Finally. A win for Lake Stevens, now 1-2 in non-league play to open the 2013 season, a 14-13 home field squeaker over 3A Wesco foe Oak Harbor (now 2-1) last Friday.
Lake managed to hold on to the win despite nearly blowing a two-touchdown halftime lead while Oak Harbor ran 39 offensive plays in the second half to Lake’s eight.
Much of the credit for the win is due to Ignacio Ponce’s five punts averaging 39.4 yards, forcing the Wildcats’ potent wishbone offense into long marches, and to the Viking’s “bend but don’t break” line and linebacker play which saw linebacker C.J. Lat tie a single-game school record of 26 tackles, closely followed by lineman Evan Mitsch’s 23. Lat now has 70 tackles for the season, well on pace to smash the school record of 160 tackles for a season.
Lake looked to be in good shape when it took a 14-0 lead at the half. The Vikings halted Oak Harbor’s second-half-opening 63-yard, 15-play drive on the Viking nine (key fourth-down tackle by Riley Krenz assisted by Lat and Ryder Fouts). Then Austin Otis gained 26 yards in three carries to the Oak Harbor 35, where Sheynne Sams ripped the ball out of Otis’ arms and returned it for a Wildcat TD to cut the lead to 14-7.
That play, with 4:28 left in the third quarter, signaled a turnaround for the visitors, who dominated the remainder of the game, with Lake barely able to hang on to the win.
Lake opened the scoring at 4:07 of the first quarter when Jacob Eason connected with Gavin O’Neil for a 46-yard touchdown reception. That came on the next play after Tevin Gray intercepted Clay Doughty’s pass and returned it 13 yards. Ponce added the PAT kick.
Lake increased the lead to 14-0 on a six-play, 85-yard drive geared by Eason’s five-for-five passing, two of which were to Krenz totaling 60 yards, culminated by O’Neil’s two-yard reception, 38 seconds left in the half.
Lake kept Oak Harbor scoreless in the half in large part thanks to key sacks by Lat and by Alex Verhoeven, helping to negate the Wildcats’ 148-44 advantage in net yards rushing in the first two quarters.
Oak Harbor’s running game controlled the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter. When Lake held the Wildcats to no gain in two rushes after they had gained a first down on the Viking nine, a Doughty pass was incomplete, followed by his screen pass to Dyllan Harris which saw the latter snake his way into the end zone to make it 14-13 with 3:29 left in the game. But Mark Johnston’s high booming PAT kick was pushed well to the right, leaving his team a point short.
Lake (which did not gain a first down in the fourth quarter, and only two for the entire second half) then went three-and-out, Ponce punting to the OH 45 with 2:23 left.
Viking defense took over at that point, stuffing the Wildcats to one yard net in three plays before Miksch ended the drama with a fourth-down sack of Doughty at 1:27. Lake took possession and three Eason “kneel-downs” later, it was over.
Game stats reveal just how fortunate Lake was to prevail. Oak Harbor carried the ball 64 times for 288 net yards to Lake’s 23 carries for 71 net. Eason was nine for 16 (no interceptions) for 158 yards, 86 of those yards and both touchdowns recorded by O’Neil. Doughty was three for seven (one interception) for 12 yards. Lake had just 10 first downs, OH 15.
Otis led Lake in rushing with 89 net yards in 17 carries. Sams netted 147 yards in 25 carries for OH, with Julian Faralan adding 87 in 13 and Dejon Devroe 55 in 12.
In addition to Lat and Miksh combining for 49 tackles, Lake had three other double-figure tacklers: 15 by Fouts, 12 by Kolby Jones and 10 by Krenz.
Lat’s 26 tackles tied the record previously held by Trevor McGuire (1998), Robb Touchette (1991), and Chris Monson (1984).
Lake’s single-season tackle mark of 160 is held by Josh Duncan (1994).
Vikings open Wesco North 4A play at Monroe on Friday. Lake will be out to show that last year’s 9-7 loss to the Bearcats was a bit of a fluke.
Lake outgained Monroe by 150 yards and had 14 first downs to six in that game but the Vikings were done in by their own mistakes (three crucial turnovers). This resulted in Lake and Monroe finishing tied for the division crown at 4-1 each but Monroe advancing to the all-over Wesco league title game vs. Jackson, while Lake beat Edmonds-Woodway in the third place game.