July 3, 2008 · Updated 7:23 PM
MARYSVILLE Prior to the start of the season Western Conference North coaches picked them to finish fourth in league and gave them zero first place votes.
So-called regional high school football experts wrote them off in an equal lack of respect.
The Oak Harbor football team proved all the preseason talk was cheap on Friday as they clinched the league title on the road, downing Marysville-Pilchuck 28-3, finishing their regular season at 8-1 overall.
At the beginning of the year everybody was like oh maybe Oak Harbor will make .500, maybe this, maybe that, junior quarterback Marshall Lobbestael said after the win. We look at it on paper and were league champs right now, were going to the playoffs strong.
With its championship, Oak Harbor earned a number one seed and first round state-qualifying game against the number three seed from the South Puget Sound League South, Spanaway Lake (6-3), at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5 at Mount Vernon High School.
Despite Fridays convincing final score, Oak Harbors path to the league title started rough.
The Wildcats got a touchdown called back because of a hold, turned the ball over on a fumble and briefly lost Lobbestael to a leg injury all on their first possession.
That one play that Marshall got hit, that slowed our momentum a little, OHHS head coach Dave Ward said.
With backup quarterback Johnny Encinas at the helm for the next two possessions, the Wildcats got on the scoreboard at the 3:12 mark of the first quarter.
Starting at the Tomahawk 40, OHHS pushed the ball down field on four running plays, before senior running back Josh Yoder broke a 10-yard run into the end zone. The play redeemed a touchdown run he got called back on a hold earlier in the quarter.
Marysville countered on its next series, capping off a 12-play drive with a 22-yard field goal from Kaleb Kuehn.
Carrying a small 7-3 advantage into the locker room, a reenergized OHHS was quick to turn things around in the second half.
Coach (Jay) Turner fired up the defense and that got everybody focused, Ward said of an inspired halftime talk.
The Wildcat defense held the Tomahawks to just seven yards in the third quarter.
On the other side, Oak Harbors offense pounced on Marysville. Senior Cameron Kays scored on a 21-yard touchdown run and followed with a 10-yard touchdown catch from Lobbestael for a 21-3 lead.
Hes a play-maker, Lobbestael said of Kays. All the seniors, theyre giving their all, theyre having such a good year.
The Wildcats tacked on one more insurance score at the 6:18 mark of the fourth quarter when sophomore running back Chris Valencia broke a 36-yard run up the middle for a touchdown.
Behind an impressive performance from the offensive line, Oak Harbor generated 311 yards on the ground. Senior Gabe Vest led the way with 126 and Valencia with 106.
Because of his early injury Lobbestael was held to a minimum on his pass attempts, completing just 1-of-4. He said afterwards that his leg is sore, but should be fine for this weekends playoff game.
It feels good, he said. I got taped and the trainer said nothings wrong with it, so I feel good.
Oak Harbor officially shares the 2005 WesCo North title with Arlington, but because they won the head-to-head matchup with the Eagles, OHHS earned the number one seed.
With the win Oak Harbor also stepped into the state rankings for the first time this season, placed at number nine in 4A by WashingtonPreps.com.
We just proved a lot of people outside Oak Harbor wrong, Cameron Kays said.