Wildcats shock Bulldogs in opener

The WesCo North pre-season polls had Mount Vernon at number one or two. The Oak Harbor Wildcats were generally in the four or five spot. On paper the Wildcats looked to be in for a long Friday night in their WesCo North season opener.

But the game is not played on paper and the Cats looked to be unimpressed with the clippings the Bulldogs had received prior to the start of the season.

What transpired on the grass field? A group of linemen on both sides of the ball dominated the Bulldogs and led the Wildcats to a 29-8 win last Friday night in Mount Vernon.

On defense the Wildcats looked to be into the Bulldog backfield quicker than the ball on numerous occasions. They harassed Mount Vernon quarterback Kyle Kendrick to the point that late in the game the highly-touted signal caller drew a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct when he slammed the ball into the grass after being sacked.

Kendrick’s frustration signaled the end as both coaches played out the final minutes with a heavy dose of reserves on the field.

The Wildcats got on the scoreboard first as Adam Diaz ran in from seven yards out to cap a 12-play, 88-yard drive with 1:38 remaining in the first quarter. The drive started when Chad Asmus blocked a Mount Vernon field goal attempt on the Bulldogs’ first possession of the game.

The big play was a 36-yard scamper by Grant Bull that gave the Cats a first down at midfield. Asmus kicked the PAT for a 7-0 lead.

The lead grew to 14-0 with 8:45 remaining in the half as Blake Ward bulled his way in from three yards out. Again Asmus kicked the point-after. Quarterback Lenny Serfling bailed the Cats out of a third and 26 yards to go situation when he dumped off a short pass to Cody Parker. The senior running back turned the pass into a 36-yard gain and a Wildcat first and goal at the Bulldog 10 yard line. It took just two plays from there to punch it across the goal line.

The Cat defense again stopped Mount Vernon but hit a bump in the road and following a series of penalties found themselves punting from near their own goal line with just over 2:00 remaining in the half.

Kendrick took advantage. After escaping two near-sacks, Kendrick completed a 37-yard pass to wide receiver David Roetcisoender at the Wildcat 10-yard line and the Bulldogs had a first and goal. Tim Woodmansee muscled his way in for the score with 1:15 remaining in the half. Following an off-sides penalty against Oak Harbor that moved the ball inside the two-yard line, the Dawgs elected to go for two points with Woodmansee cutting the lead to 14-8.

Oak Harbor had a shot to add points. A pass interference penalty gave the Wildcats a first down at the Mount Vernon 19-yard line with four seconds remaining in the half. Asmus’ 38-yard field goal try on the final play of the half was wide right.

Bull stretched the lead to 22-8 with an 18-yard touchdown run on an end around play with 1:33 to play in the third quarter. The five-play scoring drive was set up by a Wildcat fumble recovery at the Mount Vernon 33 yard line. Serfling threw to Ward for the two-point conversion for the 14-point advantage.

Another Mount Vernon fumble set up the final score. Junior running back Nate Metcalf became the fourth Wildcat to reach pay dirt when he scored on a 19-yard run that iced the win.

“We thought we’d run Nate at them, give them a little different look and he broke off a nice run for the touchdown,” coach Dave Ward said.

The victory was payback for the loss the Bulldogs hung on the Cats last year at Memorial Stadium. Ward said, “It’s kind of a rivalry and we got beat last year by them on our home field.

“The guys were fired up,” Ward added. The extra fuel was the pre-season speculation. “They were picked to beat us pretty bad, so I think we had a lot of incentive. The kids really were ready.”

Blake Ward led the rushing-by-committee attack with 88 yards on 12 carries. Seven times Ward gained first-down yardage in third down situations.

“Blake gained some tough yards and took some big hits in those situations,” coach Ward said afterwards. The Wildcats gained 258 rushing yards.

Ward tipped his hat to the offensive line. “We had three juniors starting up front and they created some nice running lanes and held their blocks. Our backs did a good job of seeing the lanes and getting into them.”

Those who were expecting more passing by the Wildcats need not worry. “Lenny threw a couple of strikes that were on the money that their defensive backs broke up. Their coverage was very good all night,” Ward added. “We had success running the ball so we stayed with it. We do expect to throw it more though.”

Defensively the Wildcats held Mount Vernon to just 67 rushing yards and 149 yards of total offense. The plan going in was to keep Kendrick, a highly regarded college recruit, under wraps. “We were hoping we could put enough pressure on him to fluster him,” Ward said. “He’s so good at getting out of the pocket and making something happen. I was really proud of the defense. They were well prepared to keep Kendrick contained. That was kind of the key.”

“Chris Walker was so quick and was through the line before they could touch him,” Ward commented, adding “everyone is so worried about Chad Asmus and Chris really rose up to make some big plays. You wouldn’t know he was only 178 pounds.”

Ward’s squad took a brief time to celebrate before turning their attention to this week’s opponent, Lake Stevens. The Vikings were also one of the pre-season league favorites and another team that beat the Wildcats on their home turf last year.

“They are a very good football team,” Ward said. “They are not as experienced as last year but Lake Stevens just seems to plug in new kids and keep going. They have a very good program and we will have to play at a high level to compete with them.”

Game time Friday is 7:30 p.m. at Oak Harbor’s Memorial Stadium.

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