BELLINGHAM - Junior Marcus Nightingale admits he was a little nervous before the Ferndale football team's Class 2A/3A Northwest Conference opener against Sehome on Friday, Sept. 13. He was, after all, making his first varsity start at fullback in the Golden Eagles' Wing-T offense in place of Anthony Fleck, who went down with a leg injury in a Week 1 win over Blaine.
"Filling in Fleck's shoes - those are some pretty big shoes to fill," Nightingale said. "I was just happy that the coaches gave me the opportunity to play."
Nightingale filled in nicely, as he rushed for 190 yards and a touchdown to lead Ferndale to a 48-21 victory over the Mariners at Civic Stadium.
Nightingale was not the only Golden Eagle to have a big night on the ground - Daniel Jones rushed for 149 yards and two TDs, and Joey Akers rushed for 78 and scored three times.
But Nightingale's yards all seemed to come into the teeth of Sehome's big, physical front, as the bruising 5-foot-9, 220-pounder muscled his way on 20 punishing carries. His first two attempts went for a combined 43 yards, and he had six go for double-digit yardage, but most of them were the hard-fought 5- or 6-yard variety.
Nightingale gave credit to Fleck and the rest of his teammates for boosting his confidence entering the game.
"Coming in, he was kind of the third guy," Golden Eagles coach Jamie Plenkovich said of Nightingale. "Now he's got his opportunity after a couple of injuries in front of him, and he's kept battling, even through camp. He did a great job of running the football tonight, obviously."
Like a veteran starter, Nightingale was quick to share the credit, though.
"The linemen did a heck of a job of blocking," he said. "I'm just grateful that they were blocking so well."
So was the coaching staff, which challenged Ferndale (2-0, 1-0 NWC 2A/3A) to be more physical on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
"We were really not very happy with how we did with that last week," Plenkovich said. "That was a real focus in practice this week. We were really physical in practice, which we don't like to do that after games start. We grinded them a little bit. But we felt there were some things we needed to see out of our guys that we didn't see last Friday night. ... We challenged them a little bit, and they responded tonight."
Sehome (1-1, 0-1 NWC 2A/3A) certainly had its chances in the first half on Friday.
The Mariners got the opening kickoff and efficiently moved down the field, using seven plays to set themselves up with a first-and-goal at the Ferndale 10. Daniel Ziegler connected with Evan Miksovsky for what would been the game's first touchdown, but Miksovsky was flagged for offensive pass interference on the play, and Sehome ended up punting on fourth-and-goal from the 37.
"We were right there on the goal line, and we've got to capitalize," Mariners coach Bob Norvell said.
Ferndale didn't waste many of its opportunities.
Spurred by Nightingale's first two big runs of the night, Cooper Clark was able to sneak in from a yard out to make it 7-0.
Akers scored his first of the night on Ferndale's next possession from a yard out.
After forcing Sehome to turn the ball over on downs at the Ferndale 17, the Golden Eagles punted the ball from their own 16, but were given second life when the Mariners were flagged for illegal substitution for having too many men on the field. The 15-yard penalty gave Ferndale a first down, and the Golden Eagles scored five plays later on a 38-yard run around right tackle by Jones to make it 21-0 at the half.
"Obviously, keeping that drive going on that 12th man on the field, that's a pretty harsh penalty for that to be 15 yards," Plenkovich said. "Fortunately it gave us a first down, and we capitalized on it. You can get some breaks, but it's what you do with them, and our kids did a good job of capitalizing."
Sehome managed to trade touchdowns with Ferndale in the third quarter to stay in the game, but a pair of two-yard TD runs by Fleck in the first five minutes of the fourth put the game away.
The Mariners' Ziegler passed for 166 yards and a touchdown to Miksovsky, who finished with 111 yards on five catches. Ziegler also rushed for 52 yards and a TD, while Austin Vosburgh tallied 47 yards and a TD.
Taylor Rapp ran for 44 yards for Sehome, but was injured on a catch when he landed on his neck right before halftime. Norvell said Rapp, who did not return, was a little "woozy." Norvell said he did not know if Rapp suffered a concussion or had the wind knocked out of him.
"We knew it was going to take some big plays to beat them," Norvell said. "We had some plays where we could have taken advantage of it, but we didn't. In that, I think the guys know that we were in there competing."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
Ferndale 14 7 13 14- 48
Sehome 0 0 14 7- 21
Fern - Cooper Clark 1 run (Andrew Higginson kick)
Fern - Joey Akers 1 run (Higginson kick)
Fern - Daniel Jones 38 run (Higginson kick)
Fern - Marcus Nightingale 9 run (kick failed)
Seh - Austin Vosburgh 1 run (Samuel Diehl kick)
Fern - Jones 35 run (Higginson kick)
Seh - Daniel Ziegler 1 run (Ethan Vinup kick)
Fern - Akers 2 run (Higginson kick)
Fern - Akers 2 run (Higginson kick)
Seh - Evan Miksovsky 24 pass from Ziegler (Diehl kick)
First downs 23 17
Rushing Att-Yards 60-449 31-145
Comp-Att-Int 1-1-0 15-28-0
Passing yards 37 166
Penalties-yards 7-44 9-80
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-0
RUSHING - Ferndale: Joey Akers 14-78, Marcus Nightingale 20-190, Daniel Jones 10-149, Cooper Clark 6-(-1), Taylor Bellefeuille 2-8, Kier Munzanreder 2-14, Dalton Neer 3-10, Josh Williams 1-0, Luke Scarborough 1-0, Cameron Blecha 1-1. Sehome: Taylor Rapp 7-44, Daniel Ziegler 12-52, Gunnar Nelson 1-0, Austin Vosburgh 9-47, Blaise Black 1-0, Gary Vanieperen 1-2.
PASSING - Ferndale: Cooper Clark 1-1-0-37. Sehome: Daniel Ziegler 15-28-0-166.
RECEIVING - Ferndale: Daniel Jones 1-37. Sehome: Austin Vosburgh 2-4, Taylor Rapp 5-34, Evan Miksovsky 5-111, Gunnar Nelson 1-0, Gary Vanieperen 1-11, Samuel Diehl 1-6.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.