Wildcats take on Bethel tonight

A three-and-a-half hour road trip isn’t the ideal reward for placing second in the WesCo North, but the Oak Harbor football team will gladly take the ride.

The Wildcats (6-2, 6-3) are set to participate in a preliminary playoff game at 7 p.m. tonight, Nov. 6 against Bethel (8-1) at Art Crate Stadium in Spanaway. The winner moves on to the state tournament to face either Bothell or Capital next weekend, the loser is finished for the season.

Tonight’s game marks the third straight year Oak Harbor is involved in post-season play, but things are slightly different this time around.

Due to a new format developed by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, teams from WesCo, KingCo, South Puget Sound, Narrows and the Great St. Helen leagues combine for 12 preliminary round games. Winners of each of these contests earn berths to the state tournament. In past years WesCo North and South teams would have matched up in district tournament action to earn a state berth.

Oak Harbor’s first round opponent Bethel will be no easy foe. The Braves are currently ranked ninth in the state’s latest Associated Press poll and boast one of the best wide receiver-quarterback combinations in the state in Jamil Turner and Chuck Houge.

Turner, a 6-foot-2 receiver, has 57 catches for 1,163 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“He’s a big time player,” OHHS head coach Dave Ward said. “We’re definitely game-planning around him.”

Houge, a senior quarterback, also has had an impressive season, completing 106 of 199 passes for roughly 1,800 yards and 23 touchdowns.

“He can either throw or run,” Ward said., comparing him to league opponent and Arlington quarterback Kenny Gunter. “We’re going to try and keep him in the pocket, while keeping our d-ends coming hard from the outside.”

Although they like to pass, Ward knows Bethel can also run with success.

“They’re not just a one-dimensional team,” he said. “They play solid up front and can run the ball pretty well.”

Bethel is not unbeatable, however. The Braves suffered a 30-7 loss to Puyallup and haven’t defeated any ranked teams this season.

In order to counter the long road trip, Oak Harbor will leave around noon and stop midway to eat and stretch.

“It’s a little longer than we’re used to, but with stopping in the middle we hope to not make it feel as long,” Ward said.

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