Season comes to end

SAMMAMISH — All week Oak Harbor heard hype about the state’s top-ranked 4A team, Skyline.

Friday night the Wildcats found out all the talk was well-deserved.

Behind a perfectly-executed spread offense, the undefeated Spartans cruised into the state semifinals with a 49-21 victory, spoiling Oak Harbor’s deepest run into the playoffs.

Asked afterwards if he’d ever seen any team with Skyline’s speed or efficiency, OHHS senior running back Gabe Vest stood shaking his head with a slight smile.

“I guess that’s why they’re ranked number one,” he said.

Skyline showed from the get-go not even the dense fog hovering over the Sammamish Plateau could slow its explosive no-huddle, shotgun offense.

On their first possession, the Spartans used a combination of runs and throws to orchestrate a 17-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. Quarterback Jason Harris, who passed for 242 yards and three TDs, eventually capped the long series off with a 1-yard TD plunge.

Despite trailing 6-0 with 4:32 to go in the first quarter, OHHS head coach Dave Ward wasn’t discouraged.

“We fought that first drive,” he said. “We really made them work, it was a seven-and-a-half minute drive before they scored.

I thought you know, if we can keep that up and then move the ball ourselves, we’ll be right in it.”

The OHHS offense answered its coaches’ call.

Starting at its own 20, Oak Harbor pushed the ball all the way to the Skyline 27 before coming up shy on a fourth-and-six pass from junior quarterback Marshall Lobbestael to senior Cameron Kays. The Wildcats moved the ball successfully against the tough Spartan defense by throwing on 4-of-8 plays and staying away from their usual run-oriented offense.

“We wanted to dip into the playbook and try and keep them off-balance,” Ward said.

After the turnover on downs, however, things went downhill for Oak Harbor.

Just three plays after getting the ball back, Harris connected with receiver Tony Chidiac for a 52-yard TD pass.

That opened the floodgates for the Spartans, who scored three more times before halftime, taking a 35-0 lead.

Skyline scored on a 6-yard run from Ryan Edwards and 24-yard pass from Harris to receiver Nick Cragin and a 32-yard punt return from 6-foot, 230 pound lineman Nick Rocco with 11 seconds left. The senior took a botched punt and surprised the Wildcats by fielding it and scampering to the end zone.

Oak Harbor moved the ball in the first half with nearly 150 yards of offense, but two interceptions halted scoring hopes. The Wildcats had three interceptions and one fumble for the game.

“We had some deflected interceptions that were unfortunate,” Ward said. “We were getting receivers open and were pounding through for some nice runs.”

After falling behind 42-0 at the start of the third quarter, OHHS finally got on the board when sophomore running back Chris Valencia broke through the line for a 59-yard TD with 1:17 left in the third. Valencia ended the game with 11 carries for 110 yards.

Vest, who rushed 12 times for 85 yards, tacked on a 2-yard TD run early in the fourth and Lobbestael hit sophomore Rodrick Rumble on a 31-yard TD pass to the pull the score to 42-21 with 7:05 remaining.

“We hung in there and came back a little bit,” Ward said. “I’m proud of them.”

Oak Harbor ended its season with a 10-2 overall record and advanced past the first round of the state tournament for the first time in school history.

“We broke a lot of records,” Vest said.

Hopes will remain high next year as the Wildcats return almost their entire offensive and defensive lines, along with Lobbestael and Valencia.

“It was a great season and I’d love to do it again next year and get a couple of games farther,” Ward said.

Skyline improved to 12-0 with Friday’s victory and will face Puyallup this weekend in the semifinals at the Tacoma Dome.

Oak Harbor’s WesCo North rival Cascade also advanced to the semifinals to face Woodinville. The 4A state championship game is 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3 and will be broadcast live on FSN.

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