NOOKSACK - Temperatures were in the mid 80s for Nooksack Valley's non-conference football matinee with Forks on Saturday, Sept. 8, and "The heat effect was ... hot," Pioneers coach Robb Myhre said.
Even hotter was Nooksack Valley's third-down conversion rate.
The Pioneers converted a first down the first eight times they took a snap on third down, as sophomore quarterback Tanner Myhre threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for two more scores to help Nooksack Valley broil Forks with a 35-6 victory.
"Every time we faced a third down, we kept saying 'Don't give up and put it at 'em,'" Tanner Myhre said. "We just wanted to get a first down and move the chains."
The Pioneers (2-0) did that over and over again.
In fact, the first time they didn't convert a third-down play - a third-and-16 at the Forks 34, when Bret Rediger's run came up 2 yards short - Nooksack ended up converting on fourth down, instead, and two plays later scored on a 15-yard touchdown toss from Rediger to Trey Handy, who finished with eight receptions for 129 yards and three touchdowns. Joey Scheffer also chipped in a 100-yard receiving effort.
The third downs that Nooksack Valley did convert weren't all gimmes, either. There was a third-and-8 and a third-and-20 in the first half, when the Pioneers went six-for-six, and a third-and-14 and a third-and-9 in the third quarter.
But each time Nooksack found a way to get the job done, unusually with Tanner Myhre finding Handy or Scheffer.
"We just focused on intensity and keeping guys focused," senior lineman Matt Aure said. "We needed mental toughness to keep our heads in the game."
That was key, considering a lack of focus put the Pioneers in many of those difficult situations on third down, anyway. They were penalized 83 yards on 11 flags, many of which wiped out big plays including a touchdown pass.
"This was a pretty ... ugly ... nice win," Robb Myhre said. "We made way too many mistakes today, and that is something that we need to correct this week. We didn't do that last week, and we can't do it next week (against Sedro-Woolley)."
The heat certainly may have had something to do with the lack of focus, but it probably affected Forks more, Robb Myhre said.
And to take advantage of an opponent used to the cooler climate on the Olympic Peninsula, the Pioneers picked up the pace offensively.
"You could see them dragging a little bit, and you want to take advantage," Robb Myhre said. "But at the same time, you want to keep your own guys fresh. So we did some creative play calling to take advantage of what we saw."
What the Pioneers saw was a Spartans defense that simply was unable to get off the field.
Forks took the opening possession and drove to the Nooksack 6, but turned the ball over in the red zone with an incomplete pass on fourth down.
"That was huge for us," Tanner Myhre said. "Our defense gives our offense a spark all the time, and it definitely did it there."
The Pioneers slowly turned that spark into a flame, driving 94 yards on 13 plays, before Tanner Myhre capped off the drive with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone.
Two drives later, 13 was again Nooksack's lucky number, as it took the Pioneers that many plays to go 65 yards before Tanner Myhre made it 14-0 with a 2-yard run. He later found Handy on 33- and 24-yard scoring tosses.
"We did a good job of taking what they gave us," Robb Myhre said. "We have some very creative receivers in Joey Scheffer and Trey Handy, and I think Tanner did a good job of getting them the ball in positions they could do something with it."
Forks 0 0 0 6- 6
Nooksack 7 14 14 0- 35
NV - Tanner Myhre 1 run (Ethan Vinup kick)
NV - Myhre 2 run (Vinup kick)
NV - Trey Handy 33 pass from Myhre (Vinup kick)
NV - Handy 24 pass from Myhre (Vinup kick)
NV - Handy 15 pass from Bret Rediger (Vinup kick)
Forks -Braden Decker 12 run (pass fail)
First downs 12 20
Rushing Att-Yards 40-194 27-82
Comp-Att-Int 3-13-2 23-32-2
Passing yards 45 299
Penalties-yards 5-35 11-83
Fumbles-lost 5-3 2-0
RUSHING - Forks: Mitchell Leppel 13-74, Brett Pederson 10-39, James Salazar 3-6, Dimitri Sampson 7-27, Braden Decker 5-32, Ricky Barragan 2-16. Nooksack Valley: Tanner Myhre 9-34, Curtis Handy 1-8, Levi Schram 5-14, Bret Rediger 11-20, Joe Luton 1-6.
PASSING - Forks: Braden Decker 3-13-2-45. Nooksack Valley: Tanner Myhre 19-26-2-281, Bret Rediger 4-6-0-18.
RECEIVING - Forks: Brett Pederson 2-32, Mark Jacobsen 1-13. Nooksack Valley: Joe Scheffer 6-100, Wade Rediger 2-31, Trey Handy 8-129, Josh Gimmaka 3-22, Levi Schram 2-14, Eben Rossmiller 1-0, Hunter Whittern 1-3.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.