Using an M.O. — a punishing running attack and a stingy defense — that brought it success all season, the Oak Harbor High School football team opened postseason play with a 21-3 win over Seattle Prep Saturday, Nov. 4, at Wildcat Memorial Stadium.
Oak Harbor’s reward for the win? A meeting at powerhouse Bellevue at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, in the first round of the state tournament.
Oak Harbor 21, Seattle Prep 3
The Wildcats methodically put away the Panthers. They scored on a two-yard run by Mac Nuanez in the first quarter and led 7-3 at halftime after Prep’s Adam Amuske connected on a 25-yard field goal in the second period that was set up by a trick play, pass off a fly sweep.
Oak Harbor scored again in the third quarter on a one-yard Aaron Martinez run, then finished the scoring in the fourth when Jordan Bell passed 13 yards to Andrew Miller.
Eric Closson kicked all three extra points.
The Wildcats pounded away at the midsection of Seattle Prep’s defense. Running inside, fullback Nuanez finished with 133 yards on 27 carries, and his backup, Martinez, added 75 yards on 16 rushes.
Bell was 3-for-8 for 37 yards and one interception.
In all, Oak Harbor amassed 363 yards.
Most of the yardage came in the second half, as the Wildcats struggled with penalties before the break.
“(Mike) Fisher and (Peter) Esvelt made some great halftime adjustments offensively,” coach Jay Turner said. “We came out in the third quarter and had an 80-year drive that chewed up almost six minutes of the third quarter.
“That really set the tone for the second half. Seattle Prep ran only four offensive plays in the third quarter.”
The Panthers never threatened in the second half.
Oak Harbor limited the Panthers to only 144 yards (just 14 rushing). Sixty-nine yards came on two receptions.
Turner lauded the defensive line (Hunter Bos, Michael Fisken, Ozell Jackson and Nuanez), which controlled the game up front all night.
Linebacker Martinez recorded 14 tackles, including multiple for losses.
Miller and Isaac Gomez snared interceptions, and Fisken and Bos recorded sacks.
“I was really happy with our overall performance,” Turner said. “The kids played really well.”
“Bellevue is a normal Bellevue team — lots of speed, size and athletes,” Turner said. “They have not had many close games this year.”
Nor have they had many close games this century.
Bellevue is the premier football program in Washington state, winning 11 3A state titles and finishing second twice since 2001. However, the Wolverines had to vacate two of the crowns and one runner-up finish because of various rule violations of Washington Interscholastic Activities Association standards.
Bellevue was originally banned from postseason play for four years last season but appealed the ruling and had the penalty trimmed to two years. This season, they appealed again, arguing it wasn’t right to punish current athletes for the missteps of past coaches and players. The WIAA and the Kingco Conference agreed and cut the ban to one year (last season), and that opened the door for the Wolverines to qualify for the state tournament in 2017.
The Wolverines, who beat Hudson’s Bay 51-20 Friday in the first round of the playoffs, won the Kingco title this season and own a 9-1 record. The only loss was a 24-21 setback in the season opener to Richland, which is 10-0 and ranked second in last week’s 4A state poll. Among Bellevue’s wins this season is a 35-21 victory over the state’s top-ranked 2A team, Archbishop Murphy.
The Wolverines score an average of 38.5 points per game while giving up 12.7. Oak Harbor’s numbers are 31.5 and 12.9.
Oak Harbor is a run-first team, and Bellevue has the same philosophy, even more so.
The Wolverines have attempted only 41 passes this year, completing 21 for 384 yards.
Isaiah Ifanse leads the ground game with 1,881 yards and 33 touchdowns on 183 carries, a 10.3 yard average.
In the win over Hudson’s Bay, Ifanse rushed for 240 yards and six touchdowns on 15 carries, all in the first half.
As a team, the Wolverines have run for 3,285 yards this year, gaining 8.1 yards per carry.
Oak Harbor has rushed for 2,968 yards (5.6 yards per carry) this season. Nuanez is the top rusher, gaining 1,103 yards on 219 carries.
Quarterback Bell completed 62 of 117 passes for 840 yards.