Mount Baker football coach Ron Lepper and high school principal Steve King have been keeping a secret for the past month.
On Oct. 31, with the Mountaineers' 24-17 victory at Meridian, Lepper earned his 124th career coaching victory at the school, tying him with Bob Tisdale for the most win in program history.
Two weeks later, Mount Baker's 42-7 victory over Woodland in the first round of the Class 1A State Playoffs gave Lepper the school record.
"Only Ron and I knew about this, and we decided to keep it quiet," King said in a phone interview. "Ron didn't want to take away from the team and what they were doing."
What the Mountaineers would go on to do was win two more games - 63-33 over La Center in the state quarterfinals and 31-28 in overtime over Cascade Christian in the state semifinals - to advance to the state championship game for the first time in program history.
Unfortunately, Mount Baker didn't get its storybook ending to 2013, as Freeman handed it a 31-13 loss in the state championship game Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Tacoma Dome. But considering the Mountaineers returned only three players on each side of the ball, they and their coach have plenty to be proud of once the sting of Saturday's loss wears off.
One of those accomplishments has got to be helping their coach surpass the legendary Tisdale, whom Mount Baker's home field is named after.
Tisdale coached the Mountaineers from 1948 through 1969 (22 seasons), retiring five years before the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association began holding state playoffs. He posted a 124-48-10 record (.681 winning percentage) during his tenure and won 11 league championships, including an undefeated (9-0) season in 1969.
He was elected into the Washington State Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1980 as a member of the third class selected for enshrinement.
Dave Galbraith, who is an assistant on Lepper's coaching staff, played for Tisdale.
Lepper has been the head coach at Mount Baker since 1996, and has posted a 127-62 record (.672 winning percentage) in his 18 seasons leading the program. The Mountaineers went 11-2 this year, winning a second straight Northwest Conference Class 1A title and their fourth league crown under Lepper. The trip to the state playoffs marked Mount Baker's eighth under Lepper.
Lepper, who also coaches wrestling and softball at the school, served as a defensive coordinator at Mount Baker under Doug Preston from 1993-95, and the team went 22-9 in those three seasons, reaching the playoffs all three years.
"For the school, an accomplishment like this represents a lot of hard work by Ron," King said. "He's tried to help this team get better and better. I think it's a sign of what he's done for our school and our community. ... I feel really good for Ron and his coaches."
The program also picked up its 400 victory with its 42-21 win over Nooksack Valley on Oct. 4. It currently has 407.
CURRENT WHATCOM COUNTY COACHES
Coach Current school Seasons Record Pct.
Bob Ames Meridian 40 291-138 .678
Curt Kramme Lynden 23 219-53 .805
Ron Lepper Mount Baker 18 127-62 .672
Jamie Plenkovich Ferndale 14* 122-33 .787
Jim Sandusky Lummi 10 108-27 .800
Galen Kaemingk Lynden Christian 15* 84-66 .560
Robb Myhre Nooksack Valley 14 82-65 .558
Jay Dodd Blaine 8 46-39 .541
Reed Richardson Squalicum 8 39-43 .476
Steve Wilson+ Bellingham 10* 23-73 .240
Bob Norvell Sehome 2 9-12 .427
*Seasons and coaching record includes tenure at other schools. Steve Wilson announced he was stepping down from Bellingham at the end of the season. No replacement has been named.