Wildcats hit Thunder Saturday night

Prior to Tuesday night’s WesCo playoff game against Kamiak, Oak Harbor Coach Dave Ward mentioned three things that had to happen for the Wildcats to win.

l Priority one was to stop Knight running back Derrick Bradley. Mission accomplished as the University of Washington-bound Bradley had just 44 yards rushing and was basically a non-factor.

l Priority two was to put pressure on junior quarterback Gary Rogers. Mission accomplished, Rogers was intercepted three times with two of those being returned for touchdowns.

l And priority three, do not let kick returner Whitney Wilson make big plays. Mission accomplished, Wilson too was a non-factor as Oak Harbor kicked away from him repeatedly.

Combined, those three factors added up to a 35-14 win over the top-seeded team from the WesCo South.

The Wildcats, the number 1 seed from District 1, advanced to the opening round of the state playoffs and will face Mountain View from Vancouver and the Greater Saint Helens League. Game time is 5 p.m. today at Goddard Stadium in Mukilteo.

Oak Harbor, unable to host the playoff game due to the failure of Memorial Stadium and its on-site facilities to meet the minimum standards required by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, will be the “home” team when they take the artificial turf once again at Goddard Stadium.

But Ward had pointed out prior to the Kamiak game that the Wildcats had always played well at Goddard and as the team prepared for Saturday’s game there was little talk about having to travel 70 miles to be the “home” team. Mountain View, 8-2 thus far, will be traveling much farther and the Wildcats have every intention of making the Thunder’s bus ride home a quiet and disappointing one.

The game plan for Oak Harbor, according to Ward, is to keep it simple. “We are not going to get too complicated and trick ourselves,” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “We want to just stay with what has been working.” And rightfully so, it has earned the Cats a 9-1 record thus far.

About the Thunder, the second seed from their league and a 26-23 winner over Puyallup on the road in their preliminary round game, Ward said the Cats will face a wide-open offensive game. “They go out of the shotgun and run a no-huddle offense with just one back most of the time. They have a very good quarterback with a strong arm. He’s not going to run a lot,” the coach said.

“They run a lot of timing routes. Our defensive guys are going to have to know their assignments and we will have to make sure we stay in our coverage. We will also need to get some pressure on their quarterback,” Ward added.

And the coach once again will have a team thought of as an underdog. Ward noted published comments made by a Mountain View player after their win over Puyallup: “We felt that this was one of the toughest teams we are going to play and told ourselves that if we beat this team, we might be on our way.”

Note to the Thunder: There’s a group of guys from this little town on Whidbey Island who take great offense to such talk.

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