Is the glass half full or is it half empty? Your perspective on life will determine your take on Ferndale’s 29-28 overtime win over the Oak Harbor High School football team Friday, Oct. 13, at Wildcat Memorial Stadium.
Was it a game of offensive failures or one of outstanding defense? Take your pick. Either way, it was a thriller. In reality, it featured big plays on both sides of the ball.
Oak Harbor was unable to convert on a two-point try after its overtime touchdown, and Ferndale escaped with the Wesco win.
The game featured two of the best 3A teams in the state. Both came in with 6-0 records and ranked – the Golden Eagles second and the Wildcats eighth – in the Associated Press state poll. Ferndale left with the win and can clinch the Wesco North title with a victory next Friday.
For Oak Harbor, the game was ripe for a Hollywood ending. But, alas, the Wildcats couldn’t get the girl.
The Golden Eagles scored with 1:42 left in the game to go up 22-14.
The Wildcats came right back. A 43-yard pass play from Jordan Bell to Kyle Nickols, with a personal foul penalty tacked on the end, gave the Wildcats the ball at the Ferndale 8-yard line. Three plays later Mac Nuanez scored from the 1 with 34 seconds remaining. On the conversion, Bell was hit by a blitzing Ferndale linebacker but managed to get his pass off while falling down, threading a shot to Nickols for the two points that tied the game.
After the kickoff and with less than 28 seconds to work with, Ferndale managed to get to the Oak Harbor 20, but Isaac Gomez’s sack ended the Golden Eagle threat.
Ferndale had first possession in overtime and scored in seven plays, overcoming a fourth-down play along with way.
Oak Harbor answered. A 14-yard run by Andrew Miller set up TJ Hollins-Passmore’s 5-yard TD run, then Wildcat coach Jay Turner elected to go for two and the win.
“We had the No. 2 team in the state and a chance to win the game on one play,” Turner said. “We’re going to roll the dice there. We’re going to try for the win. There was not even a consideration of kicking.”
Bell’s fade pass just eluded Nickols, and the Wildcats’ hope for an upset fell to the ground with the ball.
Though it didn’t go Bell’s way on the final play, the senior quarterback’s efforts carried the Wildcats to that point.
Ferndale’s rugged defense stymied Oak Harbor’s running attack. The Wildcats came into the game averaging 367 rushing yards per game, and they managed only 122 on 42 carries against the Golden Eagles.
With tough sledding on the ground, Oak Harbor turned to Bell, who finished with career highs in completions (14), attempts (26) and yards (271), all with no interceptions.
Hollins-Passmore caught four passes for 153 yards, and Nickols collected seven for 101.
The first half was an offensive mess – or a defensive masterpiece.
Ferndale had five turnovers (three fumbles and two interceptions, both by Dorian Hardin), but Oak Harbor was able to score only once off those mistakes. The Golden Eagles also started four drives in Wildcat territory but came away with nothing.
Oak Harbor had its own offensive (and special team) woes before the break. The Wildcats allowed Ferndale to recover a pooch kick on the opening kickoff, missed a PAT kick, mishandled a punt snap that gave the Golden Eagles the ball at the Oak Harbor 25, failed to convert on second-and-one and suffered a safety.
The Wildcats were also the victim of a bad call. Oak Harbor appeared to have scored a touchdown on a fourth-down play in the second quarter, but the receiver was ruled out of bounds. Replays revealed he had both feet in, and one is all you need in high school. Ferndale then drove 78 yards for its first touchdown.
Ferndale started the game with a pooch kick it recovered at the Oak Harbor 45. Hardin stopped the drive with an interception, then Bell connected on a 72-yard pass with Hollins-Passmore to set up a 1-yard Nuanez touchdown. Eric Closson’s PAT was wide right.
Ferndale’s next possession ended with a punt that rolled to inside the Wildcat 1. On third down, Bell was sacked for a safety.
Ferndale took a 9-6 lead with the long march after the blown call against Oak Harbor in the end zone.
The Wildcats responded with a 57-yard touchdown pass from Bell to Hollins-Passmore. Bell passed to Nickols for the extra points to make it 14-9.
Oak Harbor later drove to the Ferndale 14 but turned the ball over on downs.
The Wildcats suffered a blow on their first possession of the second half when two-way back Taeson Hardin left with an ankle injury. Hardin is Oak Harbor’s home run threat, averaging more than 10 yards per carry this season. Later in the possession, a holding penalty wiped out a first down and the Wildcats had to punt. Ferndale returned the boot to the Oak Harbor 44 and drove in for the go-ahead touchdown. A two-point pass failed, and the Golden Eagles led 15-14.
A five-minute, fourth-quarter drive by Oak Harbor went 57 yards but stalled at the Ferndale 28. From there, the Golden Eagles marched in to widen their lead, 22-14, setting up the dramatic finish.
Oak Harbor finished with 393 yards of total offense to the Golden Eagles’ 348.
Nuanez rushed for 66 yards on 22 carries, to lead the Wildcat ball carriers.
Ferndale’s Cole Semu, who came into the game averaging 130 yards per game and 9.4 yards per carry, finished with 111 yards on 21 runs, a 5.3 average. Jacob Broselle had 104 yard on 13 carries. James Hinson completed six of 10 passes for 97 yards and had two interceptions.
Dorian Hardin paced the Wildcat defense with the two picks, Gomez recorded a sack and Nuanez had a strip sack that resulted in a Michael Fisken fumble recovery.
Turner was pleased with his team’s performance: “The kids really laid it out there; I couldn’t be more proud on how we competed.
“When Tae went down, we could have thrown in the towel, but the kids played hard.”
Turner noted that his club is battling injuries and will need to get healthy for its game at Arlington at 7 p.m. Friday. Besides Taeson Hardin’s injury, Oak Harbor’s other two running backs, Nuanez and Hollins-Passmore, missed snaps after being shaken up, and Mac Carr, a standout defensive back, didn’t play because of an injury in practice earlier in the week. Gomez and others are playing but hampered by injuries.
Arlington is 5-2 this season, and its only two losses were to second-ranked Ferndale and the state’s seventh-ranked 4A team, Graham-Kapowsin.
“Arlington is good,” Turner said. “The toughest part about tonight is coming back, being ready to play next week. But we will be back at it at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, getting ready.”