FERNDALE - If there was one thing that Ferndale football coach Jamie Plenkovich was unsure of as his team attempted to replace six starters on each side of the ball this year, it was how his team would handle adversity.
He really doesn't need to worry anymore.
The Golden Eagles' composure twice was tested in their NWC 2A/3A opener against Sehome on Friday, Sept. 7, and both times they answered the call.
Ferndale used a career-high 248 yards and four-touchdowns from Alex Conley to overcome an early 13-point deficit and then held off a furious Mariners fourth-quarter rally to emerge with a 35-29 victory.
"We saw both the good and the bad tonight," Plenkovich said. "We battled through both, and I was pleased to see that."
The bad definitely came early, when Sehome freshman Daniel Ziegler returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. The Mariners (0-2, 0-1 NWC 2A/3A) followed that with a nine-play, 72-yard drive that was capped off by Austin Rapp's 13-yard touchdown toss to Willy Lallas on fourth down, putting Ferndale (2-0, 1-0) in a quick hole less than nine minutes into the game.
"We came out flat," Plenkovich said. "I'm really not sure why, but you could tell things just weren't right during warm ups."
Things quickly turned around, though, as the Golden Eagles defense put the clamps on, holding the Mariners to just 37 yards of total offense on Sehome's next seven drives.
That allowed Conley and the Ferndale offense to get on track and take the lead.
Conley scored on runs of 54 and 7 yards in the second quarter to make it 14-13 Ferndale at the half. He then added 38- and 13-yard touchdown runs in the third and fourth quarters, sandwiched around an 18-yard TD run from Anthony Fleck, who finished with 76 yards on 15 carries.
Before you knew it, Ferndale had a 35-13 lead with 9:46 to play, and the game looked to be over.
"We kind of let up there," Sehome coach Bob Norvell said. "Eventually, tradition kind of catches up to you, and these guys have been pushed around for quite a while. It's about time we get a big win so that people can start believing in what we're doing here at Sehome."
The Mariners almost got exactly that.
In for Rapp at quarterback, Ziegler ripped off touchdown runs of 60 and 50 yards on back-to-back Sehome possessions. In between, Lallas blocked a punt for a safety, and all of a sudden, Sehome trailed by only six with 2:13 to play.
The Mariners' onside kick attempt went out of bounds, and Ferndale immediately put the ball back in the hands of Conley, who picked up 24 yards on the first carry of the drive and then added 35 more down to the Mariners' 2 on a third-and-6 play to end the game.
"That was a big, big first down," Plenkovich said. "I thought Sehome played really hard for all four quarters. We played good in spurts, but we played good when we had to. We have a lot of things we're going to have to go back and work on this week."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
Sehome 13 0 0 16- 29
Ferndale 0 14 14 7- 35
Seh -Deniel Ziegler 95 kickoff return (run failed)
Seh - Willy Lallas 13 pass from Austin Rapp (Sam Diehl kick)
Fern - Alex Conley 54 run (Wyatt Dunn kick)
Fern - Conley 7 run (Dunn kick)
Fern - Conley 38 run (Dunn kick)
Fern - Anthony Fleck 18 run (Dunn kick)
Fern - Conley 13 run (Dunn kick)
Seh - Ziegler 60 run (Diehl kick)
Seh - Safety
Fern - Ziegler 50 run (Diehl kick)
First downs 13 18
Rushing Att-Yards 35-234 47-385
Comp-Att-Int 2-6-1 1-5-1
Passing yards 12 17
Penalties-yards 9-97 4-16
Fumbles-lost 3-1 5-1
RUSHING - Sehome: Taylor Rapp 8-18, Titi Lamositele 11-65, Bo Banner 1-4, Austin Rapp 12-27, Daniel Zieger 3-120. Ferndale: Daniel Ewald 4-6, Alex Conley 18-248, Anthony Fleck 15-76, Richmond Baardson 2-27, Cooper Clark 4-24, Luke Melton 1-2, Daniel Jones 2-3, Kyle Schemstad 1-(-1).
PASSING - Sehome: Austin Rapp 2-6-1-12, Daniel Ziegler 0-3-1-0. Ferndale: Kyle Schemstad 0-1-0-0, Cooper Clark 1-4-1-17.
RECEIVING - Sehome: Willy Lallas 1-13, Daniel Ziegler 1-(-1). Ferndale: Richmond Baardson 1-17.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.