Wildcats leap into top spot

The effort put forth during a one-point loss to Stanwood on Oct. 14 wasn’t a trend previously unbeaten Oak Harbor wanted to repeat.

So all week, in preparation for undefeated Arlington, the Wildcats’ focus remained on one thing: playing more aggressively.

“Last week we got our butts kicked so we worked on the sled all week and we really worked hard,” junior offensive lineman Will Hunter said. “We knew if we came out low and hard we could beat these guys.”

The Wildcat line did just that on Friday, shoving the Eagles around in a 42-26 victory that guaranteed no worse than a second place finish in the WesCo North and a state qualifying playoff game.

The gritty effort from the line wasn’t any more evident than at the 4:20 mark of the fourth quarter. After surrendering 15 unanswered points and holding a slim 28-26 lead, OHHS received the ball at the Arlington 47 yard line on a botched onside kick.

With momentum clearly in favor of the Eagles, it took just three running plays for the Oak Harbor line to turn that around, pushing the ball down the field and pushing the game out of reach for Arlington.

A 16-yard scamper from senior Cameron Kays, followed by a 21-yard run from sophomore Chris Valencia and a 10-yard touchdown run from senior Gabe Vest helped the Wildcats to a 35-26 lead.

“We talked during the week about being physical and getting after these guys and I think we won the physical part of the game,” OHHS head coach Dave Ward said.

Oak Harbor, which never trailed, generated 319 yards rushing from four different ball carriers.

Valencia led the team with 130 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns. Vest carried the ball 18 times for 119 yards and one TD, while Kays had 11 carries for 58 yards and a TD.

“The three of them really balanced the offense,” Ward said. “We just kept mixing it up.”

Senior Josh Yoder also carried three times for 12 yards and one TD.

Quarterback Marshall Lobbestael had an efficient performance, completing 7-for-14 passes for 81 yards.

While the Wildcats offense was in sync, the defense also did its job against an explosive Eagle squad.

Arlington quarterback Brett Smith was 25-for-35 on pass attempts for 300 yards, but the Wildcats kept him from hitting the big plays. Most of his completions were on quick slants or out routes that went for short yardage. Three of his missed passes were interceptions; one from junior Brendan Kays and two from Vest.

Vest’s second interception at the 2:30 mark of the fourth quarter closed any hopes for a Eagle comeback and set up the Wildcats’ final score.

“They had it on us all night,” Vest said of the slant. “It was just a matter of time.”

Arlington was without its leading rusher Jake Webb and Oak Harbor held backup Taylor Brown to 37 yards on eight carries. The Eagles only had 67 total yards rushing.

“The defense rallied,” Ward said. “They had some good stops down in our own territory and the kept believing in themselves.”

Oak Harbor improved to 6-1 in league and 7-1 overall with the win. The Wildcats are currently in sole possession of first place in the WesCo North with one game remaining. Arlington fell to 6-1 in league and 7-1 overall with the loss and trails OHHS because they lost head-to-head. An Oak Harbor win over Marysville this Friday, Oct. 28 or an Arlington loss to Cascade will seal the WesCo North championship for the Wildcats.

“This was big but we’ve got next week to finish it off,” Vest said.

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