By David Krueger Herald Writer
OAK HARBOR — The Oak Harbor football team responded to a tragic shooting at Marysville Pilchuck last Friday with a gesture of compassion.
On Wednesday, Marysville Pilchuck responded with a gesture of its own.
The Tomahawks traveled to Oak Harbor to surprise the Wildcats at their practice and present them with the league championship trophy. In the aftermath of Friday morning’s shooting, Oak Harbor offered to forgo its game that night against Marysville Pilchuck, giving the Tomahawks the Wesco 3A North title and a berth in the Wesco Championship game.
“It was the least we could do with everything they have done for us,” Tomahawks head coach Brandon Carson said. “You can’t put into words how incredible their act of generosity was. (Oak Harbor head coach Jay) Turner, his staff and his players are class acts. I can’t speak highly enough of them. When they came to support us at our team meeting just hours after the event, it was the most amazing thing I have been associated with as a football coach. Our football program really appreciated that.”
Last Friday’s game would have decided the Wesco North title
Instead, Turner, his staff and players decided unanimously to give the league title to Marysville Pilchuck. Two carloads of Wildcats players also drove to Marysville that night to attend a community vigil. They were told about the Tomahawks’ players-only meeting a few blocks away and stopped by to exchange handshakes and hugs with Marysville Pilchuck players and coaches.
“We’re one of those teams, no matter what it is whether its athletics or anything, we always want to one-up you guys. If we’re not going to beat you on the field, we’re going to beat you in what we do for you. We couldn’t beat what they did for us,” MP senior lineman Corbin Ferry said. “Giving us the league championship was amazing but even more amazing was them showing up. That was crazy.
“The fact that we had the opportunity to come out here and try to give back what they gave to us, everyone was totally on board.”
Carson and his staff came up with the idea and sent a cryptic text to Turner earlier in the week.
“(Carson) shot me a text a couple of days ago asking what time we were practicing this week,” Turner said. “I sent him our practice times and asked, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘We might be paying you guys a visit. Don’t tell anybody.’”
Turner didn’t tell anyone — not even his assistant coaches, who were as surprised as the players to see a bunch of red fill Wildcat Memorial Stadium at the end of Wednesday’s practice.
“It just shows that they care just as much for us as we do for them,” Oak Harbor junior Josiah Welch said. “We’re all a family in the end.”
The Tomahawks presented Oak Harbor with a pizza dinner and the Wesco 3A North trophy with a card that read “OAK HARBOR TRUE CHAMPS!!! THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT, MP FOOTBALL.”
“This is so cool. It’s nothing compared to what they did for us, but the fact that we had a chance to do something to repay what they did for us is nice,” Ferry said. “I really like the fact that we gave them the trophy. When Carson told us about that it was like, ‘Yeah. That’s got to happen.’ They earned it. That’s their trophy. That’s not ours.”
Players from both teams shared the pizza, talked football and played catch on the field together.
“It’s awesome. They’re a great group of guys down there and great kids,” Turner said. “It’s nice to see two communities come together in a tragic time and support each other. It was really cool to see those guys come up here today.”
The Marysville Pilchuck players said they were extremely moved when they heard of Oak Harbor’s offer last Friday, and knew they wanted to do something to return the favor.
Wednesday, they got the chance.
“We’re really grateful for what they did for us. I can’t express in words how grateful I am,” senior captain Bryce Vitcovich said. “It’s kind of a cool thing to give back to them for what they did.”