BELLINGHAM - The holes may not be the size of the Grand Canyon anymore, as Mount Baker football coach Ron Lepper pointed out, but they don't need to be.
Izaiha Schwinden, Liam Short and Joey Walton proved they are plenty capable of capitalizing on any crack their rebuilt offensive line can give them.
The trio accounted for 315 of the 381 yards the Mountaineers rushed for, and each scored a pair of touchdowns to lead Mount Baker to a 48-0 season-opening victory over Bellingham on Saturday, Sept. 7, in the second game played on Civic Stadium's new Sprinturf playing surface.
"I'd say the offensive line did a great job today," said Schwinden, who rushed for 164 yards on 16 carries. "They got to the places that the running backs needed them to be."
That a pretty big accomplishment, considering Mount Baker graduated four of its five starting offensive linemen from last year's Class 1A state semifinal team, as well as the tight end, which in the Mountaineers' system is like a sixth lineman.
Mount Baker had to make similar replacements a year ago, but one of the biggest keys to their season was the way the line jelled together.
Schwinden said he could see this year's group already making progress toward that end.
"I think our whole team came together tonight," Schwinden said. "We don't want to dwell on last year. We want to take what we did last year and build on it."
Like most coaches after the first week of a season, Lepper saw plenty of areas for improvement, in spite of the impressive rushing totals.
Though his line obviously opened enough holes to get the job done, he saw a number of missed assignments that he said he hopes to get ironed out before the Mountaineers host Lynden on Friday, Sept. 13.
"We're not going to be opening holes the size of the Grand Canyon right now, but we've got to make sure we hold our blocks and block the right guys," Lepper said. "We didn't do that at times tonight. Bellingham did a good job of mixing us up. One of their focuses coming into the year was stopping the run, and they made some adjustments, and those guys played hard. We've got some things that we've got to work on to get better."
Stopping the run, indeed, was mission No. 1 for Bellingham entering the season, after opponents averaged 7.2 yards per carry against the Red Raiders in 2013.
Though Mount Baker averaged 7.3 on Saturday, it was an improvement over the teams' season opener last year.
"We played harder and tougher than we did last year against these guys," Bellingham coach Steve Wilson said. "We will get better from here."
It didn't take long for Mount Baker to get its ground game rolling.
After forcing a quick three-and-out on defense, the Mountaineers went on a 10-play, 81-yard march all on the legs of Schwinden, Short and Walton. Walton capped it off with a 13-yard run.
Their second drive started with an incomplete pass, before four consecutive running plays set up Schwinden for a 10-yard scamper around left end to make it 13-0.
Before halftime, they added a 32-yard touchdown run from Schwinden and a 5-yarder from Short to make the halftime score 27-0.
The rushing disparity at the half? Mount Baker 228 yards on 20 carries; Bellingham 11 carries for minus-16 yards.
Bellingham did taste a little success through the air, with five completions for 49 yards, but even that was costly, as sophomore starter Austin Shenton, who the Red Raiders have high hopes for behind center, suffered a left knee injury late in the first quarter on a run. He did not return to action.
The Mountaineers opened the second half with six straight runs, capped off by Walton's 6-yard romp around left end on a nice ball fake by Andrew Zender and Short.
Walton, who finished with 82 yards on nine carries, started the running clock when he raced around right end for a 17-yard score on Mount Baker's next possession.
Backup quarterback Balyn Jacoby tacked on a 5-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
Bellingham had a shot to avoid the shutout in the waning seconds of the game, when three hard-nosed runs by Melvin Deal went for double-digit yardage, got the Red Raiders' rushing tally into the black and set Bellingham up with second-and-goal form the 5, but the game ended with two incompletions sandwiched around a sack.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
Mount Baker 13 14 14 7- 48
Bellingham 0 0 0 0- 0
MB - Liam Short 13 run (kick failed)
MB - Izaiha Schwinden 10 run (Alex Tyska kick)
MB - Schwinden 32 run (Tyska kick)
MB - Short 5 run (Tyska kick)
MB - Joey Walton 3 run (Tyska kick)
MB - Walton 17 run (Tyska kick)
MB - Balyn Jacoby 5 run (Tyska kick)
First downs 23 4
Rushing Att-Yards 52-381 21-1
Comp-Att-Int 3-9-0 10-21-0
Passing yards 32 72
Penalties-yards 3-22 2-20
Fumbles-lost 3-1 3-0
RUSHING - Mount Baker: Izaiha Schwinden 16-164, Liam Short 13-69, Joey Walton 9-82, Andrew Zender 2-9, Balyn Jacoby 3-11, Jed Schleimer 5-33, Jeremiah Cronk 2-12, Vadim Kotsyuba 1-0, Johnny Mata 1-1. Bellingham: Austin Shenton 3-(-16), Melvin Deal 8-43, Tanner Aliff 2-(-7), Cason Plancich 8-(-19).
PASSING - Mount Baker: Andrew Zender 3-9-0-32. Bellingham: Austin Shenton 3-6-0-38, Cason Plancich 7-15-0-34.
RECEIVING - Mount Baker: Joey Walton 1-9, Izaiha Schwinden 1-17, Seth Bass 1-6. Bellingham: Elijahwa Ninnemann 1-14, Dante Koplowitz-Fleming 1-15, Eric Thompson 2-17, Tanner Aliff 1-3, Hunter Hadfield 1-9, Noah Silverman 2-7, Melvin Deal 1-6, Alden Roberts 1-1.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.