South Whidbey troubled by turnovers in action against Bellingham

Like members of the South Whidbey High School football team have said all season, the score doesn’t reflect the effort.

South Whidbey lost to Bellingham High School 38-0 in a district crossover game late Tuesday. The Falcons (4-5) had red-zone opportunities, but fumbles and Bellingham’s defense were too much to overcome.

“They were just all over us all night,” said South Whidbey quarterback Avery Buechner. “Those couple of fumbles killed us.”

The Bellingham Red Raiders (5-5) led 28-0 at halftime, but only scored once in the first quarter.

“I just tried to pick them up and tell the guys we owe it to the seniors to get them to the game Saturday,” Buechner said.

“The game plan was to go in and smack them right in the mouth with nothing to lose and go all out,” said Falcon senior defensive end Tyler “Chuck” Norris.

But the Red Raiders running game overwhelmed the Falcon defense with four different ball carriers. Two of the main running options were both Bellingham quarterbacks, and four of Bellingham’s five touchdowns were rushing scores. The fifth was a defensive touchdown.

The Red Raiders defense stopped South Whidbey’s drives and killed the Falcons’ momentum. In the opening drive by the Falcons in the second quarter, Bellingham stripped the ball from senior Austin Bennett on a gang tackle and recovered the loose ball in the red zone.

Bellingham converted that turnover into seven points on a touchdown run by Ray Taumaoe and a PAT kick by Walter Storrer.

“Our kids are football smart,” said Bellingham head coach Doug Trainor. “When they see a ball kind of sticking out there, they’re going to go for it.”

The next offensive series for South Whidbey resulted in a blocked punt downed on the South Whidbey 41-yard line.

“Our team’s just grown, and it’s just come on the last three or four weeks, especially defensively,” Trainor said. “We simplified things a bit so we can play smarter.”

South Whidbey’s defense responded, and Seth Eckert recovered a Bellingham fumble. The Falcons failed to get a first down, but senior TJ Russell punted after Bellingham swarmed him in the backfield, and Pat Monell downed the ball on the one-yard line.

Backed up against their own end zone, the Red Raiders ran effectively to the 46-yard line. Then junior quarterback Oliver Dougherty broke free on a 54-yard touchdown run along the Bellingham sideline to make it 21-0. (Dougherty scored again in the fourth quarter on a fake punt, running 51 yards.)

In the second quarter, on the South Whidbey 25-yard line, Bellingham stripped the ball from Monell and returned it for a touchdown.

Late in the second quarter, South Whidbey went into a hurry-up offense, but two passes to Russell and Bennett fell incomplete and Bellingham took possession on downs. Then Bennett grabbed an interception and returned the ball to the 24-yard line before time expired and the teams went into the locker rooms at half time.

This was the second loss of the season to Bellingham. South Whidbey opened the season against Bellingham at SWHS, and the Red Raiders won, 21-3.

“They played us just the same,” Buechner said. “We just couldn’t capitalize for some reason, like the blocked punt. Just the little things killed us.”

“The line did an awesome job; once again they’re stellar,” Norris said. “I’m really proud of the team. Everyone’s worked hard, and I’m proud to be here and to be with the Falcons.”

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