DEMING - Playing quarterback at Mount Baker isn't quite as glamorous as playing the position at other schools in the county, such as Lynden or Nooksack Valley, which are known for throwing the ball.
Instead, Mountaineers senior Andrew Zender has shared the offensive backfield the past three years with guys like Levi Wigg, Jake Schleimer and now Izaiha Schwinden - running backs that have all put up monster numbers in Mount Baker's Wing-T attack.
But the lack of chances to show off his right arm has never been a concern for Zender.
"Win - that's my mentality," Zender said. "I don't care if we run every play, as long as we win."
Even though their star running back was held in check on Friday, Oct. 25, that's exactly what Zender and the Mountaineers did in a 52-19 Class 1A Northwest Conference victory over visiting Blaine.
With the win, Mount Baker (7-1, 4-0 NWC 1A) set up a chance to clinch an automatic trip to state with a victory on Thursday, Oct. 21, at Meridian, while Blaine (4-4, 3-1) now must beat Nooksack Valley the same night and hope for a Trojans win to force a three-way tie for the top spot in the NWC 1A standings.
Schwinden, who entered the night second in the NWC with 909 yards and averaging 10.7 yards per attempt, was held to 22 yards on 11 carries by the Borderites.
But Mount Baker proved it had plenty of other weapons.
"They did a good job of taking him (Schwinden) away," Mount Baker coach Ron Lepper said. "Luckily we had some other guys who kind of took care of business for us. It was kind of nice to see some other guys go out there and do a good job. It's a team game, and I'm really pleased with how things went."
Liam Short led the way, rushing for 121 yards and three touchdowns on eight carries.
Wide receiver Travis Lindsay added five carries for 73 yards.
And don't forget about Zender, who passed for 98 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers and added his seventh rushing touchdown in the past four weeks.
"We expected 44 (Schwinden) to be a big part of their game plan," Blaine coach Jay Dodd said. "He's a heck of a football player. I'm not sure if he's dinged up or what, but they showed tonight they have a lot of options."
Zender, for one, never had any doubt about that, no matter how many yards Schwinden got.
"We've got players, and we've got linemen that can block," Zender said. "Jake (Oiness) did a real nice job. Hunter (Gates), Alex Ray, Danny Kirkpatrick, Cody Larson, Chad Cohn - they all did a great job up front. We've got athletes - Travis and Joey (Walton), who came back for the first time since Lynden, Seth can catch the ball and Liam can run it. So we've got guys that can play. It's not one guy."
It didn't take Mount Baker long to prove that point.
On the second play from scrimmage, Lindsay took an end around 37 yards to the Blaine 37.
Two plays later, Short went off left tackle for a 31-yard touchdown, just 1:22 into the ballgame.
Two possessions later, Zender hit Lindsay for a 10-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Zender continued to shine in the second quarter, scoring on a 1-yard keeper, before hitting Seth Bass in stride on a post route for a 40-yard touchdown to make it 28-0.
"That's one of our plays we go to when we need a touchdown," Zender said. "We got great fakes from Liam and Travis, and the linemen held their blocks. I just threw it up there, and Seth made the catch."
Coming through when it's needed is something Mount Baker has gotten used to seeing from Zender over most of the past three years, even though that hasn't meant asking him to put up eye-catching numbers.
"He's doing what we ask him to do, and that's the nice thing about it," Lepper said of Zender. "We kind of didn't have to use him much early in the year. In the Nooksack game we kind of busted him out and showed he can run the ball a little more, and he had another great game throwing the ball tonight. ... He's a three-year starter and shown a lot of poise out there, and he's doing great job running the offense."
Blaine managed to sandwich a 5-yard touchdown run by quarterback Marcus Potts, who made his first start in place of the injured Nathan Kramme, and a 62-yard TD pass from Potts to Anthony Ball around Short's 51-yard TD run, before the Mountaineers' Alex Tyska booted a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the half to make the score 38-12 at the break.
Mount Baker then scored on its first two possessions of the second half, including on a 27-yard TD strike from Zender to Gates, to start the running clock.
Blaine's Cole Muder, who entered the night third in the NWC with 900 yards rushing, rushed for 74 yards on 15 carries, and Potts finished with 140 yards passing.
"We didn't play very well," Dodd said. "We didn't play well in any phase tonight. We obviously didn't tackle very well. ... Our offense struggled. We struggled to get first downs. It was just a rough night, and you've got to give credit to Mount Baker for that."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Blaine 0 12 0 7- 19
Mount Baker 14 24 14 0- 52
MB - Liam Short 31 run (Alex Tyska kick)
MB - Travis Lindsay 10 pass from Andrew Zener (Tyska kick)
MB - Zender 1 run (Tyska kick)
MB - Seth Bass 40 pass from Zender (Tyska kick)
Bla - Marcus Potts 5 run (kick failed)
MB - Short 51 run (Tyska kick)
Bla - Anthony Ball 62 pass from Potts (pass failed)
MB - Tyska 37 FG
MB - Hunter Gates 27 pass from Zender (Tyska kick)
MB - Short 2 run (Tyska kick)
Bla - Brian Ferrer 2 run (Peter Benne kick)
First downs 13 17
Rushing Att-Yards 29-113 35-280
Comp-Att-Int 10-19-1 6-12-0
Passing yards 154 98
Penalties-yards 5-29 2-10
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
RUSHING - Blaine: Cole Muder 15-74, Brian Ferrer 9-46, Marcus Potts 3-13, Peter Benne 1-(-15), No. 10 1-(5). Mount Baker: Travis Lindsay 5-73, Liam Short 8-121, Izaiha Schwinden 11-22, Andrew Zender 4-37, Joey Walton 1-14, Zach Yurchuck 3-4, Balyn Jacoby 1-(-1), J.T. Keeney 2-10.
PASSING - Blaine: Marcus Potts 8-17-1-140, No. 10 2-2-0 14. Mount Baker: Andrew Zender 6-12-0-98.
RECEIVING - Blaine: Anthony Ball 3-74, Josiah Westbrook 2-10, Jordan Antonson 2-20, Cody Gobbato 3-50. Mount Baker: Seth Bass 3-53, Travis Lindsay 2-18, Hunter Gates 1-27.
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Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.