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Islanders earn first victory over Newport | Prep football
By Linda Williams Rorem
Special to the Reporter
On one of the most spectacularly clear and warm nights of this delayed summer, the MIHS Islanders played one of their strongest games in recent memory, shutting out the Newport Knights 29-0 in the first half and finishing the game 36-21.
For Mercer Island quarterback Jeff Lindquist, the victory was all the more sweet because “going into the game, I had never beat Newport, and I’ve been playing against them since I was in fifth grade.”
The varsity squad had not conquered Newport since 2004.
Lindquist was especially ready to revenge last year’s 28-21 loss against the Knights, when, with five seconds left to play, he was sacked.
Last night, “We came out swinging, and that worked for us,” Lindquist said.
Indeed. Just three-and-a-half minutes into the game, senior Phil Frazier ran the ball in after a series of plays that also involved junior Risley Lesko and senior Connor Bernal.
And then, less than a minute later, junior Brian Rauzi recovered a fumble on Newport’s 18-yard line, and Lindquist eventually carried it in from the 5-yard line, bringing the score to 14-0.
Not long afterwards, Mercer Island recovered another fumble, and after a series of runs, senior Eric Stefanchik scored. A two-point conversion notched the score up to 22-0, just halfway into the first quarter.
“Those two turnovers really set us up well,” Lindquist said.
Lindquist and his teammates spent much of the week focusing on lessons learned from last week’s CenturyLink Field opener against Seattle Prep, in which they lost by one point (36-35) in overtime, following a jaw-dropping second-half comeback.
“The loss last week gave us a little more focus,” says Lindquist. “We were that close to winning last week, and we wanted to make sure that stuff doesn’t happen again.” Also, he credited a strong offense line to the Islanders’ success.
“The O-line had a great game,” he said. “They work really well together. I can trust the guy to my right and the guy to my left, and just focus on my assignment.”
In the second quarter, Mercer Island still looked strong. Following two more Frazier carries (he ended the night with 20), Lindquist eventually ran the ball in, just over three minutes into the period. Senior Parker Scott blocked a long pass by Newport quarterback Isaac Dotson, and the team held Newport to 29-0 in the first half.
Frazier, who rushed for a career-high 104 yards, “is an animal,” said Lindquist. “He’s a tough-as-nails kind of kid.”
Unfortunately, the game started to get away from Mercer Island in the third quarter.
“It does happen, although you hope it won’t,” said Lindquist. A couple of unfortunate penalties set the Islanders back, and a few led to fourth-down turnovers.
“But, we were winning, so we didn’t need to be that scared at that point,” Lindquist said. “We just needed to go out and [continue to] do what we needed to do.”
The Knights scored with 7:23 left in the third quarter, although the Islanders prevented the two-point conversion. As the end of the quarter neared, after an outstanding Islander drive, Lindquist ran the ball in from the 2-yard line. The extra point was good, raising the score to 36 to 6.
Newport scored twice more in succession early in the fourth quarter, but the remainder of the game was scoreless, ending at 36-21.
Lindquist rushed for 115 yards; he had three touchdowns on 19 carries. In the air, he completed 14 of 31 passes (one for a touchdown), for a total of 149 yards.
The Islanders are already looking forward to next week’s game against Juanita, Friday at 7 p.m. — their first home game. Lindquist thinks they have a solid chance of winning that, and any, of the season’s remaining games.
“All of them are going to be big, and we can win them all,” he said. “It’s just a matter of going out and playing like we can.”