Ferndale senior running back Richmond Baardson has plenty of big-play potential.
Enough to make you hold your breath every time he touches the ball.
Offensively, he has 64 rush attempts and 10 receptions, and he's averaged 11.5 yards every time he's touched the ball - 605 yards on the ground and a team-high 248 through the air.
Of his 10 touchdowns so far this year, seven of them have come from more than 15 yards out, and half of them have come from more than 25.
"He's been a big-play guy for us all year," Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich said in a phone interview. "But it's not just been on offense. He's a heck of a defensive player out of the free safety spot, too. He plays with great energy. He flies around the football field and brings a lot of heart and aggressiveness."
Baardson hopes to bring those traits with him to Bellevue on Friday, Nov. 9, when the No. 7 Golden Eagles travel to meet the No. 1 Wolverines in the first round of the Class 3A State Playoffs.
It marks the fourth time Ferndale and Bellevue have met in the state playoffs - the last one went down to the wire in a 31-28 victory by the Wolverines in the 2004 3A title game.
Since that game, the Wolverines have won 25 of 27 state playoffs games, including four straight 3A state titles, and have a 36-game win streak overall.
"They're a very, very fine football team," Plenkovich said of Bellevue. "But we can't allow ourselves to be caught up in who we are playing against. We have to go out and play our best game, just as you have to do against anybody you face this time of year."
And with Ferndale this year, that means relying on the downhill running of Alex Conley and the big-play ability of guys like Baardson.
On defense, Baardson is a hard-hitting safety that can change not only a ball-carrier's momentum with a bone-jarring hit, but the flow of a ballgame.
Think about hits made by Ronnie Lott, Joey Browner, Steve Atwater, John Lynch, Troy Polamalu or Kenny Easley on the high school level.
"He has a lot of physical hits like those guys - he's just doesn't have the size," Plenkovich said. "That's what makes it all the more incredible. He is able to generate a whole lot of power out of a body that is not that big."
Baardson measures in at 6-foot, 170 pounds, but he knows how to get every ounce out of his frame when he delivers a blow.
"He has tremendous timing, physically," Plenkovich said. "Some guys just know how to hit. They can get a lot of explosion out of their lower body. Rich just has that great timing. That's how he gets all of his power."
And when he does deliver a good hit, it's something that the whole defense feeds off.
"He's an emotional leader for us," Plenkovich said. "He gets our guys going and sets the tempo for our program. His fearless attitude on the field really fuels everybody else."
Baardson is actually part of a talented, experienced secondary for the Golden Eagles.
He and Conley have patrolled the middle of the field from the safety positions for the past two years for Ferndale, while cornerback Cooper Clark also is a returner.
The only newcomer is Joey Akers at the other corner, but he has fit in nicely.
"They've certainly been a strength of our defense this year," Plenkovich said. "Richmond and Conley, I don't know if there is a better safety tandem in our league, and that's saying a lot. They clean up a lot of messes. Cooper is very steady at one corner, and he made a huge, money play for us last week (against Hazen), when we had to have a stop, and he came off the edge and made that huge tackle. Joey Akers had a terrific game last week, too, where he ripped the ball out at the goal line. All those guys play really well together and give our defense a big boost against not only the pass, but in their support of the run, too."
Baardson is a guy that can make an impact on special teams, as well, as he has a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown to his credit on Oct. 12 in a game against Bellingham.
That fits in nicely with a touchdown runs of 60, 59 and 16 yards and TD receptions from 49, 26 and 18 yards out this season.
"Rich is a guy you love to have on your team," Plenkovich said. "Just how he plays - he's everything you want guys on your team to do. He just plays within the situation."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
STATE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
FRIDAY, NOV. 9
CLASS 3A STATE PLAYOFFS
? First round: Ferndale at Bellevue, 7 p.m.
CLASS 1A STATE PLAYOFFS
? First round: Woodland at Mount Baker (at Civic Stadium), 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, NOV. 10
CLASS 2A STATE PLAYOFFS
? First round: Mark Morris at Lynden (at Civic Stadium), 5 p.m.
CLASS 1A STATE PLAYOFFS
? First round: Meridian at La Center (at Battle Ground District Stadium), 1 p.m.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.