South Whidbey falls to Red Wolves in a seesaw battle

Austin Bennett looks downfield for blockers against Cedarcrest High School. The Red Wolves won their homecoming game 31-20.  South Whidbey led 14-0 in the first quarter after Bennett scored on a 12-yard run. The loss dropped the Falcons’ record to 3-4. - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Austin Bennett looks downfield for blockers against Cedarcrest High School. The Red Wolves won their homecoming game 31-20. South Whidbey led 14-0 in the first quarter after Bennett scored on a 12-yard run. The loss dropped the Falcons’ record to 3-4.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

The game was a tale of two halves.

South Whidbey owned the first half and led 20-18 at Cedarcrest High School’s homecoming. In the second half the Falcons (3-4) couldn’t score or stop the Red Wolves’ run game and lost 31-20 Friday night.

“We made adjustments, we played hard,” said South Whidbey senior Austin Bennett. “They played a better game.”

Cedarcrest finished with 418 rushing yards and 64 passing on four attempts and four completions.

“They’re a good team,” said South Whidbey head coach Andy Davis. “They’re one of the more physical teams in this league.”

The Falcons jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter.

South Whidbey quarterback/linebacker Avery Buechner forced a fumble, and Mason Shoudy returned the football 22 yards for a touchdown and the first score of the night.

Then a 12-yard run by Bennett boosted South Whidbey’s lead to 14-0 after the second successful PAT of the night by Cameron Coupe.

But Cedarcrest (4-3) responded with three unanswered touchdowns. Jared Klingenberg scored the first of his four rushing touchdowns on a play-action handoff for 60 yards — the longest play of the night. Cedarcrest’s PAT attempt hit the left upright for a 14-6 South Whidbey lead.

“He’s our horse, he’s our stud,” said Cedarcrest head coach Jason Frederick. “He runs hard, and we give him the ball when we need to move the chains.”

Klingenberg, a senior, finished the night with 213 yards on 22 carries.

The galloping gridder was no surprise to South Whidbey.

“We were expecting them to run hard up the middle,” Bennett said. “That’s what we needed to stop and we did it a lot and that helped our cause to get back in the game.”

“They’re a damn good running team.”

Red Wolves’ quarterback Justin Houser threw a short pass near the line of scrimmage to junior Nick Gagner for a 26-yard touchdown. South Whidbey’s defense kept Cedarcrest out of the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt and gave the Falcons a 14-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.

After the defensive stop by the Falcons, Buechner came up favoring his left leg. Buechner had a high-ankle sprain on his right ankle during the first game of the season against Bellingham that has yet to fully heal.

“They bring a lot of pressure just nonstop,” Buechner said. “To me, I feel I’d let the team down if I didn’t play.”

At least three times, Buechner favored his ankle off the field after a hit, but continued to play through the pain. Buechner credited the offensive line’s performance, but acknowledged the defense’s ability to hit gaps.

That was the plan, said the Cedarcrest coach.

“This is probably the first game this year where we put a lot of pressure on the opposing team,” Frederick said.

Davis tried to spark the Falcon offense with the passing game. On the first play after the kickoff, Buechner attempted a pass to senior TJ Russell that fell incomplete from the South Whidbey 32-yard line. Russell punted to Cedarcrest after going four and out.

Klingenberg scored his second touchdown of the night on a five-yard run to open the second quarter. The kicker again missed the PAT — this time the football hit the right upright and kept South Whidbey close, but trailing 18-14.

After driving to their own 41-yard line, Buechner connected with sophomore Aaron Curfman on a screen pass for a 59-yard touchdown pass. South Whidbey’s two-point conversion failed, but the Falcons led 20-18.

Cedarcrest marched downfield from the 17-yard line to its own

47 before a fumble recovery by Falcon junior Sam Denka.

After a sack on Russell for a 13-yard loss, the Falcons made big plays to get into the red zone. Buechner rushed for 15 yards. Bennett ran 13 yards on third-and-one to get the first down on the Cedarcrest 38-yard line. With 11 seconds remaining in the first half, South Whidbey called for a field goal that went flat and left before missing the uprights.

Cedarcrest took the lead, 24-20, in the third quarter on a seven-yard run from Klingenberg, and Cedarcrest missed the PAT wide right.

In the fourth quarter, the Red Wolves relied on the run for yardage and time consumption.

On the Cedarcrest 35-yard-line at third down and 14 yards, a 13-yard halfback pass from senior Paul Wilen to Gagner brought up fourth-and-one. The Falcons defense stopped the run and took possession of the ball.

Next came a crucial missed opportunity.

Crucial plays from Russell, Bennett and Tyler “Chuck” Norris got South Whidbey two first downs and into the red zone. A pass intended for Norris was dropped, but a pass interference call on Cedarcrest moved the Falcons to the 15-yard line and another set of downs. Buechner looked to pass across the middle, but was picked by Cedarcrest linebacker Tanner Marty on the five-yard line with less than six minutes remaining.

Again South Whidbey’s defense responded with a stop in Cedarcrest territory on third down and one.

The stop forced Cedarcrest to punt and down the punt on the South Whidbey 42-yard line. Buechner’s pass to Bennett dropped near the line of scrimmage and was picked up by Marty and returned for a touchdown. The game officials convened and determined the play was an incomplete pass, not a lateral in the backfield and the touchdown was overturned.

Frederick called on his running game to lead the offense and seal a win.

After getting to the 13-yard line, Klingenberg scored his fourth touchdown of the night. Cedarcrest made its PAT and the final score of the game, 31-20.

The Falcons finished with 209 total yards of offense — 147 passing, 62 rushing.

“We seem to pass the ball better than run this year,” Davis said. “Part of that is having a young offensive line.”

Curfman led South Whidbey with the most yards on his 59-yard reception, Russell was the main target for Buechner with five completions for 56 yards and Bennett led South Whidbey with 56 rushing yards.

South Whidbey plays Coupeville on Friday, Oct. 22 at Coupeville High School. Davis expects a spread offense and a different defense from what he saw against Cedarcrest.

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