No longer a fill-in, Mac Nuanez was the star of the show Friday, Sept. 1, in Oak Harbor High School’s opening football production of 2017.
The Wildcats crushed host Mariner 34-12 at Goddard Stadium.
Nuanez, a stand-in at fullback for Princeton Lollar the past two years, dominated the spotlight Friday by rushing for 163 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries.
Lollar, a 240-pound battering ram, holds Oak Harbor’s season and career rushing and scoring records.
Nuanez, 70 pounds lighter, sliced up the Marauder defense by using the speed and strength that helped him win the Wesco track 400-meter title.
The senior wasn’t the only star of the show.
Tamarik Hollins-Passmore ran for 108 yards on 16 carries, and quarterback Jordan Bell completed seven of 14 passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Bell also booted four extra points.
Supporting it all was Oak Harbor’s small, but effective, offensive line.
“I thought the O-line was punching some holes,” coach Jay Turner said. “We are not a big team, so we have to rely on our quickness, and I thought our guys up front held their own against a good, physical Mariner front.”
By human standards, the Wildcat interior lineman are good size. By football standards, they are runts. Right guard Kamren Mebane is 220 pounds. None of the other four, Ozell Jackson, Weston Whitefoot, Isaac Gomez or Brandon McCollough, tip the scales past 190.
Mariner’s defensive front averaged 230 pounds; its offensive line 250.
Oak Harbor’s ground game chewed up 364 yards on 59 rushes, with 10 players getting at least one carry.
Turner noted the depth of his backfield: “We rotate them in left and right; we try and keep them fresh. It’s nice to have the luxury of having that many kids who can carry the ball.”
Also sharing top billing was the Wildcat defense. Oak Harbor held Mariner to 158 yards, 89 rushing and 69 through the air. The Marauders failed to get a first down in six of their 10 possessions.
The Wildcats, who recorded only two rushes of over 20 yards, methodically put away the Marauders. In all, Oak Harbor ran 74 plays to Mariners’ 41.
Taeson Hardin returned the opening kickoff 48 yards to the Mariner 41, and seven plays later Nuanez punched in the first score from the 1. Bell followed with his first of four straight PAT kicks; his fifth was blocked.
Mariner went three and out, but Ethan Skrabak’s 59-yard punt pinned Oak Harbor on its own 3-yard line.
No problem. The Wildcats used 16 plays and nearly seven minutes to drive 97 yards for the score, an 12-yard run by Nuanez.
Early in the second quarter, an interception and personal foul penalty gave the Marauders the ball at Oak Harbor’s 25. Mariner took advantage of the short field and scored. The point-after pass failed and Oak Harbor led 14-6.
The Wildcats snuffed Mariner’s momentum by scoring on its next two possessions.
First, Bell hit Kyle Nickols with a 28-yard touchdown pass. (Nickols finished the game with five catches for 59 yards.) Then, Nuanez ripped off a 44-yard run to make it 28-6 at halftime.
Oak Harbor added its final touchdown on its first possession of the second half, a 55-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard pass from Bell to Andrew Miller.
Mariner finished the scoring with 4:21 left in the game. The Marauder drive began at the Oak Harbor 38 after the Wildcats’ only punt of the game hit and unfortunately bounced backward nearly 20 yards.
Oak Harbor plays its first home game at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, against Kamiak. The Knights beat Bishop Blanchet 14-6 in their opener.