DUVALL — To pass or not to pass.
That was the question Friday night as South Whidbey tried to extend their undefeated season at Cedarcrest High School.
In the end, interceptions and turnovers spelled the Falcon’s doom as they were shut out 19-0 before a huge crowd.
South Whidbey committed five turnovers, four of them on passing plays.
Even so, spirited Falcon defense forced Cedarcrest to lose the ball four times. Still, South Whidbey was unable to capitalize.
Cedarcrest fans could only marvel as three South Whidbey booster buses disgorged 154 cheering Falcon fanatics just before the kickoff — by the middle of the first quarter, the crowd had swelled to more than 300.
Though the game will be long remembered for its wet-and-wild nature, Falcon coach Mark Hodson didn’t blame the elements.
“Kyle threw it straight to their defensive backs and they caught it,” he said. “The Red Wolves won because of their quickness and ability to stay low to the ground.”
“I didn’t notice the rain while playing,” added Falcons tight end Parker Barnett.
Cedarcrest moved to 5-1 in the conference, and 7-1 overall with the win.
It looked like the Red Wolves would put points on the board early.
Cedarcrest received the ball and under Cedarcrest quarterback Ernie Child’s sure direction, the Wolves marched down to the 8-yard line. A certain touchdown was thwarted as Child missed the exchange with his center and dropped the ball. The Falcons recovered the fumble deep in their own territory.
“It was a broken play where David (Monell) forced them to screw up the transfer,” defensive lineman Robert Boenish said. “The ball was on the ground and I jumped on it.”
Falcon fans roared their approval, but were quickly silenced when Red Wolf linebacker Jonathan Kreigbaum caught the first pass from Hoch and ran it back 25 yards for six points.
The kick was blocked and the score was 6-0 at the first break.
South Whidbey tried every combination of run and pass plays but couldn’t make serious headway until midway through the second quarter.
At the 20-yard line on fourth-and-15, Juan Fernandez’ attempted field goal had an unfortunate encounter with the right goal post.
Though Cedarcrest is second in the league on points scored at 317, the Falcon defense shut down the Red Wolves offense with Hoch recovering another fumble before the half. The only points scored during the first half came from the Cedarcrest defense.
As the game proceeded it became clear that Hoch desperately wanted to make something happen but was intercepted again by Red Wolf Chad Soptich.
Hoch had no excuses.
“We were ready to play but they were very good. I needed to take some chances,” Hoch said. “I know it sounds strange but maybe we needed a loss to make us focus harder for ATM.
“There are positives that can come out of a night like this,” he said.
Though the game was still within reach at the start of the third, Cedarcrest went into overdrive. Red Wolf linebacker Tyler Erickson made a flying interception to stifle another Falcon drive in the opening minutes. Then running back Darren Collingwood rambled for 20 yards to make it 12-0; again the point after failed.
Hopes rose when Jesse Bartel intercepted a Child pass. And seconds later, Barnett caught a long pass and loped downfield for a 35-yard gain, but the momentum ended on downs.
By the fourth quarter, the depth of the Red Wolf bench — they have 13 running backs on their roster to the Falcons’ seven — became apparent.
At the start of the fourth, TJ Russell kicked a beautiful punt to the Cedarcrest 5-yard line. But Child engineered a pass/sweep combination series that culminated in a little soft-shoe dance into the end zone with 7:14 left in the game to make it 19-0.
With 5:55 left, Hoch was intercepted once again and the game ground to a close as Cedarcrest ate up the clock.
“There were turnovers on both sides but we were able to capitalize and that was the key aspect for us. Our defense kept us going,” Red Wolf coach Jason Frederick said.
“I have lots of respect for South Whidbey’s offense,” he added.
“I’m really impressed with your linemen.”
“It was a rough one, a really physical game,” Barnett said. “I felt the offense did a good job but we just couldn’t get it in the end zone.”
“We all feel confident about ATM,” said the Falcons’ Justin Dunsmore, who will sit out of Friday’s game due to damaged tendons.
On defense, Hoch led with nine tackles and a fumble recovery, Barnett had eight tackles, Jesse Bartel had one interception and Hoch and Boenish both made a fumble recovery.
Cedarcrest is now tied for second behind Archbishop Murphy (8-0).
The Cascade Conference championship is up for grabs, however. If South Whidbey wins Friday against ATM and Cedarcrest beats Coupeville, there will be a three-way tie as they begin their playoff schedule against Northern Conference teams.