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Wildcats battle M-P again for North title | Football
Seven games into the football season, Oak Harbor is heading down the identical path it traveled in 2012. This year, however, the Wildcats hope at the end of the journey they find a street sign that reads “Victory Lane.”
Like last fall, Oak Harbor sports a 6-1 record. Like last fall, the one loss came in a nonleague game to Lake Stevens.
Like last fall, Oak Harbor faces Marysville-Pilchuck in the final Wesco 3A North game. And, like last fall, the game will decide the divisional championship.
Last year’s game between Oak Harbor and Marysville-Pilchuck was considered a toss up. This year’s is not.
The Tomahawks came from behind in 2012 to win 47-39.
That was the beginning of a three-game losing streak that punctuated the Wildcats’ season.
Oak Harbor went on to fall to Meadowdale 22-14 in the cross-over game between the second-place teams from the two Wesco 3A divisions.
From there, Oak Harbor lost in the first round of the playoffs 36-12 to Peninsula.
Oak Harbor’s first chance to avoid the potholes of last fall’s journey begins at 7 p.m. Friday at Marysville’s Quil Ceda Stadium.
It won’t be easy. The Tomahawks are 7-0 and ranked third in the state 3A polls. Oak Harbor is unranked.
M-P outscores its opponents on an average 48-20; Oak Harbor, 37-16.
The scoring totals, more for and less against, would be more impressive if both teams didn’t take their foot off the gas pedal in blowouts. Marysville-Pilchuck, in particular, eased up in a number of wins.
For example, the Tomahawks blasted Everett 63-27 last Friday. They led 63-0 at halftime and their leading rusher, Austin Joyner, carried the ball only three times in the game.
Those three carries included scores of 49 and 48 yards.
Be assured, he will have far more than three totes in the Oak Harbor game.
The 5-10, 190-pound runner is one of the state’s, if not the nation’s, best juniors.
Last year against Oak Harbor, he rushed for 260 yards on 16 carries, five of which covered at least 25 yards.
He again leads the Western Conference in rushing with 985 yards on 62 carries. And, yes, that pencils out to 15.9 yards per carry.
The fact that he averages less than 10 carries a game shows the ease of the Tomahawks’ wins this year.
Oak Harbor coach Jay Turner said, “Joyner is a special player. No one has slowed him down all year.”
Unfortunately for Oak Harbor, M-P is more than a one-man team.
The Tommies are a run-first team but can throw when needed. QB Jake Luton, a first-team all-league player last fall, has completed 42 of 82 passes in the first six games this year for 735 yards.
Three other M-P backs, Killian Page, JJ Valencia and Deion Stell have each rushed for over 300 yards and together average nine yards a carry.
Oak Harbor will counter with its three-headed running attack of Sheyenne Sams, Julian Faralan and Dejon Devroe.
The trio ranks 2-4 behind Joyner in the Wesco North rushing totals even though Sams and Devroe each missed a game.
Sams leads the Wildcats with 821 yards (80 carries, 10.3 average), followed by Faralan at 686 (115, 5.97) and Devroe at 680 (76, 8.95).
Clay Doughty has completed 25 of 56 passes for 441 yards.
Ironically, Oak Harbor coach Turner is a graduate of Marysville-Pilchuck.
“That was so long ago,” Turner said, “the game isn’t much different than any other. The first few were special, but not so much anymore.”
He noted that going in as an underdog this year should make it less stressful for his team: “We can play a relaxed, fun football game.”
And, possibly, change the course the Wildcats followed last season.