WINLOCK — The final score in Egg Town in the 8-man contest between Winlock and Oakville was 36-28, but talking to the two head coaches afterward, it’d be hard to tell which one had won and which had lost.
For the record, the win went to Winlock, where head coach Ernie Samples said he was “sick to my stomach.” And the loss was saddled with the Acorns, where first-year coach Skyler Davis said he was as proud as he could be for the situation.
That’s because what started to look like an early rout for the Cardinals turned into an absolute war of attrition, leaving the hosts’ bench thinner than even an 8-man team is used to operating with. And with Winlock’s offense stalling, Oakville — down its own starting quarterback — pulled out enough explosive plays to turn things more than a little interesting down the stretch, before the Acorns ultimately gave up one too many turnovers and ran out of time.
“We made it through,” Samples said. And that’s about the best way to say it.
With leading receiver Carson Borts in street clothes on the sideline after tearing his ACL and do-it-all quarterback Payton Sickles dealing with knee pain, the Cardinals turned to tailback Kaiden Perkins to carry the load on offense. The starting tailback did just that, scoring twice in the first half, while Sickles added a 10-yard score to help the hosts to a 24-6 halftime lead.
Even offensive lineman Austin Allen got in on the action, taking the ball and rumbling for 17 yards on a rare carry as a fullback out of a jumbo package.
“Payton handed it to him,” Samples said. “He was supposed to follow him, and he ended up giving it to him. That play really wasn’t by design, which sometimes ends up being the best.”
But when Sickles’ knee went for good in the third quarter, Perkins’ job grew even larger, taking over behind center and running the offense. He finished with a team-high 145 yards on 23 carries, and hit two completions for another 20 yards through the air.
“It’s been pretty big,” Samples said. “He’s been able to play quarterback and receiver too; he might be the guy next week.”
But the injuries kept mounting for Winlock. Allen — who also blocked a punt and was a constant in the Oakville backfield on defense — dealt with a nagging strain the whole second half that limited his plays. Perkins had to take a couple plays off of his own, leading to Chase Scofield coming in as an emergency quarterback.
“It just wasn’t good,” Samples said. “Hard getting guys in and out. We played a lot of guys in new positions, and I’d turn around and look and I don’t have anybody. That’s the hard part.”
Meanwhile, the Acorns, who’d established themselves as always a big-play threat early, kept creeping closer.
In the first quarter, Oakville’s offense handed the ball to Winlock on two consecutive drives on fumbled snaps, before Eddie Klatush hit Ashton Boyd for a 55-yard touchdown. That’d be the way things went for the Acorns all night long, even after Klatush himself had to exit the game with his own injury. Winlock finished with seven takeaways, but also had trouble dealing with Boyd and Daniel Rodas over the top. With freshman Gio Rodas coming in behind center in the third quarter, he immediately went to his brother. The connection yielded 159 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit — which had been 24 points early — to just one possession.
Boyd, meanwhile, had 127 receiving yards. Gio Rodas went 8 for 16 for 195 yards, while Klatush threw for 102 in the first half.
“We had to bring in an extra-guy to block, so we only had two-man routes, but I wouldn’t take any talent on the outside over Boyd and those other guys,” Davis said.
Winlock had a chance to salt the game away in the fourth quarter, when Chase Scofield picked off Gio Rodas to give the Cardinals the ball back with just over four minutes left, holding a 36-20 lead. Instead, the hosts fumbled the snap away on the very next play, Oakville took over 5 yards from the end zone, and Rodas brothers connected to trim it to a one-score game.
Winlock went three-and-out on the ensuing drive and punted the ball back to its guests with 1:32 left on the clock, but Scofield iced the game immediately with his third interception of the night.
“He had a real good game,” Samples said. “I think Chase saved us in this game.”
Winlock (4-1) will try to rest and heal up as much as possible in a week and “go back to the drawing board,” according to Samples, before hosting Muckleshoot Tribal.
Oakville (2-3) will host Sound Christian. And despite the loss, it’ll do so with some momentum.
“Last year, when it was 36-12, the final score probably would have been 70-12,” Davis said. “They would have given up right then. They would’ve given up when we fumbled on the first drive. This group has obviously improved football-wise, but as young men they’ve improved a lot. I’ve never been more proud of a loss in my life.”