Bellingham defense blanks South Whidbey in football season opener

It was a battle of defenses in a rematch of last year’s Division 1 crossover playoff game.

The football season opener for Bellingham and South Whidbey ended in a familiar outcome for the Falcons at Civic Stadium — a shutout. The Red Raiders won 17-0 at home behind costly turnovers and defensive lapses from the Falcons.

“We made some simple mistakes that put us in bad situations,” said South Whidbey co-head coach Mark Hodson.

The game easily could have gone the other way, he said. But the Falcons were a bit thin due to injured players.

“I think that’s a winnable game for us,” Hodson added.

Through the first half of last Friday night’s game, the outcome was up for grabs. At halftime, the score was tied 0-0.

“We made good adjustments,” Hodson said. “We just couldn’t perform them.”

Then Bellingham seized good field position on a few South Whidbey turnovers that led to a field goal and two touchdowns.

Bellingham’s defense kept South Whidbey’s offense, led by Sam Lee with more than 20 carries and 24 yards, to five first downs.

Falcon senior Avery Buechner started in place of injured sophomore quarterback Nick French. During fall football camp at Central Washington University, Buechner hurt his throwing arm and only recently returned to passing drills. He said his arm was still sore which limited the offense’s abilities, leading the team to rely on Lee.

“It was just a brawl out there,” Buechner said. “Bellingham has a great defense.”

South Whidbey also played without all-Cascade Conference first team Cameron Coupe, a junior who also plays receiver. Between French and Coupe, Hodson said the game may have had a different outcome.

“Those two kids would have made a big difference,” he said.

Coaches expect French to play Friday against Concrete, a 2B school. He said he didn’t know Coupe’s status.

In Friday’s opener, the teams were plenty familiar with each other.

South Whidbey started its season against Bellingham last year and lost 21-3 (Coupe scored the only points on a field goal), and finished its season against the Red Raiders in a 38-0 playoff loss.

Also like last season, South Whidbey travels to Concrete for its second game of the season.

Last year, the Falcons scored three rushing touchdowns against the Lions at home — two by Lee and one from Buechner. The Falcons rushed for 196 yards and Buechner tallied 178 yards passing against the Lions’ 196 yards of total offense.

A big win 12 months ago had little meaning for South Whidbey’s players.

“You can’t take any team for granted,” Buechner said.

Hodson used the back-to-back shutouts as a rallying point during Monday’s practice and film review. He said he told the players, “As a football team, we haven’t scored a touchdown in two games.”

The Lions are coming off a win. Concrete defeated Liberty Bell 50-13 on Friday in Winthrop.

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