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How to win? Steal the ball and run
Though they like quarterback Jeremy Iversen fine, the surest hands on the field for South Whidbey High School Friday night were more interested in catching balls thrown at them by the Lakewood Cougars.
Three interceptions, two made by sophomore Michael Lodell and one returned 15 yards for a touchdown by junior Nick Plastino, were the difference in a rare Falcons homecoming victory at Waterman Field Friday.
The Falcons, 2-3 in conference play and 2-4 overall, shook off big losses in the past three weeks and overcame their own offensive penalties to put points on the board with special teams and defensive play. The win was the team's first since winning its Sept. 13 season opener against Blaine.
But unlike in that 42-16 victory, it was defense, not offense, that brought the Falcons out on top. And even that came as a bit of a surprise, especially to the 6-4 Plastino, who found himself in the path of a ball meant for a Cougar receiver in the second quarter.
So he grabbed it and started running for the end zone.
"I guess I was just in the right place at the right time," he said.
The six points he put on the board with the purloined pigskin, plus a PAT added by kicker Adam Jaffe, was the game. Lakwood would not seriously threaten to score during the rest of the game, largely because the Falcons didn't let them have the ball much.
Lodell helped keep the game of keep-away going. Lauded weekly by Falcon coach Mark Hodson as the team's top defensive player, he lived up to the billing in his first varsity homecoming game. Breaking with Cougar wide receivers on almost every pass play, Lodell brought down two Lakewood passes, ending drives that could have otherwise turned into points on the board.
Lodell said he had something to prove, especially after he dropped a punt reception earlier in the game.
"On the second one, I was kind of motivated," he said.
Though the defense was arguably the star of the show, the Falcon offense was productive in every way except scoring. Big Blue rolled to more than 300 total yards of offense, with quarterback Iversen completing passes for 40 yards and senior Andy Wills dashing for 118 yards of rushing. Wills credited classmate Justin Shelton for opening big holes in Lakewood's line and making running room.
"He blows people out," he said.
Though there were some big offensive plays, including a 37-yard Wills run, the only offensive scoring came on a 22-yard Adam Jaffe field goal. South Whidbey coach Mark Hodson said penalties killed several drives before they could get into the end zone. That was a little disappointing, he said, considering his team's effort.
"We probably had more first downs Friday night than in the last three games," he said.
But, he said, the overall tone of the game made up for lost penalty yardage.
"It's nice to be the hitters," he said.
With the win, the Falcons pulled even with the 2-3 Cougars. Next up for the Falcons is a road game against Granite Falls this Friday. The Falcons return to South Whidbey for their last home game Nov. 1.