OAK HARBOR – Gritty Stanwood defense. Condemned stands. A field that nearly required the ability to walk on water.
Nothing, it seems, can stop the Oak Harbor football team lately. The Wildcats put on a speed display in a 35-7 Western Conference North Division victory over the Spartans on Friday night.
Earlier in the week, the remaining grass on Oak Harbor’s Memorial Field could not be cut because the lawnmower’s wheels sunk several inches into the mud, leaving a pair of 5-yard ruts. The Wildcats made it a bit further than the mower – rushing for 398 yards against a hard-hitting Stanwood defense.
“Stanwood scared me,” said Oak Harbor coach Dave Ward, whose team improved to 6-1 in the division and 7-1 overall. “They’ve been a real strong, physical team.”
A large crowd, sitting across the field from the condemned grandstand in temporary stands rented from Safeco Field, watched Oak Harbor close in on its second straight league title. The Wildcats were co-champions of the North Division in 2002 and went to the state playoffs for the first time in 20 years.
A victory over last-place Monroe next week would give the Wildcats consecutive division championships for the first time since joining the Wesco approximately 30 years ago, Oak Harbor Athletic Director Jeff Stone said.
A win by Oak Harbor next week or a loss by Lake Stevens in one of its final two games would send the ‘Cats to the district playoffs. The Wildcats, who finish their regular season Nov. 6 with a non-conference game, said the postseason is the furthest thing from their minds.
“We play Monroe next,” said junior fullback Dan Raymond, whose 64-yard touchdown run on the final play of the first quarter gave Oak Harbor a 14-7 lead. “That’s all we’re thinking about right now.”
Raymond (three carries, 70 yards), a backup fullback behind starter Blake Ward (16 carries for 94 yards), was one of five Wildcats to gain at least 40 yards. Oak Harbor utilized 10 ballcarriers in the game, including eight runners who combined for 262 rushing yards in the first half. Oak Harbor never punted in the game, failing to score only on two drives that ended with fumbles and one at the end of each half.
“We’re going to come out with the same intensity next week,” said Ward, who scored his 15th and 16th touchdowns of the season and kicked all five Oak Harbor extra points. “Monroe’s gotten a little better, but we’re going to come out pumped up.”
Monroe has won only one league game in the last three seasons.
Stanwood (4-2, 5-3) would need to win its final two games of the season and a bunch of help to get to the postseason for the first time since 1998. The Spartans, who lost their other two games by a total of five points to perennial powers Snohomish and Kamiak, managed only 107 yards on the ground to go along with 64 passing yards from quarterback Richard Abrams. The Wildcats have out-rushed opponents 1,975 yards to 480 this season.
“Our defense is getting better every week,” said Ward, who spent much of his time at linebacker in the Stanwood backfield. “We just stick people.”
Oak Harbor averaged 11 yards per carry in the first half while holding Stanwood to 97 yards of total offense.
Adam Diaz (three carries, 46 yards) got the speed show started in the first quarter with a 35-yard TD run for a 7-0 Oak Harbor lead with 8:36 remaining in the opening quarter.
Jason Bravo nearly broke a long TD run on the Wildcats’ next drive, but Stanwood’s Ryan Smith jarred the ball loose after a 26-yard run and Phillip Long recovered the ball to set up Stanwood’s only score.
Abrams capped the five-play, 35-yard drive with a 20-yard TD pass to Josh Aufai for a 7-7 tie with 2:36 to go in the first quarter.
Oak Harbor led 21-7 at the half after Raymond’s sprint and Ward’s 1-yard plunge.
Kyle Isaacson (nine rushes, 57 yards) scored the Wildcats’ fourth TD on a 10-yard scamper in the third quarter. Ward completed the scoring with a 7-yard bull-rush up the middle with 3:20 remaining in the game.
John Rockstad led Stanwood with 59 yards on 22 carries. Oak Harbor quarterback John Lobbestael completed both of his passing attempts for 28 yards.
At Memorial Stadium, Oak Harbor
Oak Harbor-Diaz 35 run (Ward kick)
Stanwood-Aufai 20 pass from Abrams (Rockstad kick)
Oak Harbor-Raymond 64 run (Ward kick)
Oak Harbor-Ward 1 run (Ward kick)
Oak Harbor-Isaacson 10 run (Ward kick)
Oak Harbor-Ward 7 run (Ward kick)
Records-Stanwood 4-2 in division, 5-3 overall. Oak Harbor 6-1, 7-1.