SEDRO-WOOLLEY - For a team that relies primarily on a thrill-a-minute running game, unbeaten Ferndale also maximized the excitement on a couple of spectacular touchdown catches.
It will be a long time before two seniors, Richmond Baardson and Luke Melton, will forget their contributions to Ferndale's 55-14 Northwest Conference 3A/2A victory over Sedro-Woolley on Friday, Oct. 5.
Of course, Ferndale's running game wasn't exactly "three yards and a cloud of dust" on the sun-baked Woolley turf. In the first half, when the starters played, the Golden Eagles (6-0 overall, 4-0 NWC) amassed 280 yards on 27 rushes. Call it 10 yards and still plenty of dust on this amazingly sunny early autumn.
The real excitement, however, came when junior quarterback Cooper Clark executed a fake to Alex Conley. Clark then threw a 49-yard scoring strike to Baardson, who found himself wide open deep over the middle.
"We run (off that play) all the time, so the execution of the fake (produced the opportunity)," said Clark. "We've come a long way since the start of the season. There's a whole different closeness in our team and great leadership from Baardson and Kameron Mckay."
Melton, with his first varsity touchdown catch, caused the Golden Eagles to explode in a frenzy of excitement when he leaped over a couple of defenders and made a one-armed catch of Clark's pass for a 34-yard touchdown with a nifty spin move at the first-half gun.
"That was an incredible play," said Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich. "Luke not only caught it one-handed with his leap, but he wasn't in the end zone yet and had to make that great spin."
Not that the touchdown runs were boring as the Golden Eagles scored on six of their seven first-half possessions and amassed 360 yards on 30 plays - an average of more than a first down per play. Conley scored on runs of 2 and 22 yards, giving him 18 touchdowns this season, and finished with 125 yards on 13 carries, leaving him with 847 yards on only 81 carries.
Hank Hilts carried only nine times but finished with 133 yards and touchdown runs of 6 and 26 yards. Like Conley a senior, Hilts now has 9 touchdowns.
In the second half, when Ferndale used eight different reserve running backs and quarterbacks to handle the ball, the Golden Eagles scored on a 43-yard run by junior Joey Akers and a 7-yard run by sophomore Daniel Jones. Ferndale's reserves piled up 109 yards rushing on 19 carries.
The Golden Eagles' starting line of Mckay, Cameron Ivy, Hunter Grunhurd, Nate Carlson and Kyler Brudwick was indeed impressive. When Brudwick was forced out late in the opening quarter with a leg injury of undetermined severity, senior Anthony Pace came in to do a smooth job at center.
"They're getting better every week," said longtime line coach Rick Brudwick. "They're young and inexperienced. I like the progress we're making now."
Ferndale's defense held running back Shawn Kennedy, who came in with 559 yards rushing for the Cubs (2-4, 1-3), to 39 yards on 11 carries in the first half and 58 on 15 attempts for the game, including two touchdowns. The Cubs were limited to 194 yards and had only four plays over 12 yards - Braden Blouin's passes to Mason Elms (37 and 20), Seth Noble (16) and Kennedy (22).
Elms' two big catches set up Kennedy's 4-yard touchdown run on Woolley's only scoring drive of the first half. The catches by Noble and Kennedy set up Kennedy's second score, so the game did give the Cubs something to build on offensively, since Blouin finished 12 for 16 for 140 yards without an interception.
Ferndale, which came in averaging 48 points and 385 yards rushing per game, enhanced those statistics and now has 297 points and 2,314 yards rushing in only six games.
"You have to give our guys up front a lot of credit," said Plenkovich, who saw defenders Antonio Esteban, Mckay and Kolby Bellefeuille notch sacks of Blouin.
Ferndale will host Bellingham on Friday, Oct. 12, and then will play at rival Lynden on Oct. 19 in what figures to be the NWC game of the year.
Ferndale 14 28 7 6- 55
Sedro-Woolley 0 7 0 7-14
Ferndale: Alex Conley 2 run (Wyatt Dunn kick)
Ferndale: Richmond Baardson 49 pass from Cooper Clark (Dunn kick)
Sedro-Woolley: Shawn Kennedy 4 run (Francisco Tovar kick)
Ferndale: Hank Hilts 6 run (Dunn kick)
Ferndale: Hilts 26 run (Dunn kick)
Ferndale: Conley 22 run (Dunn kick)
Ferndale: Luke Melton 34 pass from Clark (Dunn kick)
Ferndale: Joey Akers 43 run (Dunn kick)
Sedro-Woolley: Kennedy 1 run (Tovar kick)
Ferndale: David Jones 7 run (kick failed)
First downs 22 13
Rushing Att-Yds 45-389 23-54
Comp-Att-Int 5-7-0 12-16-0
Passing yards 103 140
Penalties-yards 5-44 4-30
Fumbles-lost 1-0 4-2
RUSHING: Ferndale: Alex Conley 13-125, Hank Hilts 9-133, Richmond Baardson 4-22, Cooper Clark 1-0, Daniel Ewald 3-14, Marcus Nightingale 5-7, Joey Akers 2-51, Anthony Fleck 3-3, Kyler Schemstad 1-(minus 2), Brady Bauthues 2-24, Daniel Jones 2-12. Sedro-Woolley: Shawn Kennedy 15-58, Kyle Morgan 3-6, Braden Blouin 3-(minus 17), Mason Elms 1-1, Clayton Johnson 1-6.
PASSING: Ferndale: Cooper Clark 4-6-97-0; Ian Barnes 1-1-6-0. Sedro-Woolley: Braden Blouin 12-16-140-0.
RECEIVING: Ferndale: Richmond Baardson 1-49, Luke Melton 1-34, Joey Akers 1-10, Robert Hardin 1-4, Branden Peppar 1-6. Sedro-Woolley: Mason Elms 4-74, Seth Noble 3-19, Kyle Morgan 2-16, Shawn Kennedy 2-22, Kyle Robbins 1-9.