"It's better to win ugly than to lose pretty."
That's what coach Jay Turner told his Oak Harbor High School football team after its 35-27 nonleague win at Mount Vernon Friday, Oct. 5.
Oak Harbor (2-0, 5-1) gets back into Western Conference 3A North action at 7 p.m. this Friday at Marysville Getchell (2-1, 3-3). A Wildcat win will guarantee a playoff spot regardless of the outcome of the remaining two games.
At Mount Vernon, the production didn't win the Wildcats a tiara, but the effort wasn't all unattractive. Oak Harbor did enough right to pull out the victory over the 4A Bulldogs.
On paper the game looked like a mismatch. Oak Harbor entered the game with a 4-1 record, the Bulldogs were 1-4. Among the MV defeats were a pair of losses to teams Oak Harbor also played and handled easily.
The Bulldogs, led by former Coupeville head coach Jay Silver and playing in front of a spirited homecoming crowd, made sure the results were determined on the field and not in print.
The ugly Wildcats: receiving eight penalties to one for Mount Vernon, losing a fumble, snapping the ball over the punter's head, failing to convert on fourth down twice, giving up two big scoring plays.
The good: An overall strong defensive effort, two critical pass breakups by defensive back Isaiah Trower, good blocking up front, 241 passing yards by Ian Kolste, 111 rushing yards by Fred Webster, 142 receiving yards by JoJo Webster, seven tackles and a sack by Jon Lanningham.
Oak Harbor took the opening kick off and drove from its own 36 to inside the Mount Vernon 10 without having a third-down play. A Kolste to JoJo Webster pass picked up 27 of the yards.
Oak Harbor came away with nothing when the Bulldogs stopped the 'Cats on a fourth-and-goal run from the 3.
It took Mount Vernon only two plays to score: Bennett Gibson hit Ruben Fortuna on a 92-yard bomb. The PAT was blocked and Mount Vernon led 6-0.
Oak Harbor went right back to work at its own 29. A fumble and recovery lost four yards, then the Wildcats steadily marched forward. The long drive included double-digit yardage runs by Julian Faralan, Dakota Sinchak and Sheyenne Sams. The big play was a 15-yard screen pass from Kolste to JoJo Webster on a third-and-11 after a penalty.
Kolste connected with tight end Troy Sturdevant on a four-yard pass, Mark Johnston kicked the first of five extra points and Oak Harbor led 7-6 with 12 seconds left in the first quarter.
Mount Vernon, which ran only three plays in the opening period, quickly regained the lead. Micah Scott raced 47 yards on the fourth play of the second quarter for a touchdown. A two-point PAT pass made it 14-7.
It took Oak Harbor only three minutes to tie. A 59-yard drive ended with a 17-yard pass from Kolste to Logan Faught.
With only 1:13 left in the half, Oak Harbor took over at its own 20. Trower ran for 12 yards on third-and-eight then caught a 32-yard pass from Kolste. Kolste then stunned Mount Vernon by hitting JoJo Webster in stride from a 33-yard score with six seconds left. Oak Harbor led 21-14 at the break.
Late in the third quarter, a snap on an Oak Harbor punt went over Andre Cumberbatch's head. The Wildcat kicker raced to the end zone and got off a running punt under pressure.
Mount Vernon took over at the Wildcat 30 and started an odd scoring drive. On fourth-and-12, it appeared Oak Harbor had a 16-yard loss on a sack. But a face mask penalty gave the Bulldogs another shot. Now fourth-and-seven, Oak Harbor held again, yielding only six yards. However, the Wildcats were called for holding. The spot foul made it fourth-and-one. On its third try, Mount Vernon converted for a first down at the Oak Harbor 7.
After three straight runs, the Bulldogs scored from the 1 on fourth down on the next-to-last play of the third quarter. The PAT kick tied it at 21.
Oak Harbor responded by going 66 yards in 10 plays, overcoming an intentional grounding penalty that made it second-and-18 at one point. The key play was a 17-yard pass from Kolste to Trower. Kolste threw to JoJo Webster for the final seven yards.
A 25-yard run by Scott helped set up his own 14-yard TD dash with 6:53 left. Down 28-27, Mount Vernon elected to go for two and the lead, but Trower broke up the PAT pass play.
Oak Harbor finished the scoring when it ate up the clock and 74 yards on the way to a Fred Webster one-yard TD run with 1:09 left.
A hit by Mike Maletto on the kickoff caused Mount Vernon to fumble; Oak Harbor recovered and ran out the clock.
Turner said two weeks ago that he was confident Kolste could pass the team to a victory if his run-first offense was shut down.
Mount Vernon didn't completely stop the Wildcat ground game, yielding 264 yards (111 to Fred Webster and 75 to Sams). But when they started rolling up their safeties, offensive co-ordinator Mike Fisher called on Kolste to make the Bulldogs pay. Kolste hit 12 of 20 passes for 241 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
JoJo Webster caught eight passes for 142 yards and Trower three for 70.
Mount Vernon stayed in the game with big plays; 202 of its 336 total yards came from four plays.
Turner was happy with his team's effort when things were not going well: "In games you will have adversity. It is how you respond that counts."