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Lee’s 100-yard touchdown, Falcon defense crushes Sultan’s homecoming
The difference between a great defensive play and an awful one can be measured in seconds in football.
Sultan learned that lesson the hard way against South Whidbey during the Turks’ homecoming game Friday night. The Falcons won 23-6 and ended a two-game losing streak.
In the first quarter, a fumbled snap by Falcon sophomore quarterback Nick French dropped the Falcons to their own 9-yard line.
On second down with more than 20 yards to go, French threw a lateral pass to senior tailback and receiver Sam Lee. As he looked for blocking, he ran into the end zone where a Turk defender hit him, wrapped his arms around Lee’s waist and tried to bring him down.
“Everyone on the field thought he was going to tackle me,” Lee said. “Play almost stopped, then after about 25 yards I realized I was going all the way.”
Count Lee’s coach Mark Hodson among the initial doubters.
“I saw a safety,” Hodson said. “That’s a play they obviously schemed against us on.”
Lee never stopped moving his legs and spun out of the tackle and down the sideline for what is technically a 91-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass, but is really a 100-yard run.
“We had guys down field on the play, and I think that continued throughout the game,” Lee said. “You see our running backs running down field stride for stride with our linemen.”
Sultan’s homecoming took a bigger turn for the worse as South Whidbey’s defense utilized blitzes to keep the Turks out of the end zone.
Later in the quarter, a high snap went over the Turks’ punter’s hands and through the end zone for a safety.
“We got a lot of people to the ball,” said Lee, who also plays cornerback and safety for the Falcons’ defense.
“We got five, six hats to the ball every single time. We had guys trying to rip the ball out and we also played with confidence, and that’s something we haven’t had the past couple of weeks.”
Good field position set up Falcon senior tight end and quarterback Avery Buechner for an 11-yard touchdown run.
Turnovers were once again a problem for the Falcons’ offense. A fumbled handoff gave the Turks the ball on the Falcon 10-yard line.
South Whidbey’s defense blitzed, blitzed and blitzed again for consecutive negative-yardage plays for the Turks, which led to a 20-yard field goal by Turk kicker Ian Cooper.
“We brought more stunts than we have the past few weeks,” said Falcon co-head coach and defensive coordinator Andy Davis of the blitz plays he used.
At halftime, the Falcons led 16-3.
South Whidbey used a new system to assign personnel groupings and call plays from the sidelines that increased the game’s tempo. Hodson said it allows him to keep his best playmakers on the field without substituting, which then keeps defenses guessing who will get the ball. That even includes who takes the snaps, which is statistically almost a coin toss between French and Buechner.
“We were about 50-50 with our quarterbacks the whole game,” Hodson said. “It was almost as if they had to prepare for two teams at one time.”
It also includes junior running backs Aaron Curfman and Pat Monell, who each had a handful of carries. Utilizing them in the backfield allows Lee to play receiver, where he has made plays longer than 30 yards in the past two games.
“It’s really getting us out in space and getting Avery the ball, which is good for us,” Lee said.
In the third quarter, Cooper scored another field goal to cut the Falcons’ lead to 14-6. South Whidbey used its effective rushing plays to run down the clock and limit the Turks’ possessions.
The Falcons’ defense held tight again, limiting the Turks to less than 150 yards of offense. Part of the defense’s success was in part because of junior kicker/receiver/cornerback Cameron Coupe’s return to the field, in which he caught an interception. He was previously limited to kicking duties while recovering from an ankle injury.
That turnover led to Buechner’s second touchdown run of the night — a 40-yard sprint in the fourth quarter that ended Sultan’s homecoming night.
It was a much-needed win for the fifth-place Falcons’ playoff chances. South Whidbey improved its Cascade Conference record to 2-2 and its overall record to 3-3 as it hosts fourth-place Cedarcrest for the homecoming game Friday.
“After a two-game losing streak, you need to get a win,” Lee said. “We went on the road and did that. I think this Friday is really important to the whole community that we get a win.”