The coveted Island Cup will be up for grabs Friday when the Wolverines open the season at home, under the lights, against an Orcas Island squad which undoubtedly will come to town looking to settle the score.
Friday Harbor shut out the Vikings 13-0 on Orcas Island last season to claim its fourth-straight victory in the annual inter-island grudge match. A victory on Friday would give the Wolverines their longest string of wins in the 18-year history of the Island Cup.
Kickoff is 7 p.m.
But it’s not just bragging rights at stake when the Friday Harbor football team takes the field in the season opener. It’s also the debut of first-year Head Coach Darren Scheffer, who took the helm earlier this year after six years as former coach Richard Ledford’s top assistant.
Moreover, it’s a golden opportunity for the team to shed the past and get back on the winning track. With a victory, the Wolverines would snap a five-game losing streak dating back to last year and gain a fresh start for the season ahead.
Scheffer knows a lot will be riding on the outcome of the season opener. Hosting the Vikings only makes Friday’s Island Cup showdown that much more intense, he said.
“It might not be every first-year head coach’s dream to have your first game against the cross-town rival,” Scheffer said. “But we’re excited. It should be a great experience. There’s always something a little extra special with Orcas and they always have a tough team.”
Both the Vikings and the Wolverines, which, at 4-5, endured their first losing season in four years, enter the game a leg up on last season. Each team takes the field with more battle-tested players in key positions than a year ago in the season opener.
“We’ve got 10 to 11 boys back that started one or more games last year,” said Viking Head Coach Dennis Dahl, now in his 19th season at the helm. “And we have a season’s experience under our belts. Hopefully, that’ll help.”
The Vikings, 1-9 a year ago, can expect prime-time performances from all-leaguers Kyle Hofman, Tyler Nigretto and Brad Bruland. In addition, junior Tyler Diepenbrock, who started nine games at quarterback following a season-ending injury to Chris Troutman, will be back to run the offense.
“I think that experience will help us,” Dahl said. “But it’s opening day and with a team of high school kids, you just never know what to expect.”
Friday Harbor’s Parker Lawson, the team’s anchor in the trenches on offense and on defense, expects Orcas to give the Wolverines all they can handle once the opening kick off takes flight. But after two-plus weeks of practice, Lawson said he’s anxious to put on the pads and take the field.
“You can always use more practice,” he said. “But I think we’ll be ready to play. It should be a typical, hard fought battle against those guys.”
Unlike last year, the Wolverines will take the field in the opening game with a healthy core of well-seasoned veterans. In seniors Eddie Nash and Austin Scheffer, the team returns its starting backfield and the core of its linebacking crew, while veteran running backs junior Michael Knowles and senior Mike Short are also available to share the load.
Punter and place-kicker Cody Price, a junior, is back to boot the ball, while Calen Mehrer, also a junior, will be back at center.
Still, Coach Scheffer said several key positions on the offensive line, in particular, have yet to be determined. And, perhaps more importantly, he said the starting quarterback job was up for grabs with a week to go before the season opener.
Fortunately, he said, that’s because the two players vying for the position, junior Michael Ausilio and sophomore Roy Taylor, are both skilled and solid at running the offense.
“Competition is always a good thing,” he said. “I think it’s helped them both to sharpen their skills.”
Friday Harbor leads 11-7 in Cup wins
The Island Cup was started in 1990 by the No Name Club of San Juan Island as a take-off of the University of Washington/Washington State University Apple Cup.
The Friday Harbor Wolverines lead the Orcas Vikings 11-7 in Island Cup wins.
1990: Friday Harbor 21, Orcas 12
1991: Friday Harbor 6, Orcas 0
1992: Friday Harbor 26, Orcas 6
1993: Friday Harbor 18, Orcas 0
1994: Orcas 10, Friday Harbor 6
1995: Friday Harbor 14, Orcas 13
1996: Friday Harbor 20, Orcas 12
1997: Friday Harbor 58, Orcas 7
1998: Orcas 57, Friday Harbor 0
1999: Orcas 40, Friday Harbor 0
2000: Orcas 58, Friday Harbor 7
2001: Orcas 49, Friday Harbor 16
2002: Orcas 28, Friday Harbor 7
2003: Orcas 20, Friday Harbor 14
2004: Friday Harbor 14, Orcas 12
2005: Friday Harbor 57, Orcas 7
2006: Friday Harbor 26, Orcas 14
2007: Friday Harbor 13, Orcas 0