South Whidbey football lost its season finale to Nooksack Valley, 51-8, on Friday night at Waterman’s Field.
The Falcons, player-wise, had only a slight resemblance to the team which beat Coupeville 27-14 in its season opener. A handful of underclassmen filled positions vacated by injured upperclassmen who fell throughout the season, leaving South Whidbey with several inexperienced players thrust into the spotlight.
While first-year head coach Michael Coe said the younger players did well by rising to the occasion, it was still an adverse situation.
“It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been tough,” Coe said. “We’ve had to go through so much. One of the best parts about coaching is watching your team grow, watching them become better than what they were and realizing the potential they have and dealing with adversity.”
The Falcons finished 1-9 overall and 0-7 in the Cascade Conference.
“It’s a disappointing way to end the season, but I’m thankful for all the things we’ve learned through defeat this year,” said senior quarterback Charlie Patterson. “We’ve just learned about hard work and I think that’s important.”
Nooksack Valley proved early on that its 0-9 record in the Northwest Conference entering the game shouldn’t be taken lightly.
On the Pioneers’ second offensive drive, running back Joe McNeely scored on a 2-yard rushing touchdown. The Pioneers led after a successful two-point conversion from McNeely, 8-0.
Perhaps more costly than the touchdown was the loss of junior running back and defensive back Connor Antich, who left the game prior to the touchdown. Antich had been one of the Falcons’ top defensive players and a sure tackler, while he also contributed his shifty running abilities in the backfield.
The Pioneers would score again near the end of the first quarter on a 4-yard rush by Tre Silva and convert another two-point try to put Nooksack Valley up 16-0.
Things would heat up for the Pioneers even more in the second quarter.
After another South Whidbey punt, McNeely scored once again on a 2-yard rushing touchdown to push Nooksack Valley ahead 24-0. McNeely scored his third touchdown of the night on the Pioneers’ following drive from 12 yards out, increasing their lead to 32-0 with 9:16 left in the half.
Two minutes later, Nooksack Valley struck once again on a 20-yard rushing score by Silva. The Falcons were able to mount a small offensive drive which reached the Pioneer 40-yard line following the score, but a holding penalty ended the drive. The Pioneers added another touchdown right before halftime. South Whidbey entered the third quarter trailing, 45-0.
“I think we overlooked their coverage a little bit,” said senior Jared Eckert. “We just destroyed Sultan (last week) in the passing game, so we came into this game thinking we were just going to pass a bunch, and it didn’t work out that way.”
The second half jumped out to a positive start when junior defensive lineman Chase Barthlett recovered a Pioneers fumble. But the momentum of the turnover was short-lived.
Patterson’s pass intended for freshman receiver Westley Craine on the Falcons’ own 42 was intercepted. With the Pioneers in good field position, Nooksack Valley scored on a 32-yard rushing touchdown, extending the Pioneers’ lead to 51-0.
The Falcons mounted a drive following the Pioneer score, which caught momentum when Patterson completed a 27-yard pass to Eckert. Craine, who split carries with senior running back Xavier Wilson after Antich left the game, rushed for 17 yards on two carries to move the Falcons to the Pioneers’ 37-yard line.
But an interception on the following play by Nooksack Valley’s secondary halted another promising drive.
South Whidbey would finally get on the board late in the fourth quarter.
After a holding penalty that negated a 53-yard rushing touchdown by Craine, Patterson, on first-and-20 and on the Falcon 37-yard line, carried the ball to the left edge of the Nooksack Valley defense. As multiple defenders approached, Patterson darted right across the field and stiff armed several Pioneers as they attempted to make a tackle. Patterson then turned upfield and reached the 12-yard line before being tackled for the 63-yard rush. Craine put the finishing touches on the drive when he scored the following play. Patterson completed the 2-point conversion to Eckert in the center of the end zone, bringing the final score to 51-8.
The Falcons said farewell to 13 seniors this season. They’ll look to juniors like Antich, Barthlett, linebacker Hunter Newman, and receiver Austin Sterba to lead the team for the 2016-17 football season.
Coe is looking forward to getting back to work in the offseason.
“It takes time. We’ll get there,” Coe said. “We’ve got a plan for the offseason and we’re going to get going and moving and we’re going to get better. We won’t be in this scenario ever again. Ever. With the (overall) record either. We’ll get things changed around for sure.”