Oak Harbor High School’s dreams of winning the Wesco North football championship were cut down by the thunderbolt of Squalicum’s quick-strike offense.
The Storm defeated the Wildcats 43-40 on homecoming night in Oak Harbor Friday, Oct. 19, to claim the division title.
Both teams entered the final league game with 4-1 conference (6-1 overall) records. With the win, Squalicum earned the North crown and will play South leader Snohomish (5-0, 6-2) for the Western Conference 3A championship next Friday. The outcome of the game will determine Wesco’s first two seeds into the first round of the postseason – the quad-district games.
The loss dropped Oak Harbor into a second-place tie with Arlington (4-2, 6-2). Since the Eagles beat the Wildcats 48-42 in overtime two weeks ago, Arlington will be seeded second out of the North in its crossover games with the South.
Arlington faces the South’s No. 2 team, Shorewood, for the third and fourth seeds into quad-district play.
Oak Harbor meets the South’s third-place team, Shorecrest (4-2, 5-3), at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at Shoreline Stadium in a game that will decide the fifth and sixth seeds.
If Oak Harbor beats Shorecrest, it will travel to the No. 2 team out of the South Sound Conference, either Yelm, Peninsula or Timberline, in the quad-district round. The three schools are tied for first heading into next Friday’s final SSC game.
A loss to Shorecrest, and the Wildcats will take on the Kingco champion, most likely second-ranked Bellevue.
So far this regular season in Wesco North-South crossover games, the North has dominated. Snohomish lost to the North’s fourth-place team, Marysville-Pilchuck, 63-34; Shorewood fell the North’s No. 6 team, Marysville Getchell, 28-27; and Shorecrest lost seventh-place Stanwood 31-23.
Squalicum 43, Oak Harbor 40
For the Storm, it was all about efficiency. Squalicum’s six scoring drives took all of 26 combined plays. Three times the Storm scored on the first play of its possession.
Oak Harbor’s used 63 plays to churn out its six scores.
The Squalicum offense was pretty much quarterback Spencer Lloyd, with a heavy helping hand of Devante Powell. That, and a big, physical line that paved the way to success.
Lloyd ran 19 times for 156 yards and three touchdowns and completed three of six passes for 64 yards and another score. He also tossed for a two-point conversion.
Powell racked up 103 yards on only eight carries and returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown.
Only one other Squalicum player carried the ball, and that was one rush for one yard.
The final scoring in the game fit the offensive theme of the night.
Down 35-34 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game, Oak Harbor went on a 65-yard, 16-play drive to take a 40-35 lead with 2:20 remaining. The Wildcats’ two-point conversion attempt failed.
The lead lasted all of 13 seconds. On the first play after the kickoff, Lloyd sprinted 62 yards for the game-winning points. He threw to Powell for the two-point PAT.
Oak Harbor had two more chances to score. One ended in an interception and the final one at midfield as time ran out.
For the game, the Wildcats piled up 479 yards in 79 plays. Squalicum produced 324 yards in 34 plays, plus the 88-yard kickoff return.
The Storm slowed Oak Harbor’s high-powered rushing attack. The Wildcats, averaging 368 yards per game, were “held” to 268. The Wildcats turned to quarterback Caleb Fitzgerald to pick up the slack.
Fitzgerald had thrown only 45 passes all season, completing 23 for 364 yards. Friday, hit hit on 15 of 21 for 207 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Dorian Hardin caught eight of the passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 87 yards and a TD on 13 carries.
Caden Leckelt added 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.
Squalicum opened the scoring on its first possession of the game when Lloyd ran in from 10 yards.
Oak Harbor tied the game on 21-yard pass from Fitzgerald to Hardin (Jake Mitten kicked the extra point) with 22 seconds left in the first quarter.
Four touchdowns were then scored with less than five minutes left in the half.
The Wildcats went up 14-7 with 4:36 remaining in the second period after marching 92 yards in 13 plays. Leckelt ran from the 2 for the score.
Four plays later, Squalicum tied the game on a 30-yard pass.
Hardin raced in from 30 yards out to take back the lead. The PAT kick was wide, which proved fatal later in the game.
Squalicum answered in one play – Powell ran 65 yards – and the Storm led 21-20 at the half.
Oak Harbor opened the second half with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Fitzgerald to Aaron Martinez, and it was 27-21.
Powell returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards, and the Storm went back on top 28-27.
The Wildcats then took advantage of the only turnover in the game. A short Oak Harbor punt glanced off the back of a Squalicum player retreating to block and Martinez recovered at the Storm 41. Leckelt eventually scored from the 2, and the Wildcats led 34-28.
The Storm then went on their longest drive of the night, using 11 plays to go up 35-34 on a Lloyd 6-yard run with 9:59 left in the game, setting up the exciting finish.
Oak Harbor coach Jay Turner praised his players for battling all game.