Cats overcome obstacles

Oak Harbor football team capped off a week full of distractions with an impressive 40-6 victory over Mount Vernon Friday night.

“I was happy with our performance,” head coach Dave Ward said. “I felt like we stayed focused after a crazy week of trying to figure out where we were going to end up.”

Aside from concerns of whether Mount Vernon would be healthy enough to play after a viral meningitis outbreak hit their team in late August, the Wildcats received a new worry on Tuesday, regarding their home field. Oak Harbor Superintendent of Schools Rick Schulte announced that Memorial Stadium would be closed to football games until further notice, due to safety issues regarding the bleachers. The announcement left the Cats in limbo as to where they would play their first home game of 2003. As of Thursday morning the contest was supposed to take place at Anacortes High School, but last minute concerns by AHS officials left the Cats scrambling. Coupeville, who had always been an option, agreed to let Oak Harbor play on their field Friday night.

“I really appreciate Coupeville for putting us up tonight and being so friendly and hospitable,” Ward said. “We owe them one.”

With the way the Wildcats played Friday, they made a statement that it just might not matter whose field they play on.

“I don’t care where we play,” senior Nate Metcalf said. “You put someone in front of us and we’re going to play our hearts out.”

From the get-go, Oak Harbor showed their focus was on the game above all else. The Cats’ defense halted the first Bulldog drive, forcing them to turn it over on downs. Taking the ball over on their own 28-yard line, it took only moments for Oak Harbor to grab the lead. On the first play from scrimmage senior running back Adam Diaz fended off tacklers for a 53-yard scamper down the right side of the field. On the ensuing play, senior fullback Blake Ward took the handoff, breaking through the Bulldog defense for the 19-yard score.

“We were quick early,” coach Ward said. “We hit the holes and exploded, the line was low and we fired out.”

After Oak Harbor established success early with the run, Mount Vernon made adjustments, forcing the Cats to throw.

“The run was there,” Ward said. “When Mount Vernon brought everybody up to the front we had to have an answer for that.”

Senior quarterback John Lobbestael and the tight end, Metcalf, found that answer for Oak Harbor. The two connected two more touchdowns in the second quarter of 14 and 17-yards, pushing the halftime score to 20-0.

“They were blitzing their backers and that left me open, so I was there and John saw me,” Metcalf said.

Lobbestael and Metcalf hooked up for one more score of 40-yards in the fourth quarter.

“He breaks so many tackles,” Lobbestael said of Metcalf. “You’ve just got to get him the ball and he’ll make something big out of it.”

Blake Ward had one more rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter from 1-yard out and Ryan McCormick caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Lobbestael to round out the scoring.

Lobbestael finished the game 7-for-16 on his attempts, throwing for 120-yards, four touchdowns and most importantly no interceptions. He would have had a fifth touchdown pass, but his 24-yard strike to senior wide receiver Jeremy Brown in the front corner of the end zone was taken back after a questionable offensive pass interference call.

“John’s just going to get better and better,” Ward said.

Diaz led all rushers with 74-yards on five carries, while Blake Ward had 43-yards on 12 caries to go with his two touchdowns.

Oak Harbor’s defense was strong all game long, minus one play in the third quarter when Tyson Medeiros snuck behind the Wildcat secondary, taking the Riley Jungquist pass 44-yards for the Bulldogs’ lone score.

“It was just a nice play by Mount Vernon,” Ward said.

The Cats held the Bulldogs to only 37-yards rushing, while sacking Jungquist four times.

“The front eight have done a good job shutting down the run,” Ward said.

Senior safety Joe Careras led the Cats in tackles for the second week in a row with 11. Senior Kyle Issacson had six unassisted tackles, while Chris Raimundi got two sacks for Oak Harbor. Diaz and Junior Dan Raymond had interceptions for the Cats. Raymond picked off a pass, going 57-yards for a potential touchdown, which was called back on a penalty. He also had a key blocked punt in the third quarter that put the ball on the Mount Vernon 9-yard line and eventually led to an Oak Harbor score.

The Wildcats improved to 2-0 overall with the win and are 1-0 in league.

There is no question where their next game will be, as the team travels to Lake Stevens for the first time ever this Friday, Sept. 19. It will be a rather important early season matchup as the Vikings, who are also 2-0, are picked by many to finish in the top three of the WesCo North along with Snohomish and Oak Harbor.

“We’re pumped up for that game,” Lobbestael said.

The action kicks off at 7 p.m.

A decision is yet to be reached on what will happen for the next scheduled home game for Oak Harbor at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 26 against Arlington.

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