Oak Harbor loses another close one

Something had to give Friday night.

Two football teams anticipated to vie for the WesCo North title, Oak Harbor and Snohomish, were both unexpectedly winless heading into the third week of the season.

The victor would gain momentum and a valid shot of obtaining the league crown, the loser, at 0-3, would have no room for error the remainder of the season.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, mistakes and big plays that led to two one-point losses in their first two contests, haunted them again in a 41-33 home defeat to the Panthers.

“It was just a heartbreaker,” Oak Harbor senior wide receiver/defensive back James Blunk said. “I thought we were in it the whole game and I knew it was going to come down to the last couple of minutes — it just didn’t go our way again.”

A touchdown and two-point conversion away from knotting the score, and 5:17 to play in the game, Oak Harbor received two possessions to get the tie. Both drives failed, however, as the Cats’ offense stalled and turned the ball over on downs.

The game wasn’t necessarily lost in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Five Wildcat turnovers and two big plays prior to the waning minutes proved the most costly.

“As soon as we stop shooting ourselves in the foot we’re going to have a pretty good team,” OHHS head coach Dave Ward said.

With Oak Harbor up 6-0 in the first quarter, Panthers’ quarterback Nick Caraballo hit wide receiver Nate Van Duine on a slant route to the middle of the field. Van Duine broke free of tacklers and went 72 yards for a touchdown and the tie at the 9:59 mark.

Van Duine was part of another crucial play with 2:29 remaining in the first quarter. After an Oak Harbor score, he returned the Oak Harbor kickoff up the middle of the field 89 yards for a touchdown and a 21-13 advantage.

Three fumbles and two interceptions also didn’t help the Cats’ cause.

“We’re young and making mistakes,” Ward said.

The Wildcats, however, did look sharp at times. In particular the play of quarterback Marshall Lobbestael.

The sophomore was 16-of-26 on his pass attempts for 255 yards, three touchdowns throwing and one rushing.

“He was real impressive,” Ward said. “He’s going to break some records before he is done here.”

Lobbestael, also a defensive back, got things going in the first quarter, picking off a Caraballo pass and returning it 25 yards to the Snohomish 26-yard line. On the next play, he hit Blunk in stride down the left sideline for the touchdown the first lead of the game.

Down 15-6, Lobbestael hooked up with running back Dan Raymond on a screen pass. Breaking five tackles, a determined Raymond went 70 yards for the TD.

Raymond scored his second touchdown with 11:25 to go in the second quarter on a 1-yard run. A two-point conversion by running back Gabe Vest tied the game, 21-21. Lobbestael gave the Cats a 27-21 lead at the 6:51 mark of the second quarter on a 10-yard scramble around the left side of the line.

Snohomish kept the pressure on, snagging a 28-27 lead before half time on a perfectly placed lob pass from Caraballo to Van Duine.

Oak Harbor gathered its final lead of the game with 40 seconds left in the third quarter on a 5-yard pass from Lobbestael to Sean O’Brien.

On their first two possessions of the fourth quarter, the Panthers sustained long effective drives, resulting in touchdown passes from Caraballo to Taylor Cochran and yet another to Van Duine.

“We didn’t play as tight and compete for the ball as much as we should have,” Ward said. “We started taking away the fade pass and then the slants started working for them.”

The 6-foot-4 Van Duine ended the game with six catches for 131 yards and four touchdowns. Caraballo had 289 yards passing for four touchdowns.

Senior linebacker Dallas Sullivan led Oak Harbor in tackles with 14.

Now 0-2 in league and 0-3 overall, the Wildcats prepare to travel to Monroe (0-3) this Friday.

Ward knows there is little room for error if the team hopes to return to the district playoffs for a third straight season.

“We’ve just got to start with this game and learn how to win,” he said. “We have to develop a real desire to put people away.

We keep making plays and getting on top of people, but we keep letting them back in.”

Oak Harbor has its next home game at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 1 against Lake Stevens.

Snohomish 41, Oak Harbor 33

Snohomish 21 7 0 13—41

Oak Harbor 13 14 6 0—33

Scoring—OH: Blunk 32 yard pass from Lobbestael (run failed); S: Van Duine 72 yard pass from Caraballo (kick failed); S: 1 yard run Fortin (run failed); S: Younggren 32 yard kick; OH: Raymond 70 yard pass from Lobbestael (O’Brien kick); S: Van Duine 89 kick return (kick failed); OH: Raymond 1 yard run (Vest run); OH: Lobbestael 10 yard run (kick failed); S: Van Duine 15 yard pass (Younggren kick) OH: O’Brien 5 yard pass from Lobbestael (pass failed); S: Cochran 5 yard pass from Caraballo (run failed); S: Van Duine 15 yard pass from Caraballo (Younggren kick).

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