That, Wildcat fans, is a forward pass.
New Oak Harbor High School football coach Marcus Hughes introduced a new offensive scheme this fall, and the new-look Wildcats opened the new season with a 29-14 win over visiting Seaquam Secondary School from Delta, B.C., Friday, Sept. 6.
Over the past two decades, previous Oak Harbor coaches Dave Ward and Jay Turner generally used the run-centric double wing as their primary offense. As a result, passing attempts per game rarely reach double-digits.
In Friday’s win, Oak Harbor often operated out of the no-huddle spread, and a pair of quarterbacks attempted 20 passes. Starter Cameron Asinsin competed 8-of-15 throws for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
Hughes also went old school, running out of a two tight end, full-T backfield for several series, and the Wildcats gashed Seaquam win a stout running attack.
The road to victory, however, wasn’t without pot holes. The Wildcats committed four turnovers, but thanks to a stingy defense, Oak Harbor limited the damage from the miscues.
Oak Harbor also suffered several injuries to key players. Caden Leckelt, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last year, injured an ankle on his first carry of the second half and didn’t return. Before his exit, he gained 141 yards on 17 carries in just over two quarters of work. His backup, Jake Mitten, added 107 yards on 13 carries before leaving with cramps.
Asinsin also missed some time after taking a hard hit while attempting a pass.
Oak Harbor turned the ball over on its first two series, throwing an interception and coughing up a fumble on back-to-back offensive plays. The second mistake gave the Seahawks the ball on the Wildcats’ 13-yard line. Seaquam scored two plays later to go up 7-0.
Oak Harbor responded with 29 straight points, starting with an 80-yard scoring drive. After seven rushes covered 53 yards, Asinsin hit tight end Nolan Byng with a 27-yard TD toss. The Seahawks got a hand on the PAT kick to hold a 7-6 lead.
The Wildcats put together another 80-yard drive that bridged the first and second quarters. All of the yardage came on the ground, including a 23-yard run by Leckelt that set up Asinsin’s 2-yard sneak for the score. Asinsin also ran in for the two-point conversion to make it 14-7.
A fumble thwarted the next Oak Harbor drive, as the Seahawks recovered at the 2-yard line. The Wildcats, however, recorded a safety two plays later as Gabriel Daggett led a swarm of tacklers to collect the two points, and Oak Harbor led 16-7 at the break.
Midway through the third quarter, Brenden Andersen’s interception gave Oak Harbor the ball at the Seaquam 20. Asinsin and Byng connected for another touchdown; this one covered seven yards as the 220-pound Byng bulled into the end zone for the score. Matt Kelley kicked the point after.
Midway the third quarter, Oak Harbor finished its scoring. A 63-yard drive was aided by a face mask penalty and Mitten’s 33-yard run. Mitten eventually took it in from the 5.
While the Oak Harbor offense was doing its thing, the Wildcat defense was “awesome,” according to Hughes.
The Seahawks finished with 233 yards, with nearly 100 of that coming in their final two drives as Oak Harbor sprinkled in reserves. Seaquam ran for 121 yards on 31 carries, and 65 of those yards came on two attempts late in the game. QB James Mather hit 11-of-33 passes for 112 yards; Andersen and Dominic Dean intercepted two of those passes.
Hughes knew the game “had the chance to be sloppy” with the combination of new schemes, a bushel of young players and first-game jitters.
“A lot of the mistakes were self-inflicted,” he said. “We are going to have growing pains, but, overall, I am excited with how we played. We played a lot of new guys; there were a lot of nerves.”
In addition to praising his defense, he said “the O line did a nice job of run blocking.”
Next up is the Wesco North opener at Marysville-Pilchuck at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13.