After leading 21-13 at halftime and 28-13 in the third quarter, Mercer Island struggled to contain the running game of the Liberty Patriots, losing 35-28. The loss marked the Islanders’ first loss in KingCo 3A/2A play, dropping the Islanders to 4-2 on the season and 4-1 in conference play.
Despite trailing most of the game, Liberty would not go away. Behind junior running back Russell Boston, the Patriots stormed back in the second half, finishing the game with three unanswered touchdowns. Boston, who rushed for three touchdowns in the game, reached the end zone twice in the fourth quarter on a 27-yard run and a 67-yard run for the go-ahead score.
While Coach Brett Ogata commended Liberty’s physical play and mentioned it may have caused problems for the Islanders, Ogata stressed his team must keep their focus on getting better going forward.
“You have to compete the whole game,” said Ogata in a phone call. “We have to prepare better, from the coaches on down to the players.”
Junior quarterback Alfonso Gonzalez struck first for the Islanders, throwing for a 70-yard touchdown to Alex Bell. Gonzalez also rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, while Jack Counihan and Kyle Hsu also scored touchdowns for the Islanders.
Spirits were high at halftime. With the Islanders leading 21-13, fans were treated to “All Island Band Night,” a performance featuring the 700 students of the Mercer Island School District’s band program, with students from grades 5-12 sharing the field.
A quick start followed by a second-half scare has become all too familiar for Mercer Island. In their previous matchup against Juanita, the Islanders jumped ahead 17-0 and led 24-7 at halftime. Juanita stormed back in the second half before the Islanders prevailed 31-25.
Next up for the Islanders is a conference battle for second place with Mount Si Friday at Mount Si High School Stadium. The Wildcats, coming off their first loss of the year to Bellevue, are also 4-1 in conference play and hold a 6-1 record on the year.
“We just need to keep our focus,” Ogata said. “It’s not so much about Mount Si. It’s about us getting better.”