October 11, 1999
Amid the pageantry and the raindrops last Friday night, the Cedarcrest Red Wolves fell to the 3-2 Mercer Island Islanders, 41-14, to drop their record to 0-5 on the season.
The evening started with hope and promise as junior vocalist Rachael Reisz belted out a stellar à cappella rendition of the national anthem. The crowd was restless in anticipation as the Red Wolves received the opening kickoff amid the steady drizzle which would persist throughout the night.
From their own 25, Cedarcrest took it right at the Islanders and with Jed Dern and Morgan Henly running behind the blocks of Brandon Clarke, Ryan Sage, Bobby Znak, Joe Grady, and Dan Gunderson, ground out a quick first down. The drive faltered after an incomplete pass, and Nate McLallin pinned MI deep in their own territory with a nice punt.
Now it was up to the Red Wolf defense to rise to the challenge. Having been victimized early in the past few games, the defense came out strong, led by David Shipley. A great timing hit by Cody Wheeler on a receiver coming across the middle stopped the Islanders on their first series to get the ball back for the offense.
Playing the field position game gave the Islanders the ball back on their own 39, where they put bruising running back David Kirtman to work. As the Red Wolves have been prone to do this season, they made a decent running back look like an all-star. Kirtman and the MI offense found several running lanes in the Red Wolf defense and exploited them to their advantage. Chewing up yardage in big chunks led to the Islanders' first score on a 12-yard run over the right side by Kirtman, and with 48 seconds left in the first quarter, it was 7-0 MI.
This was a much-needed boost to the hometown boys, as they have fallen behind by big scores early against the likes of Bellevue and Sammamish, so having the score 7-0 at the end of the first quarter was a victory of the mind for the embattled defense.
Unfortunately, Mercer Island had found the Achilles' heel of the Cedarcrest defense, and that was stopping the run. While the Red Wolf defense ranked second in the league in pass defense coming into the ball game, they were last in run defense. MI used this to their advantage throughout the remainder of the first half and were quite successful in using a ball control ground attack to keep the chains moving while keeping the potent Red Wolf offense grounded on the sidelines.
When the Red Wolves got the ball again, they used a nifty screen pass to Matt Cain to slow down the blitzing MI defense and gain 15 yards in the process. Unfortunately, the Red Wolf offense was out of sync early, as open receivers dropped passes and had balls thrown out of their reach, while the rain kept playing devious tricks on the minds of the young squad. While gains of large amounts of real estate could be had, they were far too few in happening and too spaced out to mount any serious scoring threat in the first half.
Late in the first half, the Islanders applied the knockout punch, which has been felt by the Red Wolves many times this season. With the score 7-0 late in the first half, MI drove down the field using a series of runs and pass receptions from QB Sam Hale to Kirtman. Kirtman was stopped in the backfield momentarily by the Red Wolf defense, only to break out of the arm tackle and scramble 16 yards down the right side for anther touchdown to increase the score to 14-0 with 6:18 to play in the half.
An exchange of punts was all in the Islanders' favor as they pinned Cedarcrest deep in their own end at the 2-yard line with 2:42 to play. The worst of all things that could happen to the hometown team happened: a fumble at the 2 was recovered by MI and they were in business once again. A quick score was the last thing the Red Wolves needed to give up, but with 2:29 left, the Islanders found paydirt to increase their lead to 21-0.
I wish I could say that the agony ended there, but the Red Wolves have consistently found new ways to amaze their faithful. On the ensuing kickoff, Cedarcrest kick return demon Casey Petterson was struggling for more yards as the ball came out and was recovered by MI. With 1:12 to go in the half, a QB sneak by Hale pushed MI to an insurmountable lead of 28-0.
But MI wasn't done. As Cedarcrest attempted to work the clock to get in position to score, they went for a fourth and one from their own 30 with 36 seconds remaining in the half. This was enough time for MI to move into field goal range, and with 6 seconds left, pushed the halftime score to 31-0 MI.
The halftime pageantry was sullen as the hometown crowd was stunned at the quickness of the 24 points scored by the visitors. The floats and homecoming royalty were in full regalia, as the marching band under the direction of Ryan Lewis marched onto the field for the first time in recent memory.
As always, the cheerleaders under the direction of Margie Coy were awesome, as well as the award-winning drill team. Everyone anticipated the class floats and were not disappointed. Colorfully decorated trailers weighed down by several members of each class provided quite a spectacle.
The highlight was probably the flashing lights and siren of the sophomore entry, which was a decorated fire engine loaded with students demonstrating their class pride. Royalty from each class were introduced and it seemed to happen rather quickly that we were transformed from a fairy tale back to the brutal world of second-half football.
In the second half, Nick Rich came off the bench for the first time this season and seemed to spark the offense. Several passes on target to open receivers and the offense had a spark. Unfortunately, it took until the fourth quarter before the Red Wolves would delight the crowd and cross the goal line.
Until then, the crowd could only cheer at the defensive gem of the night which was turned in by sophomore Curtis Coe as he stormed across the line and pressured the MI quarterback into pulling the ball down and then tackling him for an 8-yard loss. This stalled the MI drive and forced a field goal try from 40 yards out, which was good and pushed the score to 41-0.
With 9:26 to go in the fourth quarter, the Red Wolves finally made their own break and recovered a MI fumble at their own 15. From there, the offense kicked into overdrive and started throwing deep and often. Michael Smith was a primary target of Rich and the Red Wolves as they even went to a no-huddle offense to try and keep MI off balance.
Everything seemed to click with the offense as Eric Dick stormed up the middle for two large gains, as MI was expecting the Red Wolves to throw. From there, a great pass and catch from Rich to Smith and an illegal late hit on the quarterback moved the ball inside the 4 and gave Cedarcrest a first down and a bonafide scoring opportunity. From there, the Red Wolves stuck it in the end zone with a quick slant from Rich to Smith to erase the goose egg from the scoreboard.
The Red Wolves weren't done. A surprise onside kick caught MI napping and the recovery gave Cedarcrest the ball, first and 10 at the 40 of MI. A pass interference penalty against MI and a tremendous catch by Cedarcrest's all-league receiver Smith gave them a first down inside the 4 as the Red Wolves were knocking on the door once again.
The crescendo in the crowd grew as a run was stopped and two passes fell harmlessly to the wet grass in the end zone. Finally, on fourth down, the stands exploded as Petterson fired a ball to the corner and Smith went down and scraped it off the ground for another Cedarcrest score to close the gap to 41-14.
The ensuing onside kick try was unsuccessful as MI was not caught unaware this time. From there, MI used a time consuming drive to run the final 3:45 off the clock and put an end to the contest.
Cedarcrest is off to Interlake for next week's contest. The 0-5 Saints should give the Red Wolves one of their best opportunities for a win, if not for this year, but to avenge the 14-12 loss on homecoming night a year ago. Go Red Wolves!