It's as much a part of the holiday weekend as turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and Grandma's recipe for sweet potatoes.
As sure as the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys will be playing football on Thanksgiving Day, at least one Whatcom County football team will be playing on either Black Friday or Leftover Saturday in the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association's state semifinals.
Since 1995, as least one county team has advanced to the semifinals and played on the weekend after Thanksgiving. In fact, in the 27 years since 1986, Whatcom County has been represented in at least one Final Four in all but three years (1989, '90 and '94).
Usually, multiple teams make it.
For the third time in seven years, no fewer than three teams made it to the Tacoma Dome this year, as Lynden will play Capital in the Class 2A semifinals at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23, Mount Baker will play Montesano in the 1A semifinals at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24, and Lummi will play Neah Bay in the 1B semifinals at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
"It's pretty good football up here," Lynden coach Curt Kramme said in a phone interview. "I'm excited for our area. I'm looking forward seeing some familiar faces down there."
Only one county in the state of Washington will send more than three teams to the semifinals in the WIAA's six classifications, and that would be the most populated county in the state - King County. Benton County also will be represented by three teams this weekend, and Thurston County is the only other with more than one.
While the Lions and Blackhawks are regulars in recent years, the Mountaineers will be making their debut in the semifinals.
"Oh man, it feels so good," Mount Baker senior lineman Chase Toctocan said in a phone interview. "To be breaking history at our school and just get a chance to go, it's amazing."
Obviously, the Mountaineers would love to continue making history this weekend and earn their first trip to a football state championship game with a victory.
Since Nooksack Valley became the first Whatcom County team to advance to a WIAA semifinal in 1975, the county holds a 22-19 record in the semifinal round. Half of those victories have come in the past decade, as the county is 11-5 since 2003.
Of those 11 teams that won in the semifinals, eight went on to win state titles, and the county has won 15 state titles overall.
But the three teams still in action this weekend know that nothing is guaranteed.
The second-ranked Lions will be facing a team that has topped the 2A ranks early this year and finished the regular season ranked No. 5. Capital is led by running back Kai Van Sickle, who has rushed for 2,591 yards and 37 TDs this season, and Derrick Becker, who is considered one of the better junior quarterbacks in the state this year.
"Their team is similar to ours, in that they have some very talented people that can do some very special things, but the key to it all is they have an outstanding offensive line," Lynden coach Kramme said. "They have some good size up front, but they're all outstanding athletes. They're athletic, big kids. They move well, and they control the line of scrimmage. I think whoever's defense can get a stop here or there will have an advantage, but neither offense has been stopped very much."
Montesano finished out of the Class 1A poll, but Mount Baker knows it will have its hands full against a team that knocked off undisputed No. 1 Kings and held BYU-bound quarterback Billy Green to 8-for-30 passing for 132 yards in last week's quarterfinal win. Mountaineers coach Ron Lepper said he got a chance to watch that game on the way back from Battle Ground after Mount Baker beat La Center to advance.
"They remind me a lot of us, personnel-wise," Lepper said in a phone interview. "You look at us, and we're not all that scary in pads. Montesano is the same way. But when they line up, man, they play hard. They have got some real tough kids that give you everything they have got. They played really well defensively (against King's). On offense, it's going to be tough. They run a boatload of formations. Last week, we pretty much just had to worry about one formation, but this week, we've got a lot to prepare for. They're going to line up and try to confuse you and create some mismatches with misalignments. They're a lot like Meridian in that way."
There will be no mystery when fourth-ranked Lummi takes on second-ranked Neah Bay - Saturday's game will mark the fourth straight year the Blackhawks and Red Devils have met in either the semifinals or quarterfinals - Lummi won the semifinal meetings in 2009 and 2010, while Neah Bay eliminated the Blackhawks in last year's quarterfinals on the way to the Red Devils' first 1B state title.
In fact, this will be the 11th time the two schools have met in the past four years - the Blackhawks hold a 6-4 edge in those games, but Neah Bay won 48-28 at Lummi on Sept. 28.
"As soon as we lost to Neah Bay in the quarterfinals last year, I told them that we're going to play these guys again in the semifinals next year," Lummi coach Jim Sandusky said. "I told them straight up we needed to start preparing for them. We knew we were going to play them once or twice in league. Our goal was to get back to the championship, and to do that, we knew we were going to have to get through Neah Bay."
Regardless of what happens in any of those three semifinals, it's going to be another in a long line of memorable holiday weekends for Whatcom County.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
2012 WIAA SEMIFINALISTS BY COUNTY
County Population* Number Teams (Classification)
King 1,931,249 5 Skyline (4A), Auburn (4A), Mount Si (3A), Bellevue (3A), Eastside Catholic (3A)
Whatcom 201,140 3 Lynden (2A), Mount Baker (1A), Lummi (1B)
Benton 175,177 3 Prosser (2A), River View (1A), Liberty Christian (1B)
Thurston 252,264 2 Capital (2A), Tumwater (2A)
Pierce 795,225 1 Bellarmine Prep (3A)
Spokane 471,221 1 University (3A)
Clark 425,363 1 Camas (4A)
Skagit 116,901 1 La Conner (2B)
Grant 89,120 1 Royal (1A)
Lewis 75,455 1 Morton-White Pass (2B)
Grays Harbor 72,791 1 Montesano (1A)
Clallam 71,404 1 Neah Bay (1B)
Walla Walla 58,781 1 Waitsburg-Prescott (2B)
Pend Oreille 13,001 1 Cusick (1B)
Adams 18,728 1/2 Lind-Ritzville-Sprague (2B)+
Lincoln 10,570 1/2 Lind-Ritzville-Sprague (2B)
*Based on 2010 U.S. Census data.
Lind-Ritzville High School is located in Adams County, and Sprague High School is in Lincoln County.
WHATCOM COUNTY FOOTBALL SEMIFINALISTS
Year School Class Result
1975 Nooksack Valley 1A Lost 24-0 to Raymond
1977 Lynden 1A Lost 6-0 to Winlock
1978 Blaine* 1A Beat Eatonville 39-8
1980 Lynden* 1A Beat North Mason 22-19
1984 Meridian 1A Beat Montesano 19-9
1986 Lynden Christian 1A Beat Tenino 14-0
1987 Bellingham 3A Lost 8-2 to Tumwater
Lynden 1A Beat Forks 28-10
1988 Ferndale 3A Lost 17-0 to Cheney
Lynden 1A Lost 21-14 to Castle Rock
1991 Lynden 1A Beat Lynden Christian 21-10
Lynden Christian 1A Lost 21-10 to Lynden
1992 Meridian 1A Lost 27-24 to Eatonville in 2OT
1993 Lynden Christian 1A Beat Montesano 24-21
1995 Ferndale 3A Lost 36-0 to O'Dea
Meridian 1A Lost 40-9 to Ridgefield
1996 Meridian 1A Lost 20-19 to Toledo
1997 Ferndale 3A Beat Newport 28-14
Lynden Christian* 1A Beat Concrete 21-14
1998 Lynden Christian 1A Lost 24-13 to Kalama
1999 Ferndale 3A Lost 21-17 to Prosser
Meridian* 2A Beat Orting 61-21
2000 Meridian 2A Beat Castle Rock 14-7
2001 Lynden Christian 2A Lost 20-16 to Elma
2002 Lynden Christian 2A Lost 20-19 to Elma
2003 Meridian* 2A Beat La Center 28-26
2004 Ferndale 3A Beat Kelso 45-6
2005 Ferndale* 3A Beat Kennedy 41-13
Lummi 1B Lost 66-28 to LaCrosse/Washtucna
2006 Lynden* 2A Beat Tumwater 20-10
Meridian* 1A Beat Royal 13-7 in OT
Lummi 1B Beat Touchet 26-20
2007 Lynden 2A Lost 47-30 to Prosser
Lummi 1B Lost 80-50 to Almira/Coulee-Hartline
2008 Lynden* 2A Beat Archbishop Murphy 21-13
2009 Lynden* 2A Beat Archbishop Murphy 38-14
Nooksack Valley 1A Lost 28-12 to Cascade Christian
Lummi 1B Beat Neah Bay 64-36
2010 Meridian 1A Lost 21-0 to Cascade Christian
Lummi* 1B Beat Neah Bay 61-14
2011 Lynden* 2A Beat Chehalis W.F. West 17-7
2012 Lynden 2A 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, at Tacoma Dome
Mount Baker 1A 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, at Tacoma Dome
Lummi 1B 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, at Tacoma Dome
*Went on to win state championship
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.