The Mount Baker football team calls the play "44 Ram." And that's almost exactly what happened midway through the fourth quarter of its Class 1A state quarterfinal on Saturday, Nov. 17, at Battle Ground District Stadium.
No. 44, Izaiha Schwinden, rammed it right down the right sideline, 53 yards for a touchdown that put the Mountaineers up eight points over La Center in a game they would eventually win 24-9.
"That was a big, big play for us," Mount Baker coach Ron Lepper said in a phone interview. "That definitely put momentum on our side."
That play, and perhaps Mount Baker's first-ever run to the state semifinals, where it will meet Montesano at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24, at the Tacoma Dome, might not have happened if not for the unselfish moves of a pair of Mountaineers seniors.
Though Marcus Thomas had no varsity rush attempts last year and Chase Toctocan had no varsity catches in 2011, they were listed as a running back and a tight end, respectively, as juniors.
But after the graduation of a number of talented linemen last year, Lepper and his coaching staff approached both about the possibility of moving from the so-called "skill positions" into the trenches to play along the line.
"I was a little surprised at first, of course," Toctocan said in a phone interview. "I was a little anxious and nervous. It was something new. ... But when it came down to it, it didn't matter. As long as I was helping the team."
Thomas actually saw the move as an opportunity.
"I was happy," he said in a phone interview. "It meant more playing time. I knew I wasn't much of a ball carrier, so I kind of looked forward to it."
Thomas ended up sliding in at right guard for the Mountaineers, and Toctocan moved over one spot to right tackle. The pair now teams with Tyrel Cronk at center, Jake Oiness and Jake Larsen on the left side and Dalton Munsell at tight end.
Lepper said the move probably wouldn't have worked without the positive attitude Thomas and Toctocan brought every day to the practice field.
"It was a little rough at first," Lepper said. "They were learning to play a different position. But the biggest thing is they brought a great attitude. They didn't bat an eye when we asked them to move. They made mistakes, but they learned from them. It took a while when we went to camp, but we've seen both of them get better and better as the season has gone on."
Lining up shoulder to shoulder has helped the duo, as they could learn from and with each other throughout the season.
But both Thomas and Toctocan gave credit to Cronk for helping them along through the process.
"Since he's the center, he knows every play," Thomas said. "At camp, he helped out a whole lot, telling me which way to go. Even today, if I miss a block, he's usually there to pick me up."
Neither Thomas nor Toctocan is what you would call a prototypical lineman.
Thomas measures in at 5-11 196 pounds, while Toctocan is 6-foot, 187 pounds.
But in Mount Baker's wing-T offense, lack of size is not necessarily a drawback, and athleticism and ability to pull are a bonus.
As former skill position players, both had that, but it's still been an adjustment.
"It's been a change for them," Lepper said. "They've had to get used to hitting somebody on every play, and pretty much every game they've been outsized and had to play against bigger kids. But they don't let that get to them. Sometimes they win that battle, sometimes they lose the battle, but they keep battling."
Thomas has had to keep battling with a club on his left hand ever since he broke it on Oct. 15.
"It's actually a lot easier," he said. "I don't get any holding calls. Well, I had one against Blaine, but after that I haven't. At first, it was difficult as a smaller guy going up against a bigger guy. I couldn't move them around as much. I had to learn how to do it with my body, and I just got it done."
Toctocan took a similar approach to learning how to thrive in his new position.
"You think playing tight end, it's not all that different because we do a lot of blocking," he said. "But the blocking schemes are really different, and you have to learn different pulling styles on plays. It just took some time to adjust."
But they're now thriving in their new positions, and Mount Baker is having a season that likely won't be forgotten for quite some time.
The Mountaineers have already rushed for 3,216 yards and 42 touchdowns this season and are averaging 7.5 yards per carry.
Jake Schleimer leads the team with 1,615 yards and 25 TDs, and Schwinden is only 143 yards away from giving the team two 1,000-yard backs.
"We run a lot of plays behind those guys on the right side," Lepper said. "Those guys have been key on a lot of plays this year."
None more key than on Schwinden's 53-yard TD run on 44 Ram.
Lepper said Mount Baker actually tried running the play in the first half, but the assignments got mixed up and Schwinden wasn't able to get the corner.
But not the second time.
"On that play, me and Chase are supposed to come down; he's supposed to pick up the linebacker, and I'm supposed to pick up the backside linebacker," Thomas said. "The guy he had actually blitzed, so I picked him up, and he picked my guy up. I had a huge collision, and we got a wall and Izaiha was off to the races."
And only a lineman knows how good that feels.
"There is no feeling like seeing your running back race past you into the end zone," Toctocan said. "You know you did your job right and helped your team."
That's something Thomas and Toctocan have definitely done quite a bit of this year.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
MOUNT BAKER VS. MONTESANO
Time: 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 24
Site: Tacoma Dome
LUMMI VS. NEAH BAY
Time: 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24
Site: Tacoma Dome
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.