Sports

Mercer Island football remains optimistic despite loss to Juanita

Three weeks into the high school football season, the Mercer Island football team has a 1-2, but the team isn’t beating itself up over its record. The Islanders, who played Juanita last Thursday, lost 28-13.

“We got better; we didn’t turn over the ball as much, and even though it was wetter, we felt there were areas of improvement,” said head coach Brett Ogata. “I’m enthusiastic about how it’s going, and I’m proud of the way they battled.”

The Rebels knew coming into the game against Mercer Island that they’d have to focus on breaking up big passes from Islander quarterback Jeff Lindquist.

“We had a big challenge and we knew that quarterback (Lindquist) is pretty dang good. He’s awesome. I felt like our guys were in position most of the night, and he really made us work,” said Shaun Tarantola, the head coach for Juanita.

For the Islanders, playing a physically big Juanita team was a taste of things to come this season.

“The kids now have a sense of what we’ll have to deal with, and I think it gave them confidence,” he said. “They were a little unsure, which is why we saw the 21-0 score, but we outscored them 13-7 in the last part of the game. They are starting to learn and figure it out.”

The Rebels scored the first touchdown of the night when Andre Casino ran in a 15-yard touchdown for a 7-0 start with 6:32 left in the first quarter. Mercer Island made their first scoring attempt during a 42-yard field goal kick by Alex Wood with 3:18 left in the first, but it sailed just wide, keeping the Rebels ahead at the end of the first.

The Islanders’ defense did their best to stymie the Rebels, but key plays allowed Juanita to drive forward.

“Defense as a whole — they are pretty much right on; the other guys were just faster,” said Ogata.

Rebels quarterback Derek Kaufman connected with senior Jarret Finau in the middle of the second on a 9-yard pass for the Rebels’ second touchdown of the night, earning a 14-0 score during the first quarter.

Not willing to be slowed the Rebels offense quickly regained the ball after stalling Mercer Island through four downs. Rebels’ Charles Benjamin made a 9-yard touchdown run of his won with 2:12 left in the half for a 21-0 lead.

Unwilling to let the half end with 21 unanswered points the Islanders began to pick up their momentum, following a huge run down the field by Nick Sinclair before he was stalled on the 24-yard line. With less than a minute left in the half the Islanders kept their pace as quarterback Jeff Lindquist made a 2-yard run for the Islander’s first goal of the night with 46 seconds left on the clock. The half ended with a 21-7 score.

“Jeff had a really good game,” said the Islanders coach. “It was a tough game with big kids in his face all the time, but he still made plays and runs. He really have us a chance.”

Both teams pushed back and forth during the third, with neither advancing far enough for a scoring chance to end go into the last 12 minutes with the same score.

The last quarter started with a big Juanita drive down the field, which ended with senior Jeremiah Laufasa’s first touchdown of the night, with 9:12 left on the clock. The senior ran for more than 140 yards during the game.

Mercer Island kept looking for their chances, only to be stopped and burn through downs in the fourth quarter. In a slight repeat of their first game of the season, the Islanders put together a convincing drive with under two minutes on the clock, when they scored. The kick was blocked for a 28-13 end to the game.

The Islanders, now 1-2 this season, will host Interlake this Friday, starting at 7 p.m.

“We have to made sure we get rid of our mistakes,” said Ogata about not letting last year’s game ending loss to Interlake happen again. “We have to take the opportunities we’re given and use those. Those will be a big key to making big plays.”

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