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Seniors make big plays in overtime to edge Chelan
Strength and speed were on display Friday night in South Whidbey’s 28-22 overtime victory against Chelan.
The Falcons bookended their season-opening win with identical scores on reverse runs by senior receiver Nick Bennett, including the overtime game winner that left Bennett surrounded by a horde of Falcon players and coaches on Waterman’s Field.
“It confused the defense and worked every time,” Bennett said.
“It was so amazing,” he added, a wide smile on his face. “I can’t even explain the feeling.”
Beating Chelan came at the end of a long, penalty-laden, up-and-down game. The Falcons opened the game with an onside kickoff and recovered the ball on the Goats’ 41-yard line after it popped out of a Chelan player’s hands.
On the first offensive play, senior quarterback Nick French broke through the middle of his linemen, hit the right sideline past the Falcons’ bench and into the end zone. But the play was called back on a holding penalty, and the drive resulted in a punt.
South Whidbey took the lead early in the second quarter on the first Bennett reverse for a touchdown, about 12 yards out from the end zone. The Falcons flew ahead of the Goats on a two-point conversion pass from junior Parker Collins to senior Kale Reichersamer. The Falcons stayed ahead from there until the final minute of regulation play.
Just before halftime, South Whidbey jumped ahead two touchdowns. The score was set up by a deep throw from French to Reichersamer, who was tackled a few yards from the goal line.
“Nick (French) was pressured so he had to get it out quick, but it worked out,” Reichersamer said, adding that South Whidbey’s senior receivers ran plenty of decoy routes to test Chelan’s defensive backs early in the game.
“We could really feel them getting tired. We were still ready to run.”
A couple of plays later, French again connected with Reichersamer, who slid toward the left sideline as he made the catch.
Not everything went so smoothly for South Whidbey. The first half was largely dominated by Chelan’s mobile quarterback, who South Whidbey struggled to defend early. After the halftime break, however, the Falcons had a better handle on tracking the ball and tackling the Goats.
“We talked a lot in the locker room at halftime, a little reminder of our jobs, just a little kick in the butt,” Reichersamer said.
“When it was close on fourth down, we needed to watch the ball better.”
South Whidbey opened the third quarter with plenty of runs for French, a sprinter for the track and field team. Eventually, he ripped through the defense, dragging several Goat defenders with him into the end zone, but that score was called back. The Falcons handed the ball to senior running back Cooper Nichols, who punched it in for the score to boost his team 22-7.
Chelan answered on its next drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to cut South Whidbey’s lead to 22-14, within reach of the Goats.
Late in the fourth quarter, Chelan scored a 15-yard touchdown run with one minute remaining in the game and tried to tie the game with a two-point conversion pass that failed.
The Goats booted the ball to the Falcons’ 10-yard line. French caught the kickoff and sprinted to the right sideline at the 40-yard line, where the ball was ripped out of his arms and Chelan recovered it. Chelan tried to score on three deep passes after a fumbled snap but gave up the ball with only seconds left.
South Whidbey attempted a Hail Mary deep throw, which Bennett caught amid triple coverage, but he was about 20 yards short of the end zone, sending the game into overtime.
The Falcon defense held its ground facing the Goats on the 10-yard line and forced a turnover on downs, which set up Bennett’s game-winning score.
“I had plenty of room and knew I was going to score,” he said.