UPDATE: Falcons chase Bulldogs back to the pound

South Whidbey defensive back Lucas Yale jumps high for his second interception of the night against Mount Vernon, stopping cold a Bulldog rally in the fourth quarter.  - David Welton / The Record
South Whidbey defensive back Lucas Yale jumps high for his second interception of the night against Mount Vernon, stopping cold a Bulldog rally in the fourth quarter.
— image credit: David Welton / The Record

It was the smack heard from one end zone to the other. Defensive back Nick Tenuta placed a hit on Bulldog running back Tim Olivariz so hard it could be heard as far north as, well, Mount Vernon.

Tenuta’s tackle was the spark that ignited the South Whidbey Falcon football team to a 24-14 victory over the Mount Vernon Bulldogs Friday night.

With the Falcons behind 7-0 late in the first quarter, Tenuta knew something was needed to wake up his teammates.

“I saw both their wide receivers and the quarterback under pressure so I aimed for the runner,” Tenuta said.

“No doubt, this was the most fun defensive game I’ve ever played. We knew we could stop them.”

The hit galvanized the formerly sluggish South Whidbey players, boosting their spirits and putting them squarely back in the game.

And when Bulldog quarterback Ray Walser got caught in a pile-up behind the line of scrimmage and was forced to leave the game just as the first quarter ended, the Big Mo’ shifted completely.

“We figured out their offense,” Tenuta said later. “Our coaches are very experienced and we trust them. They were right.”

In the second period, though the Falcons again seemed to sputter a bit — a false start here, an incomplete pass there — Hunter Rawls started to find the sweet spot, working in quarterback sneaks to confuse the Bulldogs, then using pure speed for end-around sweeps to pick up several first downs.

Henry Mead, with 172 yards on the night, kept Mount Vernon guessing as he powered inside or out, almost at will.

A quick hand-off from Rawls to Luke Hodson with 2:33 left in the first half led to a touchdown and the two-point conversion put the Falcons ahead for good, 8-7.

The Bulldogs threatened to even things up, but Lucas Yale’s interception with 1:47 left in the half sent the Mount Vernon offense back to the sidelines.

The huge South Whidbey crowd exploded.

In the second half, even a few gremlins — the clock stopped for a minute and a couple sprinklers came on in the middle of the field — couldn’t knock the Falcons off balance.

Great tackles from Trapper Rawls, his brother’s passing/running heroics, Jon Poolman’s reverse plays and Danny Zuver’s outside antics culminated in a touchdown by Mead — smack up the middle for 17 yards — with 8:16 left in the third period.

TJ Russell’s point-after made it 15-7.

“I remember trying to be patient, staying on the lookout for holes and what their offense was doing,” Mead said. “Trapper was a great lead blocker and Joe [left tackle Kinser] made me look good with his pass blocking.”

On their side of the field, the Bulldogs were rapidly becoming dispirited, dejected and disgusted as events flew in the Falcons’ direction.

Midway through the third quarter, South Whidbey got a two-point safety and that, coupled with Mead’s second TD, made it 24-7 by the start of the fourth quarter.

Though Mount Vernon attempted a valiant rally in the final stanza, they still needed two touchdowns to win after Bulldog receiver Michael Acode caught a short pass to make it 24-14 with 10:26 left in the game.

With less than a minute to go, the Bulldogs tried a 30-yard Hail Mary pass, but Yale made his second interception and that was it.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

“We fully expected to win this game,” said Bulldog coach Jaxon Schweikert. “We turned the ball over too much. They outplayed us at every turn and deserve the win.”

Normally calm Falcon coach Mark Hodson could not contain his excitement over the outcome.

“God bless you guys,” he told his players after the game. “This is just fabulous and you guys made it happen.”

Hodson admitted there was a risk inviting a big 3A school to play his team at the start of the season.

“Lakewood and Sultan have adopted a spread offense with the QB in the shotgun and I felt it would be good to have us test ourselves against a similar formation,” he said. “[Defensive coordinator] Damian Greene did a great job for us, keeping our offense in the game when we needed it.”

David Monell was switched from defensive tackle to nose guard at the half.

“It gave me a chance to try and get the ball back,” he said. “Now we know there are a few drawbacks to the shotgun [where the quarterback stands a few feet behind the center] and we’ll adjust.”

Hodson added that game speed improved faster than he thought it would.

“Our conditioning program is paying off for us,” he said. “Everyone contributed to this win.”

The Falcons totaled 338 yards rushing and 140 in the air.

Hunter Rawls threw 11-of-18 passes for 149 yards, Mead carried the ball 25 times for

172 yards and two touchdowns. Zuver had 12 carries for 52 yards and Hodson made a quarterback TD on a 23-yard end run.

Hodson had seven catches for 97 yards and Tenuta had three for 40.

“TJ Russell had a great night punting, averaging 42 yards,” Hodson noted. “Only one of his five kicks was returned.”

For the defense, Tenuta led with six tackles, a pass defense, a fumble recovery and one interception. Rawls had four tackles, two pass defenses and two interceptions and Lucas Yale had three tackles and two interceptions.

At 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, the 2-0 Falcons welcome the Lakewood Cougars to Waterman Field as Cascade Conference action begins in earnest.

“These are the games that count,” Hodson said.

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