Orcas miss the boat against Bellingham
June 11, 2008 · Updated 4:30 PM
"For the Bellingham Eagles' purposes, Freeman Baysinger Jr. was one ferry boat late for last Saturday's semipro football game against the West Sound Orcas.As far as the Orcas were concerned, though, Baysinger was a couple boats too early.Baysinger, the co-Offensive Player of the Year in the Northwest Football League last season, showed up midway through the second quarter of the game, one of his team's many victims of weekend ferry overcrowding. He still had plenty of time to catch one touchdown pass, throw another and set up a third with a long interception return to lead the undermanned Eagles to a 28-27 victory in the nonleague game, which was delayed an hour to allow the Bellingham players to straggle in from the area's overworked ferry terminals.It was awful, said Baysinger, who caught nine Eric Franklin passes for 189 yards, picked off two Don Purser passes and ran back a kickoff 75 yards for what should have resulted in yet another Bellingham touchdown. I'm just glad they held the game up. I was thinking the game would be over before I got here. I changed on the ferry and had everything on but my cleats, so I'd be ready to go.For all Baysinger's heroics, and despite surrendering a 13-point lead in the final 6 minutes, 48 seconds, the Orcas (3-3) still had a chance to pull out the victory. Keyed by Todd Lewis' 39-yard halfback pass to Shawn Parker, West Sound drove the ball to Bellingham's 7 yard line with three seconds remaining. Instead of trying a 24-yard field goal, they put the ball into the hands of Lewis, who already had run for two TDs on the night. On this carry, however, Lewis never made it back to the line of scrimmage, and time ran out.The decision to run, rather than kick, left many Orcas players fuming.I'm a team captain, so I'll say it, and they can kick me off the team if they want to, said linebacker Paul Fearless. That call was the most disgusting, ignorant thing I've ever seen.The Orcas had been less than successful with their kicking game up to that point. Kicker Kevin Shearer had one successful point-after kick, but a second attempt was muffed by a high snap and a third was blocked.We'd had trouble kicking earlier in the game, and prior to this game, said the Orcas' offensive coordinator, Robert Mulligan, who took the heat for the decision. It was my call. I didn't have a time out, and I didn't think I had a chance to get the field goal team out there and have them prepared.Mulligan said he and head coach Larry Bell had decided earlier that they would run two-point conversions rather than kick extra points after Shearer's third attempt was blocked. After the Orcas' fourth TD, Lewis ran in untouched for two.We were having trouble keeping the middle of the line closed up, Bell said, and they hadn't stopped Todd all night. Bellingham just defensed that play real well - they were able to penetrate that particular time and stop it.It was a hard decision; it really broke my heart when it didn't work out, Mulligan said. But I thought it was the best way at the time.Bell said, I don't see how we could've done anything different.The Orcas fell behind 14-13 at halftime when Baysinger made his first interception and returned it 45 yards, all the way to West Sound's 5. On the next play, he got open in a corner of the end zone for Franklin's touch pass.Momentum turned when Shearer sacked Franklin and Dave Pederson recovered the resulting fumble at Bellingham's 37. Lewis' 25-yard scamper set up a 5-yard rumble by Andrew Alfred that put West Sound back on top. When tight end Matt Gates got between two defenders, ran under Purser's pass and barrelled home for a 61-yard score at 6:48, with Lewis adding the deuce, the Orcas' victory seemed secure.But a muffed punt snap and a 32-yard connection from Franklin to Baysinger put the Eagles at the 2-yard line. After three straight motion penalties pushed them back to the 17, Baysinger took a reverse and hit Kirk Jones in the corner of the end zone.With just 2:11 to play, Bellingham bounced the ensuing onside kick off an Orca player and recovered at their own 45. On fourth-and-10, Franklin found Baysinger for 42 yards, and on the next play he hit Jones from 13 out for the go-ahead score.The Orcas were anything but done. Lewis' 14-yard run and his strike to Parker put them achingly close to the improbable victory.Mulligan gave credit to the Eagles (6-3 league, 8-3 overall including two wins over the Orcas) for their iron-man performance.They only had about nine of their 22 starters, he said. They played a heckuva game.They've got awesome players, Fearless said of the playoff-bound Eagles, who gave up their bye week to play Saturday's game. We did what we could. We felt like we stopped the run, and they just made some big offensive plays. "