BURLINGTON - After running back Hank Hilts bulled his way for 9 yards into the heart of the Burlington-Edison defense on Ferndale's first offensive play Friday, Sept. 21, Golden Eagles assistant coach Rick Brudwick turned around and confidently proclaimed, "It's there; it's there!"
While Brudwick was talking about the hole being there against Burlington's slant up front, he just as easily could have been saying "He's there; he's there!" after the night turned in by Hilts, who entered the night with only six carries in the first three games but got four times that many in Week 4.
"I took last year off from football," said Hilts, a senior who also plays hockey. "I needed to earn my way back onto the field."
It's pretty safe to say he did that Friday, as he rushed for 196 yards and four touchdowns to lead Ferndale to a 55-14 victory over the Tigers in a NWC 2A/3A battle of unbeatens. Alex Conley complimented Hilts with 115 yards and two TDs, and the Ferndale defense came up with a number of big plays to turn the game into a blowout.
"Ferndale football is back," Ferndale lineman Kameron Mckay said. "This is where Ferndale football is supposed to be."
If Mckay means running the football down an opponent's throat, that's exactly what Ferndale got on Friday.
The Golden Eagles (4-0, 2-0 NWC 2A/3A) got big run after big run from Hilts, Conley and Richmond Baardson, who finished with 73 yards.
In fact, Ferndale had 19 runs of 10 or more yards in the game.
"It was all the line," Hilts said. "The holes were wide. Our line just did a great job."
Like Conley, Hilts only needs a small seam to be effective, as he's a physical runner that is tough to bring down.
"I told him before the game tonight, that he had an opportunity to show what he can do," Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich said. "He's a load, let me tell you. When he gets to that second level, he is tough to bring down."
Burlington discovered just how tough on Ferndale's first drive.
After spotting the Tigers a touchdown, the Golden Eagles marched 60 yards on nine plays on the shoulders of Hilts and Conley. Conley finished off the drive with a 1-yard plunge to tie the game.
That started a string of 28 straight points by Ferndale, thanks to 49-yard punt return from Cooper Clark, and 11- and 15-yard touchdown runs from Hilts.
Burlington cut the lead in half midway through the second, and Dalton Schwetz directed the Tigers on a drive deep into Ferndale territory in the waning moments of the first half, before defensive back Robert Hardin knocked away a pass on fourth down to kill a drive at the Golden Eagles' 12.
"That was huge," Plenkovich said. "That drive could have been a game changer, because they could have gotten back within seven. Robert made a great play to end the drive, and then I told our guys we needed to come out and make a statement to start the second half."
Ferndale did just that, as it got a 52-yard touchdown run from Conley on the second play from scrimmage, and Hilts later added a 2- and 12-yard touchdown runs to put the game away.
"This is a big win for this team and big win for this community," Hilts said. "This is what Ferndale football used to look like back in the early and mid 2000s. This is what we expect here."
Ferndale next hosts Squalicum on Friday, Sept. 28.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Ferndale 21 7 14 13- 55
Burlington 7 7 0 0- 14
BE - Jae Evans 28 run (Tanner Gates kick)
Fern - Alex Conley 1 run (Wyatt Dunn kick)
Fern - Cooper Clark 49 punt return (Dunn kick)
Fern - Hank Hilts 11 run (Dunn kick)
Fern - Hilts 15 run (Dunn kick)
BE - Evans 69 run (Gates kick)
Fern - Conley 52 run (Dunn kick)
Fern - Hilts 2 run (Dunn kick)
Fern - Hilts 16 run Dunn kick)
Fern - Brady Bauthues 42 run (kick failed)
First downs 20 14
Rushing Att-Yards 50-454 25-156
Comp-Att-Int 0-2-1 16-37-2
Passing yards 0 160
Penalties-yards 9-65 8-83
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0
RUSHING - Ferndale: Hank Hilts 24-196, Alex Conley 13-115, Richmond Baardson 6-73, Cooper Clark 2-2, Daniel Ewald 3-18, Brady Bauthues 2-50. Burlington: Jeff Bajema 2-7, Jae Evans 13-104, Darren Arndt 2-(-1), Dalton Schwetz 3-30, Tony Cavazos 3-6, Carlos Navarro 1-6, Tyson Frazier 1-4.
PASSING - Ferndale: Alex Conley 0-1-1-0, Cooper Clark 0-1-0-0. Burlington: Dalton Schwetz 16-37-2-160.
RECEIVING - Ferndale: none. Burlington: Timmie Rush 1-31, Brandon Stransky 5-56, Darren Arndt 2-17, Jae Evans 1-(-6), Jeff Bajema 3-25, Peter Isaacson 3-27, Austin Von Herbulis 1-10.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.