan one-yarder. The PAT run failed, making it 19-14.

The Crusaders zipped down the field once again, covering 71 yards in just under three minutes, then hit a two-point conversion pass to lead 22-19 at the half.

Oak Harbor opened the second half with its one quick-strike score. After Ryan runs of 13 and 19 yards, Miller traveled the final 41 and Oak Harbor led 26-22.

The Wildcats then forced a three-and-out and the game’s only punt.  Sams got things going with a 23-yard run. Then on fourth-and-nine from the EC 21, Kolste hit Walker for 15 yards. A few plays later, Ryan scored from the two and Oak Harbor led 33-22.

The rest was not good.

First the Crusaders went 91 yards in two minutes without having to face a third-down play and cut the lead to 33-29.

Next came the cascade of Wildcat mistakes.

Spurred by a 35-yard Sams run, Oak Harbor had the ball at the Crusader 10 but gave it up on a muffed snap.

True to form, the Crusaders quickly marched down the field and scored to go up for good, 36-33, with 9:01 left in the game.

Kolste was intercepted on Oak Harbor’s next play. Eastside Catholic scored three plays and 61 seconds later to lead 43-33.

The Wildcats were on the march once again, going 45 yards before another fumbled snap ended the threat with 5:19 left.

The Crusaders provided the dagger by finishing the scoring with 1:36 left.

After completing two passes for 28 yards, Kolste was picked off again on Oak Harbor’s final possession.

EC ran out the clock and earned a right to face top-ranked Bellevue next weekend.

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