LANGLEY — Fumbles, blocked punts, dropped passes and missed routes were a recipe for South Whidbey’s ill-fated homecoming loss to Sultan.
The Falcons lost their fifth game in a row Friday night, the first loss to the Turks in several years.
“Just for these seniors, you feel close to these guys,” said Falcon junior quarterback Nick French, who threw one touchdown and returned a kick for another. “This could be their final home game. We’re all family.”
Waterman Field turned into Muddy Waterman Field as rains drenched the turf, players and homecoming court. The middle of the field became a 15-yard stretch of aromatic earth as cleats tore up the field.
Sultan used the field conditions to its advantage, pounding the ball with running backs. That opened up a few select pass plays for the Turks, including a 42-yard touchdown toss by Turk junior quarterback Antonio Rivas to senior receiver Steven Branham. The 6-1 Turk wideout leaped over the smaller Falcon defensive back for the touchdown catch.
“What hurt us was a few deep passes,” said Falcon senior Cameron Coupe.
Special teams struggled to block Sultan all night. On the Falcons’ first possession, the Turks forced a punt from the South Whidbey 26-yard line. The Turks tipped Coupe’s punt, which wobbled down to their own 30-yard line. Sultan converted three first downs that resulted in a 10-yard touchdown run by Turk senior Bryce MacDicken.
“With the conditions, we figured it had to be a running game,” said Turk head coach Ben Murphy. “It worked out for us tonight.”
Falcon senior Pat Monell blocked the extra point, which seemed to give South Whidbey some momentum. Falcon junior Nick Bennett returned the kickoff to the Falcon 29. After an incomplete deep pass from French, who played with his left hand in a cast, to Bennett, the Turks recovered a fumble at the 35.
“That quarterback with a broken hand, he dropped less snaps than our quarterback with two hands,” Murphy said.
Sultan was pushed to first-and-24 on a holding penalty, after which Rivas attempted a long throw near the end zone that Coupe intercepted, one of the few receptions he had all night.
“It’s really hard to get a good throw on this field right now,” Coupe said. “Then, if it is catchable, you’ve got slick gloves and the ball’s even more wet.”
South Whidbey was able to get to their own 35-yard line, but French was sacked as the period expired, forcing South Whidbey to punt at the opening play of the second quarter. Turk senior Jay Leverett blocked Coupe’s punt, however, and returned it for a touchdown. Sultan’s two-point conversion run was stopped short, but the Turks were ahead 19-0.
The Falcons finally got on the board in the second quarter. South Whidbey drove from their 32-yard line and scored on a 30-yard pass from French to Bennett, but Leverett blocked Coupe’s extra point kick.
“With the ball snap, trying to get a good hold on it and double teaming on the inside, that guy can get around,” Coupe said.
Sultan responded with another touchdown pass from Rivas to Branham, this time 51 yards. Branham beat Falcon defensive back Cooper Nichols for the score.
From there, the Turks never lost the lead and went on to pad the advantage with a fumble returned for a touchdown to make it 32-6.
South Whidbey tried to mount a second half comeback. The Falcons put together one of their best drives early in the third quarter. French completed a pass to junior receiver Jordan Parrick, who had the ball stripped and recovered by the Turks.
Sultan flipped that turnover into another touchdown. Rivas threw his third touchdown pass of the night, this one to Leverett for 36 yards.
South Whidbey scored its final points on a 90-yard kickoff return by French.