Though it wasn’t exactly where the Mercer Island football team had hoped to be, they played a solid final game of the season, beating Fife 42-21.
The Islanders, which missed the playoffs this season by just one game, finished the year 6-4.
The game against the Trojans started with an early Fife touchdown, off a long run by senior Chris Gibson. The score was 7-0.
The Islanders returned the favor with 1:40 left in the quarter when senior Zack Bucklin scored from the 3-yard line. The Islanders two point conversion worked and they led 8-7 and never again trailed in the game.
Bucklin would go on to score three more times in the game, breaking the single season touchdown and single season reception records. He had nine touchdown receptions this season, breaking the record set by Justin McCullum in 1999. Bucklin also broke the receptions record for a single season, earning 55 this year. In 2005 the previous record of 54 was set by Jeremy Spektor.
He said after the game it felt great to get the record, and that he dedicated the entire season to his mother.
"I feel great," said the senior. "My mom, she died of breast cancer at the beginning of the summer and i just wanted to dedicate my whole season and this game to her."
In the second quarter Devlin Conway received the ball and cross over the goal line to lift the Islanders to a 14-7 lead after the kick went wide. The Islanders kicked an onside ball during the return, beginning on the Fife 31-yard line and raced down field. Quarterback Brian Higgins found Kalen Hopkins, who scored with just over four minutes to play in the half.
On the team’s final possession of the first half Bucklin again hit the mark, the kick by Alex Emanuels was good and the Islanders led 28-7 at halftime.
At halftime, lead referee Jim Shroeder was honored for his 40 years of officiating. He and the crew choose to work the game as their final one of the season. Between the four refs working at the game, there was a combined 150 years of football officiating experience.
In the third quarter, Fife scored with 6:54 in the quarter off a 16-yard pass, the team’s extra two points were good, cutting the Islanders lead in the 28-15 ball game.
Bucklin scored again with 6:21 left in the quarter in a fake play after catching a long pass from Hopkins who caught a bounced ball from Higgins. The score was 35-15. With 1:14 left to play in the third, Bucklin again received the ball in the endzone, officially crossing the threshold to the record. The score was 42-15. Fife wrapped up the evening with a final touchdown with 6:23 left to play in the game, the two point attempt failed and the score was 42-21.
Head coach Brett Ogata said following the game he was happy with the way the team finished out the season, even though they did not make the playoffs.
"To make the playoffs you have to be good, which we were, you have to have good players, which we did, but you also have to have some luck, which we didn't always have," said the coach. "We looked and in injuries 20 of the kids we started the year with, missed three or more games. It's a tough deal, but these kids, they never hung their heads, we came out tonight and I'm really proud of these guys. The guys could have said forget this we're not going to play anymore, but rose to the challenge and that's the way these guys have been the whole year, battling. We're on the short end of the stick as far as the playoffs, but it's only the third time in 10 years we've had a winning season here at Mercer Island, so I'm really proud of them."