Cedar Park rushers pound South Whidbey in first loss

Falcon junior Cooper Nichols evades a swarm of Eagles during a kickoff return in the second half of Friday’s 35-21 loss. Nichols had plenty of kick returns after Cedar Park’s coaches chose to kick away from junior Nick Bennett.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Falcon junior Cooper Nichols evades a swarm of Eagles during a kickoff return in the second half of Friday’s 35-21 loss. Nichols had plenty of kick returns after Cedar Park’s coaches chose to kick away from junior Nick Bennett.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — Cedar Park proved it could run.

South Whidbey proved it could throw.

The football pendulum ultimately favored the Eagles’ persistent ground-and-pound offense over the Falcons’ air-it-out options in a 35-21 road win.

“We competed,” said Falcon co-head coach Andy Davis. “A couple turnovers and it’s a different story.”

South Whidbey relied on a couple of timely turnovers in the first half to tie the game 21-21. Cedar Park played exactly how South Whidbey’s coaches anticipated, with a run-heavy attack that favored counters to disguise which running back had the ball.

“Their blocking schemes were really well done,” said Falcon senior Pat Monell, a defensive lineman and running back. “They’re a real physical team, big kids. They have that offense down to precision, very little mistakes.”

The game was a see-saw early. South Whidbey kept Cedar Park from getting a first down in Falcon territory on its opening drive. Then the Falcons charged downfield with Monell, senior fullback Aaron Curfman and junior quarterback Nick French leading the way.

Curfman ran for a first down on a punt fake that set up a French touchdown run and South Whidbey’s only lead.

And it did not last long.

Cedar Park junior Leif Wildon returned the following kickoff 80 yards for a tying touchdown, then he kicked in the extra point kick.

In the second quarter, French hit junior receiver Nick Bennett with a deep pass. The wideout slipped behind his Eagle defender for a 50-yard touchdown catch to tie the match at 14-14.

“It’s really rare to catch one of those passes,” Bennett said. “You’ve got to be looking, everything has to be perfect.”

Despite knowing which plays the Eagles would run, the Falcons couldn’t stop them in the second half. On the other side, the Eagles stifled the Falcon offense and didn’t allow a point in the final two quarters, while scoring two more times on runs by junior Andrew Rickman. The Eagles’ other scorers were senior quarterback Josh Ionesi and a catch by Wildon in the second quarter.

“They had a lot of blockers, you can’t see where the ball is going,” French said. You have to trust your reads.”

French, though impressive with a rushing touchdown and a pair of passing scores, was often forced to run and lost the ball three times. Some of center Nate Hanson’s snaps to French hit the dew-covered turf at Waterman Field. The Falcon quarterback was left to pick up a wet ball.

“It’s just circumstance,” French said. “Nate did an amazing job blocking tonight. The ball was wet and I had a hard time holding onto it.”

South Whidbey’s coaches called the frequency of problems with the center-quarterback exchange an anomaly.

“That’s not the norm at all,” Davis said. “It’s a hard skill. At the same time, Nate is a great lineman for us, at the same time he’s battling with guys a lot bigger than him.”

Injuries also hindered the Falcons’ bid to start the season 2-0 after beating the Chelan Goats 28-15 one week earlier. Junior receiver, kicker and cornerback Cameron Coupe did not play in the second half, junior Kale Reichersamer left in the second quarter with his arm in a sling and Monell played sparse minutes in the second half.

“I jammed my thumb and popped my shoulder a little bit,” Monell said. “I can’t close my hand very well. I went in if I needed to, but if I didn’t need to I let other people go in.”

Without two of South Whidbey’s top pass-catchers out of the game, Cedar Park’s defense focused on French and junior receiver Nick Bennett.

“Kale’s a huge asset,” French said. “Really, we’ve only got three (receivers) that have been in a varsity game with experience.”

Bennett felt the defense hone in on him. During kickoffs, Cedar Park’s coaches told kicker Wildon to kick away from Bennett.

“At the beginning of the game I was open a lot,” Bennett said. “Then they were all pointing at me saying, ‘Guard No. 2.’”

Cedar Park scored late in the third quarter and late in the final period to close out the game.

South Whidbey hosts conference opponent Granite Falls (0-2 overall) on Friday night. Last year, the Falcons torched the Tigers 36-6 in the Cascade Conference opener.

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