Triple overtime. The weather. Those are the things the casual fan will most remember about Oak Harbor’s 13-7 win at Arlington Friday, Oct. 20. For the hardcore football fanatic, it was all about the defense.
The game was a battle for second place in the Wesco North, and with the win, the Wildcats, regardless of the outcome of their final regular-season game, locked up the No. 2 spot in the standings. Second place comes with the bonus of a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
Oak Harbor (4-1, 7-1) closes out its conference schedule with its homecoming game at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, against Marysville-Pilchuck (1-4, 2-6).
Arlington (3-2, 5-3), which has been ranked at times this fall, has lost three times this season, all to teams in the state’s top-10 polls. Among its wins is a 58-24 thrashing of Lake Stevens (7-1), a team that will play for the Wesco 4A title next weekend and is ranked 11th in the AP poll.
Oak Harbor 13, Arlington 7
Taeson Hardin scored from the 3-yard line on third down in the third overtime to seal the win for the Wildcats.
That ended a long evening of stellar play by both defenses.
Sure, the weather played a roll as well. With high winds and heavy rain, it appeared the clubs were playing inside a car wash. However, the storms raised by the Oak Harbor and Arlington defenses were more menacing, and the Wildcats brought the most thunder.
In regulation, the Eagles started drives at the Oak Harbor 13- and 27-yard lines and didn’t score. Arlington had first downs at the Wildcat 7-, 10- and 17-yard lines and didn’t score. In overtime, Arlington began at the Oak Harbor 25 twice and at the 10 once and didn’t score.
“Our defensive coordinator, Jim Coleman, called a great game,” coach Jay Turner said. “Guys were flying around all over the place making plays.”
Turner lauded the efforts of his defensive backs, a rotation of Andrew Miller, Mac Carr, TJ Hollins-Passmore, Kyle Nickols, Jordan Bell and the Hardin brothers, Taeson and Dorian.
“Andrew Miller was huge in the third overtime,” Turner said. “He had a great series.”
“We got a good pass rush from our ends (Mac Nuanez and Ozell Jackson),” he added. “(Tackle) Hunter Bos made big plays.”
Nuanez, Jackson and Bos all had sacks; Bos, Nickols and Dorian Hardin grabbed interceptions.
The Wildcats limited Arlington’s high-flying air attack to 18 completions and 235 yards in 42 attempts.
The Oak Harbor offense was hampered by poor field position all night, starting its first 10 drives at an average of its own 27-yard line.
Its final possession in regulation, however, started at the Arlington 23 when the Eagle punter couldn’t handle a snap. The Wildcats took over with 1:53 left in the game and a chance to break the 7-7 tie. Oak Harbor reached the 7-yard line, but a sack and interception ended the threat.
The interception, which was on the final play of regulation, almost turned out to be a blessing for Oak Harbor. The Arlington defensive back attempted to run the ball out of the end zone. As he was being tackled, he lateraled to a teammate, who fought his way to 2-yard line and avoided a safety that would have handed the Wildcats the game.
The first two overtime periods began at the 25-yard line.
Arlington was on offense first and reached the 13 before stalling. For Oak Harbor, a low snap threw off the timing of Eric Closson’s 36-yard field goal attempt and the kick came up short.
The Wildcats had the ball first in the second overtime, and an interception on fourth down ended the drive.
Pass breakups by Nickols, Dorian Hardin and Aaron Martinez stopped Arlington.
The third overtime possessions began at the 10.
Arlington quarterback Anthony Whitis threw two incompletions; the second stopped by a nice play by Miller. On third down, Bos and a group of Wildcats swarmed Whitis for a 14-yard sack. Dorian Hardin’s interception on fourth down ended the series.
Nuanez rushed twice to the 3-yard line, setting up Taeson Hardin’s game winning run.
Oak Harbor scored the game’s first touchdown just before halftime. The Wildcats, beginning at their own 38, drove deep into Arlington territory. On fourth-and-five, Bell completed a 19-yard pass to Hollins-Passmore at the Eagle 16. On the next play, Bell threw a lateral pass to wideout Nickols, who fired a TD strike to a wide open Hollins-Passmore. Closson kicked the PAT.
Midway through the third quarter, Arlington had its one breakthrough against the Oak Harbor defense. The Eagles went 77 yards in just six plays to even the game.
Nuanez was Oak Harbor’s leading rusher, bulling for 96 yards on 26 carries.
Bell finished 6-for-16 for 51 yards and four interceptions, three by Campbell Hudson. One of the picks came when his receiver fell down, and two came on plays (the final play of regulation and on fourth down in overtime) when he had to throw.
The game was the second straight week that Oak Harbor and Arlington played games decided on the final snap.
Arlington blocked a chip-shot field goal to beat Stanwood, and Oak Harbor failed on a two-point conversion in overtime in its 29-28 loss to Ferndale.
That overtime experience helped the Wildcats this time around, according to Turner.
“We were kind of used to it; understood how it worked,” he said. “It has been eight or 10 years since we played an overtime game, now we had them on back-to-back weeks.”
“In 22 years of coaching, I have never seen a game like this,” he added.
In regard to seeing his team hold Arlington, a club that came in averaging 35 points per game, scoreless in three overtime periods, Turner said, “You don’t see that very often.”
It was a day for the defense.