Second half dominance was the difference for the Mercer Island football team in their KingCo 3A matchup on the road against the Interlake Saints.
Interlake sophomore quarterback Charlie Galanti connected with wide receiver Tyler Zumek on a 15-yard touchdown pass as time expired in the first half, giving the Saints a 13-10 lead at halftime.
Mercer Island outscored Interlake 20-7 in the second half en route to a 30-20 victory on Sept. 30 at Interlake High School in Bellevue. The Islanders improved their overall record to 3-1 with the win, while Interlake dropped to 1-4. Interlake’s final touchdown, a 28-yard catch by Myles Chandler, occurred with just 29 seconds left in game.
Mercer Island senior quarterback Nikhil Nayar had three touchdown passes in the victory. The senior signal caller hit Cole Miller on a 16-yard touchdown strike in the corner of the end-zone with 2:38 left second quarter, giving the Islanders a 10-7 lead. Miller bobbled the ball but was able to get one foot down for the score. Nayar hooked up with sure-handed tight end Griffin Emanuels on a 10-yard touchdown toss, giving the Islanders a 17-13 lead in the third quarter. Nayer’s third and final touchdown of the contest came with just 5:17 left in regulation. Nayar unleashed a 5-yard touchdown pass to receiver Hunter Johnson, giving Mercer Island a 27-13 lead. Nayar was composed, poised and displayed stoic command throughout the night. The Islanders had several dropped passes in the first half, but not many passes hit the artificial turf in the second.
“They flipped the switch. They caught everything I threw to them. It was amazing to watch,” Nayar said of his receivers.
While the offense was certainly potent against Interlake, the defense was downright dynamic. The Islanders recovered two fumbles (Giovanni Cervantes-Rocha and William Mulflur each had a fumble recovery) and senior linebacker Michael Sanchez read Galanti’s eyes before making a sensational interception late in the fourth quarter. Sanchez, who perfectly played his zone, intercepted the ball at Interlake’s 38-yard line before returning the ball to the 7-yard line. Interlake was forced to punt three times in the second half. Islanders’ linebacker Tynan Drayton had several key tackles and linebacker William St. Mary had three passes defended.
“Sanchez’s pick (interception) was huge. That pretty much sealed the game right there,” Nayar said.
Mercer Island head coach Ed Slezinger was glad his team recovered after trailing by three points at halftime.
“The first half was rough. At halftime we (coaches) talked to them and got them calmed down. In the second half they were in the right place mentally. It was about staying calm and playing the way that we always play,” Slezinger said. “It is just executing what we asked them to do all week and that’s exactly what they did. I commend them for that. They did a great job.”
The Islanders will host the Redmond Mustangs at 7 p.m. on Oct. 6 for their homecoming game. A huge crowd is expected.