BELLEVUE - The most marginal play seemed like a major win. A first down felt like a touchdown, and a defensive stop proved nearly irrelevant.
It was a tough way for Ferndale's seniors to go out, but the Golden Eagles learned exactly why Bellevue is ranked No. 1 regionally and within the top 25 nationally during a 44-0 Class 3A Quad-District Playoff blowout loss Friday, Nov. 8, in Bellevue.
The loss marked the second straight year the Wolverines, who've won state titles 10 of the past 12 years, ended Ferndale's season.
Still, Golden Eagles coach Jamie Plenkovich didn't blame anybody else for the tough early-playoff matchup.
"We put ourselves in that situation by not winning enough games," he said. "If we won more games in the regular season, we would have played somebody else in the first round."
Bellevue's vaunted defense, which was allowing only 8.2 points per game heading into the playoffs, limited Ferndale's rushing attack to 71 yards, and most of those came against Bellevue's backups. There was absolutely no room to run the ball. It was as if Ferndale's backs were running into a wall at the line of scrimmage.
The Golden Eagles' rushing attack entered the night averaging 355 yards per game. They recorded 2 first-half yards. Joey Akers had 5 yards on six carries, Marcus Nightingale had 6 yards on five carries, Christian Cameron had 3 yards on three carries, Austin Honeycutt had 4 yards on three carries and Cooper Clark's two sacks accounted for 16 negative yards.
"When you go against a team that is that smart and has the athletes like that, it's hard to move the ball," Clark said.
The Golden Eagles (7-3, 5-2 NWC 2A/3A) were forced to revert to an intermediate pass game and had some success. Clark finished the game 8 of 16 for 68 yards and an interception. Ferndale's only first-half first down, not from a penalty, came on a wheel-route Honeycutt caught for a 20-yard gain late in the first half.
Ferndale's defense, on the other hand, kept them in the game. It generated two three-and-outs and got another stop thanks to a missed field goal.
But as Plenkovich expressed, when playing a power such as Bellevue, the most minuscule mistake is amplified. And Ferndale's defense made three of them.
Highly-touted running back Budda Baker took a handoff on the Wolverines' first offensive play around the right side for a 56-yard touchdown.
"First play of the game, we had everybody where we needed to be," Plenkovich said. "We just missed a tackle, and he's going to make you pay."
Bellevue back Sam Richmond, who finished with 168 yards on 10 carries, burnt Ferndale's defense twice more, running for a 30-yard score during Bellevue's second possession and a 40-yard TD later in the half.
"It's hard because you play great, play great, play great, and then one play, and they rip one off," Plenkovich said. "We did some things very well in the first half, especially some of the run-game stuff."
Ferndale trailed 21-0 at the half, but Bellevue nearly doubled the score through the first 6:11 of the third quarter.
The Golden Eagles gave the Wolverines short fields - something Plenkovich said is too damaging to overcome - twice. Bellevue capitalized each time.
Ferndale fumbled deep in its own end, which ended in a Richmond 13-yard TD, following an opening drive Bellevue score. Kicker Kian Khodamoradi then drilled a 29-yard field goal after a Ferndale punt was blocked to give the Wolverines a 38-0 lead.
Both teams' backups entered not long after.
"Obviously, we came out after halftime and made some mistakes that real quickly put us in a bigger hole," Plenkovich said. "You just cannot give these guys a short field. You cannot do that."
Ferndale ventured deep into Bellevue territory late in the game, but a fourth-and-1 pass from the Wolverines' 11 fell incomplete, preserving the shutout.
Nightingale led Ferndale's ground game with 30 yards on 13 carries. Brady Bauthues ran for 25 yards on four carries, and Akers had 12 yards on nine rushes.
Robert Hardin caught two passes for 31 yards. Cameron and Daniel Jones also caught two passes.
Plenkovich was sad to lose a strong senior class but was pleased with what they accomplished this season and throughout their careers.
"It's always hard to say goodbye to your seniors," he said. "They put sweat, blood and tears into your program for four years, and they put a lot into it. That's the tough thing about blowouts, you end on a sour note, and their career at Ferndale is done. It's hard to see the kids go through that, but they have been key components to our success."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
Ferndale 0 0 0 0- 0
Bellevue 14 7 17 6- 44
Bel - Budda Baker 56 run (Kian Khodamoradi kick)
Bel - Sam Richmond 30 run (Khodamoradi kick)
Bel - Sam Richmond 40 run (Khodamoradi kick)
Bel - Max Richmond 1 run (Khodamoradi kick)
Bel - Sam Richmond 13 run (Khodamoradi kick)
Bel - Khodamoradi 29 field goal
Bel - Christoph Hirota 78 run (kick blocked)
First downs 11 10
Rushing Att-Yards 37-71 27-329
Comp-Att-Int 8-18-2 0-1-0
Passing yards 68 0
Penalties-yards 6-40 5-60
Fumbles-lost 4-1 1-1
RUSHING - Ferndale: Marcus Nightingale 13-30, Brady Bauthues 4-25, Joey Akers 9-12, Christian Cameron 3-3, Austin Honeycutt 3-4, Daniel Jones 2-1, Cooper Clark 3-(-4). Bellevue: Sam Richmond 10-168, Christoph Hirota 2-82, Budda Baker 4-63, Yofiel Wyle 3-8, Rezhaun Henderson 1-4, Timmy Haehl 1-6, Max Richmond 4-1, Marcel Lee 1-1, Carson Scott 1-(-4) .
PASSING - Ferndale: Cooper Clark 8-16-1-68, Tyler Schemstad 0-1-1-0, Kyle Baker 0-1-0-0. Bellevue: Justus Rogers 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING - Ferndale: Robert Hardin 2-31, Christian Cameron 2-9, Daniel Jones 2-3, John Weg 1-5, Austin Honeycutt 1-20. Bellevue: none.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.