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Falcons open year with conference win

"Nick Helland fights for yardage against Granite Falls defenders.Jim Larsen/staff photosScore by quartersSouth Whidbey: 12 - 13 - 7 - 0Granite Falls: 0 - 6 - 14 - 6A strong offensive performance, particularly in the first half, catapulted the South Whidbey Falcons to a 32-26 win over Granite Falls in the football season opener Friday night at Waterman Field.Sophomore running back Jason Shelton had a sensational varsity debut, gaining 218 yards on 14 carries. He scored the game's first touchdown on a 31-yard run and its third on a 40-yard run.Shelton had a huge game, said coach Mick Heggenes. We knew he had some potential -- he's a real gamer . . . he does not avoid contact.But Shelton was not the only star as the Falcons accumulated nearly 500 total yards for the game. Nick Helland, a senior halfback/linebacker, was credited by Heggenes with an outstanding game on both offense and defense. He caught half a dozen passes and rushed for about 60 yards.After Shelton scored to open the game, sophomore quarterback Jeremy Iversen capped a 66-yard drive with a 30-yard scoring dash of his own. The other big play of the drive was a 21-yard pass to Helland. In the second period, Shelton broke loose for a 40-yard scoring run to make it 18-0, and before the half ended Jesse Hurlocker caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Bryan Wenker, who shared the quarterback duties with Iversen.Heggenes liked what he saw from both Iversen and Wenker at quarterback.We were flinging the ball a little bit, he said. They combined for 221 yards passing, each with about half. The coach said this week's practice sessions will determine which one starts the next game.With a 25-6 halftime victory, some fans may have thought the Falcons would coast to the win. Not so. It get pretty interesting there at the end, Heggenes admitted. South Whidbey's Iversen ran for a 4-yard touchdown to start the half, but Granite came back to score the next three on a run of 98 yards, a run of 2 yards, and a pass of 5 yards. South Whidbey controlled a desperation on-side kick to seal the victory.Heggenes said his troops did tire a bit in the second half, due in part to several players who will join the team late. We'll be able to put some depth out there, he said. And we will get in better condition.The Falcons sport a more wide-open offense this year, having cut back on the wishbone formation in favor of a better mix of running and passing. We're trying to spread the field as much as we can, Heggenes said.The win gives South Whidbey a 1-0 record in conference play. This Friday they travel to Lakewood, located north of Marysville, to take on an old rival in another important conference game. The Cougars made their debut last week with a 20-0 win over Sultan. "

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