Island Cup is Saturday; game gives a look at what to expect … and it’s a lot of fun

Friday Harbor’s Mike Ausilio executes an option play in the Wolverines’ 42-7 Island Cup victory last year over Orcas. Ausilio

There’s more than just bragging rights at stake when Friday Harbor and the Vikings of Orcas High School square off Saturday in the 2009 season-opener at Dahl Field on Orcas Island.

There’s the hardware, of course, and to the victor go the spoils.

The coveted Island Cup, the crown jewel of the inter-island rivalry, has been a fixture in the Wolverines’ trophy case ever since Friday Harbor upset the balance of power and clawed its way to a 2-point victory in 2004.

Since then, they’ve run roughshod over the neighboring Vikings in each of the four grudge matches that followed, including a 42-7 blowout under the lights last year in Friday Harbor, and emerged as perennial keepers of the cup.

A bit of history will also be riding on the outcome of Saturday’s contest.

Friday Harbor has a 12-7 advantage in Island Cup victories overall, but with six straight wins, spanning 1998-2003, the Vikings still hold claim to the longest string of consecutive victories over the course of the Island Cup’s 19-year history.

The Wolverines could match that streak with a victory Saturday on the Vikings’ home field. Kickoff is 1 p.m.

More importantly, perhaps, the Island Cup will serve as a showcase for a pair of football teams striving to reclaim a spot among the elite teams of their respective divisions. Friday Harbor, which posted a record of 4-5 in each of the past two seasons, competes in the state 1A Division, while the Vikings, a Division 2B team, compete against an assortment of smaller schools for a shot at post-season play.

The Wolverines missed the playoffs the past two seasons after back-to-back appearances in the state 1A championship game in 2005-06. The team will face 1A Whatcom County rivals Lynden Christian, Meridian and Nooksack Valley in six of nine regular-season games — once at home and once on the road — for the second year in a row.

The Vikings got off to a shaky start a year ago, but ended the season on a high note with a victory over La Conner and an overall record of 3-4. Though the team lost several key players to graduation, such as Kyle Hofmann and Brad Bruland, Head Coach Dennis Dahl, now in his 20th year at the helm, believes the Vikings should take the field as a more battle-tested and game-savvy group this Saturday than the team did a year ago in the season-opener.

“We’ve got some kids who played as sophomores and juniors, and are now seniors,” said Dahl, who was inducted into the Washington State High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame earlier this year, the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award. “That really helps when you’re teaching offense and defense. They pick it up more quickly.”

On the Friday Harbor sidelines, second-year Head Coach Darren Scheffer will have his hands full re-tooling a team hit hard by graduation. The Wolverines will be without their starting backfield and linebacking core from a year ago, and minus the reliable leg of long-time place-kicker Cody Price, who graduated in June. The team will also have to rely on a young and mostly untested group of underclassmen to replace a corps of sticky-fingered and savvy receivers.

“We have a great group of enthusiastic kids but there’s a lot of untried talent here,” Scheffer said. “We’re hoping that they can step up and perform for us on the field. I’m particularly proud of how our seniors have been leading the team in practice and we’re counting on them to continue to do it on the field.”

Notebook: The Wolverines are on the road the first two games of the season, but Friday Harbor fans can get a good look at the 2009 squad in action today, beginning at 7 p.m., at a full-contact team scrimmage.

F.H. leads 12-7 in Island 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 12-7 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
2008: Friday Harbor 42, Orcas 7