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UPDATE | Bennett, Buechner make big plays on both sides for Falcons win
LANGLEY — Before the homecoming-game kickoff, South Whidbey High School celebrated its 2010 Wall of Fame honorees and the 1979 Kingbowl football team.
The 1979 team, coached by Jim Leierer and Greg Willis, went to the state championship game at the Kingdome, finished the season
12-1 and defeated Sultan at homecoming, 48-20.
Thirty-one years later, South Whidbey (2-3) claimed another victory against Sultan (1-4) on homecoming night. The Falcons used big plays from its stars to break out for the 18-9 win. Quarterback Avery Buechner threw one touchdown and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
“The win feels great,” Buechner said. “It was my first start on offense or defense, and the energy was great from everybody in the stands.”
With nine minutes left in the first half, Buechner recovered a fumbled snap by Sultan in the end zone for the first points of the night. The point-after-try kick was fumbled and the Falcons led 6-0.
“Sometimes you just fumble,” said Falcons head coach Andy Davis.
Senior tight end/defensive end Tyler “Chuck” Norris caught the only touchdown pass of the night on the two-yard line and dove in for the score.
“I felt good about everything, I was calm, relaxed,” Buechner said. “The offensive and defensive line was disrupting everything and making easy plays for us.”
With six minutes left in the first half, South Whidbey led 12-0 after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
Not that the two-point try was a sign of the Falcons being worried about Sultan’s offense.
“That’s just me being greedy,” Davis said.
Three minutes later in the first half, South Whidbey’s Austin Bennett ran 40 yards after a pitch for the touchdown. Buechner pitched to Bennett on the left side, Bennett ran across the middle to the right side, made a defender slip and cruised in for an easy six points and an 18-0 lead before halftime.
“I felt great running the ball,” said Bennett, a senior receiver. “Our linemen stepped up and got huge blocks, and that’s what we need at the end of a game.”
The Falcons went for a two-point conversion again but failed on the option when Buechner looked to pass and scrambled toward the end zone before being tackled on the two-yard line.
Sultan’s fullback Jake Beebe scored the lone touchdown for the Turks. Beebe, a senior running back, hit the middle, bounced outside and rushed for the fourth-quarter score. After the PAT, the Turks trailed 18-7 with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Turks’ defense showed some life after getting a safety on a fumbled South Whidbey punt to trail 18-9. Then Falcon running back Patrick Monell fumbled the ball in the fourth quarter and Sultan recovered. But the Falcons’ defense answered with another interception by Buechner on Sultan’s 33 yard line late in the fourth quarter.
“We talked with our defense a lot about creating turnovers,” said Sultan’s first-year head coach Ben Murphy. “On our turnovers, it was good plays by them, too.”
Bennett and the run game gained two first downs and ran the clock out to seal the win for South Whidbey. Davis called running plays until time expired rather than going into victory formation.
“We hadn’t ran the ball well all season,” Davis said. “We’re not doing it to run the score up. We’re doing it to give our kids a chance to play in their last homecoming game.”
Buechner finished with 97 passing yards and a touchdown. He threw two interceptions, and picked off two interceptions from Sultan.
“Avery prepares hard every week,” Davis said. “He’s starting to establish his leadership and confidence.”
The Falcons totaled 146 rushing yards. Bennett finished with 113 rushing yards — a season high — and a touchdown. He also grabbed two interceptions.
Norris recorded two sacks.
TJ Russell and Evan Thompson both had one interception.
Sultan played two quarterbacks, but both were ineffective. Sultan totaled 55 passing yards and the quarterbacks combined for six interceptions.
“Our more veteran players are defensive backs and linebackers,” Davis explained.
Sultan relied on the run and totaled 154 rushing yards. Theo VandenEkart, a junior wide receiver, led the Turks with 51 rushing yards.
Sultan started Sterling Shaw, a sophomore, at quarterback because the starting quarterback was late to a practice earlier in the week. Starting quarterback Isaac Fleshman-Cooper, a junior, entered the game in the second quarter.
“We’re still in a battle, looking for somebody to step up and take the reins,” Murphy said.