Wolverines doomed by penalties, turnovers costly in 20-7 loss
By SCOTT RASMUSSEN
Journal of the San Juans Editor
September 16, 2008 · Updated 1:46 PM
Take away the flags, the five interceptions and a first half marred by mental mistakes, and the Friday Harbor football team had more than enough ammunition to end its three-year drought against Meridian.
But that would be too much to ignore. And it’s an exercise in fantasy that defies the stinging reality of a 20-7 loss to an opportunistic, though perhaps over-rated, Meridian ball club Saturday on the road.
The Trojans entered the season with two straight wins over Friday Harbor and ranked No. 4 among state 1A schools by WashingtonPreps.com. They evened their record Saturday at 1-1 following a 42-19 drubbing by 2A Squalicum in the season opener.
At Meridian, the Wolverines (1-1) dug themselves too deep a hole in the opening half by giving up 70 yards on eight penalties. Tossing three interceptions didn’t help matters and Friday Harbor went into the locker room trailing 13-0, and with just 11 yards of total offense.
“In the first half, I don’t know if we were confident enough that we could just go out there and stick it to them,” senior tailback Austin Scheffer said. “I think everyone realized when we got in the locker room that we can take these guys.”
After the break, the momentum changed on a dime. Friday Harbor grabbed the upper hand early in the second half as the offense began to click.
Sophomore quarterback Roy Taylor connected on his first three passes to provide the spark and led the team deep into Trojan territory on its first two possessions of the quarter. His QB counterpart, junior Mike Ausilio, was as equally sharp in the pocket and carrying the ball after intermission.
“The coaches were saying we just had to get three plays in a row with solid yardage, and that’s just what we did,” Ausilio said “Roy went 3-for-3 at the start and it kind of got me fired up.”
But with its back against the wall, the Meridian defense refused to break. It forced the Wolverines to turn the ball over twice on downs, once at the 4-yard line, and quarterback Max Crook and company responded by eating up seven-plus minutes of clock with a 93-yard scoring drive.
The Trojans led 20-0 with just under eight minutes left in the game, but with Friday Harbor still on the attack.
The Wolverines tallied their first touchdown on the next possession after Scheffer took a pitch from Ausilio and on fourth-and-2 and raced 42 yards before being knocked out of bounds at the Meridian 2-yard line. On the next play, he punched it in and Cody Price booted the extra point. Friday Harbor trailed 20-7 with just under six minutes to play.
But they weren’t done. Twice they drove the ball into Trojan territory before each drive ended in an interception near the Meridian 30-yard line and the clock expired.
In the second half, the Wolverines gained 125 yards on the ground and 83 yards through the air, and held the Trojans to a single TD. But they were also hit with 10 penalties during the game and backpedaled a total of 90 yards as a result.
Head Coach Darrin Scheffer said the second-half performance is something that the team can build on.
“If we’d played the first half like we played in the second half it could’ve been a whole different ball game,” Scheffer said.
The match-up at Meridian was the first of two between the Northwest Conference 1A rivals this season. Friday Harbor will host the Trojans Oct. 25, and, according to Austin Scheffer, the Wolverines are eagerly awaiting the rematch.
“I think we’re all ready to see them on our field and see what we can do,” he said.
The Wolverines are on the road at La Conner Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m.