BELLINGHAM - It was appropriate that Sehome's Daniel Ziegler and Taylor Rapp and Nooksack Valley's Tanner Myhre, three of the Northwest Conference's fastest football standouts, unveiled Civic Stadium's sparkling new Sprinturf with speed, speed and more speed.
Sehome's 38-18 victory over Nooksack lasted well over three hours in a non-classification season opener on Saturday, Sept. 7. But the game was anything but boring, thanks to those three big-play specialists, as both teams showed they figure to be consistently entertaining.
The Pioneers outgained the Mariners in both halves and finished with a total offense advantage of 381 yards to 239 as Myhre amassed 232 yards passing and 93 rushing for 325 in all.
However, total offense does not include return yardage, and Sehome enjoyed a revealing advantage in that department. The Mariners raced to a 38-6 halftime bulge, making the new Sprinturf seem like an air cushion and giving coaches and players reason to rave about the all-weather field.
Ziegler, a rare quarterback who is also a primary punt return man, gave Sehome a short field three times.
He had a 22-yard punt return to the Nooksack 42, setting up Sam Diehl's 32-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead; a 39-yard return to the Nooksack 10, setting up Rapp's 2-yard touchdown blast; and a 26-yard return to the Nooksack 14, giving senior Austin Vosburgh a chance to score his first varsity touchdown with an impressive 19-yard dash after a 5-yard penalty.
The most sensational return of the day, however, was Rapp's 85-yard interception runback for the second of the 195-pound sophomore's three touchdowns, putting the Mariners up 24-6 early in the second quarter.
The most artistic play of the game, though, was Ziegler's 53-yard touchdown sprint off a beautifully executed option fake to Rapp, giving Sehome a 17-6 first-quarter advantage. That play quickly followed Nooksack's only first-half score, a 17-yard pass from Myhre to fellow junior Joshua Gimmaka.
"This field is really going to be nice after a couple more games to break it in," said Ziegler. "I really like having this new turf (the worn-down old turf was installed 13 years ago). The old turf was hard and gave me some turf burns."
Rapp said he couldn't believe his good fortune - three seasons to play on a field that Nooksack athletic director Tom Harmon and football coach Robb Myhre called "absolutely gorgeous."
"I really like the turf," said Rapp, who readily acknowledges that he is "all about football."
As much as second-year Sehome coach Bob Norvell enjoyed talking about the turf - "It's awesome and it was nice to break it in the first time we touched it" -- he enjoyed commenting even more about the improvement of defensive linemen such as Tyler Haggen, Austin Rosas, Drew Norvell and Duncan James, along with defensive backfield stalwarts such as Austin Meggyesy, Vosburgh, Rapp and Ziegler.
"And we'll get better," said the Sehome coach. "We definitely have the potential to have a winning season (which would really be something to shout about at Sehome). Our guys have worked really hard (to this point) and they're a wonderful group to be around."
Ziegler echoed his coach, refusing to take anywhere near full credit for his punt returns.
"The blocks we got were great," said Ziegler, who like Rapp cramped up during the second-half heat a few times but popped right back into the game as soon as possible.
Although Nooksack was whistled for 10 penalties for 65 yards in the first half, coach Robb Myhre was proud that his young team enjoyed that 12-0 edge in the second half.
Tanner Myhre, one of last year's top local passers as a sophomore, completed 23 of 41 passes for 232 yards, although Rapp and football newcomer Evan Miksovsky frustrated him with interceptions in the first half. Miksovsky, a senior basketball standout, looked as though he'll help the Mariners with his highly competitive attitude and athleticism.
In addition to Myhre's early scoring pass to Gimmaka - a junior who caught 8 passes for 116 yards to double his entire sophomore total - the durable, elusive junior quarterback also inspired second-half drives that resulted in a 26-yard touchdown sprint by Daryk Heidt and a 4-yard score by Myhre.
"We really enjoyed being the first (visiting) team to play on this turf," said Robb Myhre. "It was a little spongy to start, almost like running on a beach, but it's going to be great when it's packed down."
After Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville performed the opening coin flip - she denied she was headed for the Super Bowl's ceremonial toss - Ziegler guided Sehome 55 yards to score on six plays. Rapp enjoyed the honor of scoring the first Sprinturf touchdown, a blast from the 1, and Diehl booted the first of the new field's first five conversions.
Little did anyone suspect that would be the longest drive of a 38-point day for Sehome.
Nooksack Valley 6 0 6 6 18
Sehome 17 21 0 0 38
Sehome -- Taylor Rapp 1 run (Sam Diehl kick)
Sehome -- FG Diehl 32
Nooksack -- Joshua Gimmaka 17 pass from Tanner Myhre (kick failed)
Sehome -- Daniel Ziegler 53 run (Diehl kick)
Sehome -- Rapp 85 interception return (Diehl kick)
Sehome -- Rapp 2 run (Diehl kick)
Sehome -- Austin Vosburgh 19 run (Diehl kick)
Nooksack -- Daryk Heidt 26 run (pass failed)
Nooksack -- Myhre 4 run (run failed)
First downs 22 16
Rushing Att-Yards 29-149 39-167
Comp-Att-Int 23-41-2 7-14-0
Passing yards 232 72
Penalties-yards 12-85 10-80
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-1
RUSHING Nooksack: Tanner Myhre 22-93, Daryk Heidt 6-57, Curtis Handy 1-(-1). Sehome: Taylor Rapp 13-64, Daniel Ziegler 8-46, Austin Vosburgh 1-19, Blaise Black 3-8, Gary Vanieperen 5-16, Gabriel Weight 1-3, Aaron Nichols 5-(-5), Evan Miksovsky 1-(-6), Gunnar Nelson 2-22.
PASSING Nooksack: Tanner Myhre 23-41-232-2. Sehome: Daniel Ziegler 7-13-72-0; Aaron Nichols 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING Nooksack: Joshua Gimmaka 8-116, Daryk Heidt 3-28, Brady Wood 5-43, Connor Beard 3-9, William Kingma 1-(-1), Dalton Biehle 2-31, Curtis Handy 1-6. Sehome: Jose Ramirez 3-27, Sam Diehl 1-13, Austin Vosburgh 1-18, Taylor Rapp 1-2, Gabriel Weight 1-12.