BELLINGHAM - Mount Baker coach Ron Lepper had a hunch a big layoff wouldn't make the Mountaineers rusty this time.
Mount Baker trailed Woodland early during the first round of the Class 1A State Playoffs following a bye week last year before pulling out a seven-point win. Lepper's group ensured a two-week break wouldn't again be harmful.
"On Wednesday we were able to have a practice at Civic and had a really full-speed practice," Lepper explained. "I thought we looked really good. It might have been our best practice we've had all year long. The only bad thing was we had to wait two more days to play."
Odds are, the No. 4-ranked Mounties looked even better 48 hours later.
Mount Baker followed an opening drive three-and-out with a quick touchdown to gain momentum, and then rolled Woodland in the final two and half quarters to earn a 42-7 Class 1A State Playoff opening-round win Saturday, Nov. 16, at Civic Stadium in Bellingham.
Running back Liam Short ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries, and Izaiha Schwinden had 85 yards and two scores on 17 carries, helping Baker compile 333 rushing yards.
Mount Baker's defense was equally impressive, holding Woodland's offense, which entered the game averaging 48.4 points per contest, to one score. The Mountaineers intercepted Woodland quarterback Hunter Huddleston three times and him to 160 yards passing.
"Overall, I thought our defense really set the tone," Lepper said. "Your defense has to be ready to play, and I thought they did a good job, great job."
Seth Bass, Travis Lindsay and Schwinden each recorded picks, and Lindsay created a crucial second-half strip and fumble recovery.
"We just all came together, kept our composure and made sure everybody did their job and did the things we practiced all week," Schwinden said.
It didn't appear Mount Baker would cruise to a win against No. 6-ranked Woodland through the first quarter and a half. Following Mount Baker's TD drive on its first possession, the Beavers' defense forced a punt, and the Woodland offense moved the ball well.
But after a blocked field goal attempt and a turnover on downs, Schwinden capped a 10-play, 85-yard drive with a 21-yard TD to give Mount Baker a 14-0 lead with 4:36 left in the half. Just 1:27 later, Short rumbled up the middle for a 29-yard score.
Woodland's offense was plagued with several penalties and had a beautiful touchdown pass called back that altered the game's momentum.
"We had some game-changers in the first half - the touchdown that was called back - we had two of them called back in the game," Woodland coach Mark Greenleaf said. "We had some calls that stopped our momentum."
The Mountaineers took advantage.
Both teams exchanged third-quarter possessions before Mount Baker reeled off 21 fourth-quarter points sandwiched around a 5-yard Woodland TD pass from Huddleston Troy Flanagan.
Schwinden scored from 7 yards out, and then after Woodland's score, Short sealed the game with TD runs or 17 and 31 yards.
"We had some trouble blocking, but we also had some big plays that helped us get touchdowns," Short said.
Mount Baker quarterback Andrew Zender finished 6 of 8 for 82 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He ran for 27 yards on 11 carries and scored on a 2-yard keeper up the middle in the first quarter.
Huddleston rushed for a team-best 43 yards on 15 carries, and teammate Eli Whitmire had a team-high five catches for 50 yards.
The win advances Mount Baker to the state quarterfinals where it faces No. 2-ranked, undefeated La Center either Friday or Saturday, Nov. 22-23, at Civic Stadium.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
Woodland 0 0 0 7- 7
Mount Baker 7 14 0 21- 42
MB - Andrew Zender 2 run (Alex Tyska kick)
MB - Izaiha Schwinden 21 run (Tyska kick)
MB - Liam Short 29 run (Tyska kick)
MB - Schwinden 7 run (Tyska kick)
WOOD - Troy Flanagan 5 pass from Hunter Huddleston (Dillan Beckwith kick)
MB - Short 17 run (Tyska kick)
MB - Short 31 run (Tyska kick)
First downs 11 22
Rushing Att-Yards 21-50 54-333
Comp-Att-Int 16-40-3 6-8-1
Passing yards 160 82
Penalties-yards 8-75 3-15
Fumbles-lost 3-1 0-0
RUSHING - Woodland: Hunter Huddleston 15-43, Eli Whitmire 5-8, Vince Nigro 1-(-1). Mount Baker: Liam Short 22-178, Izaiha Schwinden 17-85, Andrew Zender 11-27, Joey Walton 2-18, Travis Lindsey 2-25.
PASSING - Woodland: Hunter Huddleston 16-40-3-160. Mount Baker: Andrew Zender 6-8-1-82.
RECEIVING - Woodland: Eli Whitmire 5-50, Vince Nigro 3-20, Logan Piper 3-58, Troy Flanagan 3-21, Kyle Hendrix 1-10, Trevor Huddleston 1-1. Mount Baker: Travis Lindsey 3-50, Izaiha Schwinden 2-17, Hunter Gates 1-15.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.