Ferndale’s football team couldn’t get its offense in rhythm in the second half and suffered a 42-23 defeat at the hands of Oak Harbor on Friday, Sept. 12, at Ferndale High School.
The Golden Eagles’ Wing-T offense was effective running up the middle in the first half, as running back Marcus Nightingale rumbled for 142 yards and a touchdown in the opening half. But they fell behind early in the second half and couldn’t catch up.
“I’m grateful to have had such a good game because the line was great,” Nightingale said. “I saw huge holes up the middle, which happens when we work as a team. In the second half we just got lazy.”
The Wildcats used a hard rusher up the middle complimented by two speedy backs who made some noise running to the outside of their own Wing-T, as they shut down Ferndale’s outside running game on defense.
Oak Harbor’s Princeton Lollar rushed for 125 yards, mostly up the middle, and Dejon Devroe had 106 yards as he exploited his speed against Ferndale’s defensive backs.
The first half was very back and forth, however. Ferndale struck first, following up a turnover on downs on Oak Harbor’s first drive with a 64-yard drive. The key play on the drive was Nightingale’s first rush of the game, a 31-yarder, that put the Golden Eagles on the Wildcats’ 35.
Nightingale and fellow running back Daniel Jones rushed the ball down to the 19, where Austin Honeycutt took an end-around rush all the way to the end zone on his first rush of the game.
Oak Harbor didn’t trail for long, though. Starting from their own 38, the Wildcats’ quarterback Clay Doughty found Lollar for a 15-yard gain. After a five-yard run by Devroe, Ferndale called timeout. On the very next play, Doughty found Dyllan Harris for a 42-yard touchdown pass. Harris juked a defender and outran the rest of the Golden Eagles for the score.
As the second quarter opened, Ferndale had Oak Harbor ready to punt from its own 10. The first snap of the second quarter went over the Wildcats’ punter and out of the end zone, giving Ferndale a 9-7 lead.
The Golden Eagles turned the ball over on downs on the drive off of the safety after driving down to Oak Harbor’s 19. The Wildcats chipped away with a few Lollar runs, and a big 31-yard run by Doughty as he avoided Ferndale’s pass rush. They continued chipping away down to the Ferndale 2, and Lollar punched it in.
Ferndale answered, driving down to the Oak Harbor nine thanks to a Nightingale 28-yard run. He finished it off with a nine-yard scamper into the end zone completely untouched.
“Oak Harbor was taking away the outside run, so that really opened up the middle for Marcus,” Ferndale coach Jamie Nightingale said.
Oak Harbor had the ball with just 1 minute, 5 seconds to go, but the Golden Eagle’s Alex DeShong got a big sack as the time ran out in the half to give Ferndale a 16-14 halftime lead.
Ferndale punted on its first drive of the second half, after another dropped pass by Golden Eagle receivers. Ferndale quarterback Kyler Schemstad was unable to connect with his receivers all day, as pass after pass bounced off the intended target, sailed over their head, or they ran the wrong route.
Schemstad finished just 7 of 16 for 59 yards with two interceptions.
The Wildcats came out on their first drive of the half firing on all cylinders. They hit a 10-yard pass from Doughty to Devroe, a 14-yard run by Lollar, and a 12-yard run by Devroe to set them up on the Ferndale 23. Ferndale was unable to stop Oak Harbor on a fourth straight first down, allowing Devroe to waltz into the end zone on a 23-yard run.
Ferndale has been trying a different defensive set this season, with just three down linemen instead of four.
“There have been some growing pains,” Plenkovich said. “We didn’t play good defense tonight. We can’t give up that much yardage.”
With Oak Harbor leading 21-16, Ferndale was forced to punt again on a three-and-out. It took just five plays for The Wildcats to strike again, this time on a demoralizing 44-yard touchdown run by Zach Jones. A host of Golden Eagles thought they had stopped the ball carrier coming up the middle, but the ball had actually been given to Jones on the outside after the fake in the center.
Ferndale got back in rhythm with a long 13-play drive capped off with a quarterback keeper sweep by Schemstad nine yards for the touchdown.
But Oak Harbor stayed on top with another short drive capped off with a Doughty pass to Harris 13 yards for the touchdown.
The teams traded a pair of three-and-outs, and Ferndale drove down the field on its second drive after Harris’ score, to Oak Harbor’s 44. With just under five minutes left, Schemstad took a shot deep downfield. The Golden Eagle receiver misread the pass and was five yards too far, as David Ray picked off Schemstad for the Wildcats.
That all but sealed Ferndale’s fate, as Oak Harbor slowly drove down the field to run out the clock. They were able to score once more on an 11-yard run by Devroe to put a Wildcat stamp on their 42-23 win over Ferndale.
“They executed better and we just didn’t tackle well,” Plenkovich said. “We have a lot to work on.”