July 3, 2008 · Updated 6:06 PM
"After battling Anacortes for more than 58 minutes Friday night, Oak Harbor High School's football team seemed very close to winning its season-opener.The Wildcats were up 12-11, and an Anacortes drive had been stalled at the 22-yard-line by a penalty and tenacious Oak Harbor defense. And now the Seahawks' offense faced fourth-and-12 with less than two minutes left on the clock.With a strong, gusting wind blowing across the field, Seahawk kicker Shamus Eberhardt lined up for a 40-yard field goal that seemed unlikely given the windy conditions.Eberhardt missed and Wildcat players and fans started cheering, only to be silenced seconds later by the sight of a flag fluttering to earth in the vicinity of the now prone kicker.Attempting to block the kick, Wildcat defensive back Brian Lang was himself blocked into the kicker, drawing a 10-yard roughing the kicker penalty. The result: first-and-10 Anacortes at Oak Harbor's 12-yard line.By the time the Seahawks scored the go-ahead touchdown for a 17-12 lead, the Wildcats had 20 seconds left to come from behind. It wasn't enough time and 17-12 proved enough for the Seahawks.They didn't beat us, Wildcat coach Dave Ward said after the game. We made one more mistake than we should of.The physically punishing game was too closely contested for mistakes. The interior line was a battlefield throughout the game, with each side losing and gaining ground in grappling, grunting clashes over the line of scrimmage. The Wildcats scored early in the first period when quarterback Brent Lang connected with running back Tony Hall for a 78-yard pass play and touchdown.But Oak Harbor missed the extra point and Anacortes scored minutes later with a 42-yard touchdown run by Seahawk running back Ross Devine. Devine, who was effective both up the middle and around end, plowed in for a two-point conversion and an 8-6 Anacortes lead. Eberhardt increased the lead to 11-6 a few minutes later with a field goal from 24 yards out.Eberhardt's kicking and punting abilities were a definite factor in the game. Twice his booming punts pinned the Wildcats deep in their own territory. The Wildcats took a 12-11 lead late in the second quarter when Lang connected with running back Brian Lang on an 11-yard TD pass, but Oak Harbor failed on an two-point conversion attempt.In the second half, the contest settled down into a dogfight fought the line of scrimmage.Oak Harbor linemen faced a decidedly bigger, more-experienced Seahawk line on both side of the ball but gave little quarter, moving the mass on offense and digging in for several key, third-down stops on defense.On defense, Wildcat linebacker Garret Payne hammered Seahawk runners and receivers recording six tackles and two sacks in the process. And quarterback Brent Lang proved a double threat at middle linebacker making key stops and tallying six tackles of his own.Brian Lang also pulled double duty, making his own key stops and grinding out first downs running around and sometimes over Seahawk defenders.The Wildcats also showed the facility for gang tackling and attacking on defense, only occasionally buckling under the bigger team's offensive mass.For that matter, neither team buckled, attacking on the ground and in the air. The result was an edgy, exciting game where the outcome was never certain until the last seconds ticked off the clock. Anacortes 17, Oak Harbor 12Oak Harbor 6 6 0 0 - 12Anacortes 11 0 0 6 - 17Records-Anacortes 1-0 overall. Oak Harbor 0-1.Oak Harbor stats: Rushing: Tony Hall, 13 carries for 87 yards; Receiving: Brian Lang, 6 catches for 144 yards; Sacks: Garret Payne, 2; Total yards: 293.----------You can reach sports editor D. Patrick Connolly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 675-6611. "