Wildcats eye playoffs again

Expectations continue to grow for the Oak Harbor football team and for good reason.

For the last three seasons the Wildcats have advanced to post season play. Two of those trips were to the first round of the state tournament in 2002 and 2003 and the last was a district playoff loss to Bethel that left them just shy of another trip to state.

“We sure like to get to the post season,” OHHS coach Dave Ward said. “The players think it’s a good habit to continue and expectations are there again.”

With the group of returners and young players coming in another trip to the playoffs is a very realistic possibility for the Oak Harbor team that finished 6-2 in the Western Conference North and 6-4 overall.

Most notably the Wildcats bring back their starting quarterback, junior Marshall Lobbestael.

As a sophomore the 6-foot-2 slinger showed laser-point accuracy and a strong arm to go with it.

Ward thinks that a new dimension of his game will make Lobbestael even more impressive this season.

“He makes good decisions back there,” Ward said. “He’s showed that he can pick up valuable yards running the ball too.”

As usual in the Wing-T offense, the Wildcats have a vast amount of players who can run the ball.

Leading the way is senior tailback Gabe Vest, who scored three touchdowns in the Wildcats’ season opening game with Sehome.

“He seems to have a little more speed this year,” Ward said.

Other running backs anticipated to carry the ball several times are senior Sean O’Brien, senior Josh Yoder and sophomore Chris Valencia. Senior Cameron Kays and sophomore Rodrick Rumble will also get their share of carries from the wing back position.

“We’re going to need that running game this year so teams don’t try and load up on Marshall and take away the pass,” Ward said.

Receiver Cameron Kays and tight end Brian Wandell are the most experienced targets when Lobbestael does pass the ball. The Wildcats also have new varsity receivers Brendan Kays and Rodrick Rumble who should also make an impact.

“They’re all about 6-foot-2 and can run and jump a little bit,” Ward said.

The line is fairly inexperienced at the varsity level, but there are some returners coming back and they bring size.

Six-foot-four, 270-pound junior Will Hunter is the largest, followed by 5-foot-9, 220 lb Edmundo Corrales and 5-foot-10, 200 lb Matt Johnston. The rest of the line will be filled with smaller players with less varsity experience, including Jake Ford and Marcus Naymik.

“We’re not throwing a lot of weight around,” Ward said. “We have to be pretty quick.”

Defensively, Oak Harbor has an experienced core of players at linebacker, including Blake Bebee, Valencia, Vest, O’Brien, Yoder and Johnston.

There is only one returner in the secondary with Cameron Kays, but Ward feels good about the younger players, Brendan Kays, Jeff Lamont and Deante Lawson, who are stepping in.

On special teams the Wildcats appear to have shored up their kicking game with senior, first-timer Keith Lokkins. The soccer player stepped in during the first game and hit a perfect 4-for-4 on extra points and had two touchbacks on kickoffs — something Ward hasn’t seen in quite a while.

Ward expects the WesCo North to be tough as always with Arlington the team to beat.

“I think they had the most returning speed, it’s just a question of how well there line is,” he said.

As usual Cascade, Snohomish and Marysville-Pilchuck will also be tough.

“Every week’s going to be close,” Ward said.

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