At 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, Lynden junior Jalani Phelps can present some matchup problems for just about any defensive back.
So does his 24.66-second speed in the 200 meters, and the Lions football team found a way to utilize both those assets on Friday, Sept. 14, against Mount Baker.
"He worked really hard on his speed during the track season," Lynden coach Curt Kramme said. "He's such a good athlete and he has such a big body, and he can run and jump, and when you put that all together, he can do a lot for us. Josh (Kraght) put some passes in some great places that allowed Jalani to utilize his size and he put a couple of nice moves on players for a some big plays for us tonight."
The biggest came on about a 10-yard fade patter toward Lynden's sideline. Kraght deliberately threw the ball to Phelps' back shoulder, allowing the receiver to use his body to shield the defender. Phelps made the grab, and then let his work on the track show, as he raced 69 yards for first-quarter touchdown.
Phelps finished the night with four catches for a team-high 128 yards.
FERNDALE DEFENSE STEPS IT UP
Ferndale's customary Wing-T offensive ground game may have helped the Golden Eagles light up the scoreboard during its 62-12 win Friday night in Seattle, but Ferndale's defensive was just as, if not more, impressive.
Its defense put the Golden Eagles' offense close to Garfield's end zone time and time again.
Out of Ferndale's 10 drives, six of them started in Garfield territory. Of those six, four began inside the Bulldogs' 26-yard line.
The Golden Eagles picked off two passes, recovered two fumbles and consistently put Ferndale in prime scoring position.
"If we can keep them off the scoreboard, that's a good thing," Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich said. "We were able to create some turnovers tonight, which was nice to see."
Less than a quarter into Friday's contest, it became apparent Garfield was going to live and die with the legs of its starting quarterback Winfred Roberson.
Roberson ran a number of quarterback keepers out of the shotgun and also ran some option. Ferndale consistently shut down both plays.
Garfield even lined Roberson up at tailback late in the second quarter and the entire second half to get him more touches, but the Golden Eagles' defense stood firm. Roberson managed only 57 yards on 14 carries.
Ferndale's starting defensive 11 blanked Garfield. The Bulldogs' two scores came on a kickoff return and a 60-yard TD run against backups late in the fourth.
Ferndale will surely need a similar strong defensive outing next week against a strong Burlington-Edison team.
AURE GIVES PIONEERS A SCARE
While Nooksack Valley was happy to see 265-pound junior lineman Leni Halaapiapi in the lineup for the first time after he got his transfer paperback cleared, the Pioneers were certainly glad senior line leader Matt Aure wasn't badly hurt in Nooksack's wild 32-27 loss at Sedro-Woolley.
As the players waited in anxiety, Aure lay on the ground for a long spell after making a block during Trey Handy's 46-yard interception return in the third quarter. Aure, however, hobbled off and later said the injury was only a severe leg cramp.
Aure, a versatile 230-pound senior, was back in during Nooksack's dramatic late 90-yard touchdown drive. He made the snap for Ethan Vinup's conversion kick following Tanner Myhre's 7-yard touchdown scramble, giving Nooksack a 27-26 lead with 1:18 remaining.
GOBBATO RETURNS TO WORKHORSE WAYS
Blaine running back Mario Gobbato ran for 206 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries against Lakewood on Friday.
The 40 carries was a throwback to last year's game plan for Blaine, when Gobbato averaged 39.5 carries per game during the final six games of the year, with a high of 50 against Anacortes.
During the Borderites' first two games this year, Gobbato had only 37 touches combined, though he made good use of his limited opportunities by tallying 501 yards and nine touchdowns.
Gobbato was part of 29 of the final 38 plays for Blaine and recorded 173 yards on those plays. Both Gobbato and Blaine coach Jay Dodd were quick to credit the offensive line.
"Palmer Sandel did an outstanding job today," Dodd said. "He played great defense too and was a big factor for us."
DEFENSE STEPS UP FOR MERIDIAN
Meridian captured its first win of the season against a strong team from British Columbia, beating Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School 20-7 on a balanced pass-run attack and shutting down the larger Canadian team at the line.
Senior quarterback Max McGuinn was 10 for 20 passing for 113 yards and three touchdowns. Senior running back Junior Castro wore down the Tweedsmuir defense with 123 yards on 22 carries.
The defense also stepped up, containing a ground game that was averaging 7 yards per carry coming into the contest. The Trojans also held Tweedsmuir to just 4 yards passing. Drake VanderYacht broke up an open-field pass to kill one Tweedsmuir drive and behind the-line hits by the defensive line late in the game sealed the win.
The success bodes well for the Trojans as they head into a game versus Sehome next weekend. They need to establish focus to succeed in the conference schedule, and focus is what they did on Friday night. On crucial third- and fourth-down plays, Meridian stifled the Panthers. The Trojans allowed just three first downs in the game.
CITY RIVALS SHOW OFFENSIVE FIREPOWER
Squalicum defeated Bellingham on Friday, but both teams showed their offensive abilities.
For the Storm, Luke Weber totaled 102 yards in the second half alone. Weber's running allowed Squalicum to run down the game clock and didn't give Bellingham much time on offense.
Even though Squalicum did not need to throw much in the game, sophomore quarterback Clark Hazlett showed his passing capabilities, throwing for three long touchdowns to complement a smashmouth rushing attack for the Storm.
The Storm had good reason to keep Bellingham's offense off the field. Justin Pruett found receiver Darice Haywood for 143 yards on 10 receptions in the first half. Squalicum's double-coverage on Haywood and its time-consuming rushing attack managed to keep the Pruett-to-Haywood connection locked down in the second half of the game.
With Red Raider senior Marques Reynolds returning from injury this week, the Bellingham offense regained yet another weapon. Reynolds ran for 81 yards, but looks to improve steadily as he continues to come back from a leg injury.
EIGHT IS ENOUGH FOR BLACKHAWKS
Lummi returned to playing eight-man football on Friday against Taholah, gashing the Chitwhins for 442 yards of total offense.
"It's obviously what we know," coach Jim Sandusky said. "When we have to change to 11-man, it changes things up. ... This is our game, and we got better tonight and got the win, too."
The Blackhawks also forced two interceptions and recovered four Taholah fumbles en-route to a 59-24 victory.
WEEK 4 GAME OF THE WEEK
FERNDALE AT BURLINGTON-EDISON
7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21
The rivalry has been dormant the past four seasons, but it's back, and this year it could mean a ton in the NWC 2A/3A standings. Both teams enter with unbeaten records and showing plenty of offensive firepower. The Tigers have averaged 49.0 points per game during the first three weeks of 2012, while Ferndale is right behind at 48.7.