Big plays beat Wildcats

BELLINGHAM — The look of disbelief on Oak Harbor junior running back Gabe Vest’s face spoke volumes after Friday night’s 28-27 loss to non-league Sehome.

Afterall, when a team rushes for 366 yards and possesses the football 32 of a possible 48 minutes, they don’t often wind up the loser.

“We just didn’t get it all together,” said a disappointed Vest, walking off the Civic Field turf.

Contrary to Oak Harbor’s consistent offense, the Mariners used big plays to take the victory.

On the first snap of the game, Sehome senior Tim Grimes broke free for a 76 yard touchdown run off left guard. After avoiding one tackle at the line of scrimmage, the 220 pound fullback lumbered untouched to the end zone.

“Tackling is something you get better at week to week,” Oak Harbor head coach Dave Ward said. “So we’ll improve our tackling, we’ll work real hard on it.”

Oak Harbor responded to the Mariner quick strike by sustaining a long drive that ended on a nine-yard touchdown run from Vest with 6:03 to go in the first quarter. Vest, who rushed for 163 yards on 17 carries, scored on another nine yard touchdown scamper with 16 seconds to go in the first and gave Oak Harbor its first lead of the game, 13-7.

“He’s such a strong kid and he’s got a great burst,” Ward said of Vest, who received his first ever varsity start at tailback.

One minute after the Wildcats took the lead, Sehome answered with yet another quick score. On a third and three, Mariner quarterback TJ Swedelius snuck through the line on a quarterback keeper, breaking free for a 59 yard touchdown. The PAT gave Sehome a 14-13 lead with 11:11 left in the first half.

Oak Harbor had a response to the quick score, using its strong running game. Senior fullback Dan Raymond, who rushed for 123 yards on 20 carries, was a big part of the next drive, scampering for a 19 yard run that nearly turned into a long touchdown. Freshman Chris Valencia eventually capped the drive off, scoring his first ever high school touchdown from six yards out on a sweep to the right side.

Quarterback and holder James Blunk faked the PAT kick and rumbled across the goal line for a two point conversion and a 21-14 lead with 7:09 to go in the first half.

“Our drives were just real consistent,” Ward said. “I was just real pleased with that.”

Sehome finally sustained a long drive of its on the following possession, driving 12 plays and eventually scoring on a 13 yard TD pass from Swedelius to wide receiver Nate Weaver.

With the game tied, 21-21 and 1:37 to go in the half, Blunk attempted his first pass of the game on a first down play action play from the Oak Harbor 15 yard line. Unfortunately for Blunk, the ball sailed right into the hands of defensive end Ryan Olsen, who returned it 21 yards to the end zone and a 28-21 lead at the half.

After battling to a scoreless third quarter, Oak Harbor inched closer with 9:35 to go in the game, scoring on a four yard bootleg to the left side from Blunk. The PAT from sophomore Edmundo Corrales missed just left, his second missed PAT of the game.

The Wildcats had a chance to drive and win the game, but on a fourth and six from the Sehome 24 yard line and three minutes to go, Blunk was stuffed on the same bootleg play that went for the touchdown earlier.

“I guess you go to the well too many times,” Ward said. “But you want to go to your best play and your best athlete.”

Sehome took over on downs and ran the clock out for the win.

Defensively, John Umayuam led Oak Harbor with 10 tackles, Cameron Kays had seven and Matt Johnston had two for loss.

Despite the tough loss, Ward was happy with what he saw from what is generally a young team.

“If we don’t make the mistakes we win by a touchdown probably and feel a lot better about it,” he said.

Oak Harbor gets its first shot at a league opponent at 8 p.m., this Friday, Sept. 10 at Everett Memorial Stadium against Cascade (0-1).

Ward expects the Bruins, who lost a close game, 13-7, at Marysville-Pilchuck last Friday to be stronger than they were last season.

“They’ve got a couple of fast junior running backs,” he said. “They try to get to the outside and out-run you, so we’re going to have to be disciplined and stay home on defense.”

Oak Harbor has its first home game of the year at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 17 against the Snohomish Panthers.

Sehome 28, Oak Harbor 27

Oak Harbor 13 8 0 6—27

Sehome 7 21 0 0—28

Sehome—Grimes 76 yard run (Sullivan kick);Oak Harbor—Vest 9 yard run (Corrales kick); OH—Vest 9 yard run (kick failed); SH—Swedelius 59 yard run (Sullivan kick); OH—Valencia 6 yard run (Blunk 2 yard run good); SH—Olsen 21 yard INT return (Sullivan kick); OH—Blunk 4 yard run (kick failed).

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