Ferndale defense falters in second half

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 11, 2013 

FERNDALE - The Golden Eagles' defense that was so sturdy throughout the first half against Sedro-Woolley was nowhere to be found after halftime.

The Cubs established themselves at the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense after a sluggish first half, made big play after big play and reeled off 26 unanswered points to end the game, handing No. 9-ranked Ferndale its first loss of the season with a 32-20 Northwest Conference Class 2A/3A defeat Friday, Oct. 11, on Homecoming night at Ferndale High School.

"First off, hats off to them," Golden Eagles coach Jamie Plenkovich said. "They came out and hit us in the mouth pretty good, especially in that second half."

Despite an early missed scoring chance during Ferndale's opening drive, thanks to a fumble deep in Sedro-Woolley territory, the Golden Eagles appeared to be in control even early in the third quarter after Joey Akers sprinted for a 60-yard touchdown to put Ferndale in front 20-6 on the team's first offensive play of the second half.

But then came the Golden Eagles' unraveling.

Sedro-Woolley quarterback Braden Blouin set up teammate Quinten Roppel's 1-yard touchdown run on the next possession after running for 73 yards around the left end on a third-and-5. Roppel's TD cut Ferndale's margin to 20-13.

Cubs linebacker Chad Wilburg then picked off an errant Cooper Clark pass and returned in 40 yards for a score with 2:33 left in the third. The pick-6 cut Ferndale's lead to 20-19 following a failed two-point conversion.

After a Ferndale punt, Sedro-Woolley caught a huge break on a Ferndale horse-collar tackle during a fake punt on a fourth-and-7 to extend the Cubs' drive. Two plays later Shawn Kennedy ran around the right end for a 40-yard TD to give Sedro-Woolley its first lead of the game at 25-20.

Sedro-Woolley's gash plays came after Ferndale's defense surrendered only 57 total first-half yards.

"They came out in the second half, and we were having a hard time establishing much of anything at the line of scrimmage," Plenkovich said.

Still, Ferndale had a chance in the fourth quarter trailing by five, but then came the back-breaker. On a fourth-and-22 from Ferndale's 38, Cubs backup quarterback Devin Willard, who played intermittently with Blouin, threw a 28-yard pass to Jacob Farrell down the seam for seemingly impossible long conversion. Clayton Johnson put Sedro-Woolley in front 32-20 three plays later with a 5-yard TD run.

"This is probably one of the greatest feelings I've had playing football, to knock these guys off," Blouin said. "We haven't beat them in like 20 years. It's an amazing feeling."

Besides a few plays Plenkovich hadn't seen on film before, the coach said Sedro-Woolley, which, like Ferndale, predominately runs the ball, didn't change anything schematically in the second half.

"They just kept playing," he said. "They kept coming after us, and we gave up big plays. We gave up a fourth-and-20 something. We gave up their long run on their first touchdown on a third-and-long. We got to get off the field."

Ferndale moved the ball into Sedro-Woolley territory down two scores with under three minutes left, but the Golden Eagles' hope of a miracle comeback ended when Clark tossed his second pick of the night on a fourth down desperation heave.

The loss overshadowed a brilliant rushing performance from Akers. The senior back enjoyed his second best rushing total of the year, carrying the rock 27 times for 192 yards. He scored on a 12-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give Ferndale a 14-6 lead and added his 60-yard TD later.

"Gutty effort by him, because he's hurt," said Plenkovich of Akers. "He just played his tail off and kept coming back for us. He played with a lot of heart, and I have nothing but respect. I'm proud of how he conducted himself and how he played."

Ferndale back Marcus Nightingale, who was leading the conference in rush yards heading into the night, was limited to 44 yards on 13 carries and was kept out of the end zone. Clark scored Ferndale's first touchdown on a 10-yard option keeper.

The Golden Eagles will look to get back on track next week when they face Bellingham at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, at Civic Stadium.

Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-756-2862.

Sedro-Woolley 0 6 13 13- 32

Ferndale 7 7 6 0- 20

First quarter

FERN - Cooper Clark 10 run (Andrew Higginson kick)

Second quarter

SW - Carter Crosby 15 run (kick fail)

FERN - Joey Akers 12 run (Higginson kick)

Third quarter

FERN - Akers 60 run (kick fail)

SW - Quinten Roppel 1 run (Francisco Tovar kick)

SW - Chad Wilburg 40 interception return (run fail)

Fourth quarter

SW - Shawn Kennedy 40 run (pass fail)

SW - Clayton Johnson 5 run (Tovar kick)

SW Fern

First downs 14 17

Rushing Att-Yards 33-233 57-269

Comp-Att-Int 4-13-0 4-10-2

Passing yards 79 48

Penalties-yards 10-103 3-40

Fumbles-lost 3-0 3-1

Individual leaders

RUSHING - Sedro-Woolley: Shawn Kennedy 11-85, Devin Willard 7-14, Clayton Johnson 5-5, Braden Blouin 4-72, Quinten Roppel 3-21, Carter Crosby 2-16, Avery Rooks 1-20. Ferndale: Joey Akers 27-192, Marcus Nightingale 13-44, Cooper Clark 10-(-3), Daniel James 7-36.

PASSING - Sedro-Woolley: Braden Blouin 2-7-0-55, Devin Willard 2-4-0-24, Carter Crosby 0-2-0-0. Ferndale: Cooper Clark 4-10-2-48.

RECEIVING - Sedro-Woolley: Anthony Cann 2-9, Shawn Kennedy 1-42, Jacob Farrell 1-28. Ferndale: John Weg 2-30, Ian Barnes 1-8, Robert Hardin 1-10.

Reach ANDREW LANG at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call ext. 862.

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