No matter how many touchdowns junior academic standout Gader Fox scores for Ferndale, his first may always be the sweetest.
That goes double for senior tight end Reid Benson, another star student.
Benson, who sat out last football season to focus on baseball, scored on 22- and 27-yard passes from third-year quarterback James Hinson in the fourth quarter. Fox then made his first varsity catch a 2-yard game-winner with eight seconds to play in Ferndale’s 19-16 comeback win over Lynden before a standing-room-only crowd Friday.
In Whatcom County’s biggest rivalry, the Class 3A Golden Eagles duplicated last year’s last-minute non-league comeback win after the Class 2A Lions took the lead.
Benson’s first two varsity touchdowns could not have come at a better time for the Golden Eagles (2-0).
But Lynden sent out sophomore kicker Marko Samoukovic for his first field goal attempt. Samoukovic’s 24-yarder – ultimately set up by a 45-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Brock Heppner to Aaron Weidenaar – gave the Lions (1-1) a 16-13 lead with 2:03 remaining.
“We have confidence in all our guys,” Hinson said of using reserve fullback Fox to score the winning touchdown.
“I had been in about 10 plays up to that point,” said Fox, who has three stars on the roster to represent his academic excellence. “That play worked exactly like it was supposed to.”
Hinson, who completed 10 of 14 passes for 131 yards, agreed that it was a gem.
“I faked a handoff to Cole Semu (Ferndale’s leading rusher) to try to get the defense to commit one way, and then I slipped it to the fullback coming out of the backfield on play-action,” Hinson said.
Hinson was thrilled to see Benson play so well.
“Reid’s my best friend, my neighbor, a guy I grew up with,” Hinson said.
Benson could not have been happier with his dream fourth quarter.
“I just had to be out there with my buddies” the 230-pound tight end said, explaining why he felt he “just had to come back to football.”
After losing four fumbles in the first half, Ferndale felt fortunate to be down only 13-0 at halftime.
Heppner scored Lynden’s first touchdown on a 12-yard scamper around left end less than two minutes into the game.
With 1:27 left in the half, Eric Martin-Mann scored the Lions’ second TD on a 14-yard burst up the middle following his 20-yard gain. The 92-yard scoring drive was made possible by Heppner’s 32-yard pass to Carson Bode on third-and-10 from the Lions’ 8.
“The play of the game came when Hinson saved that touchdown at our 2-yard line,” Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich said, referring to how Cory Warner gained 80 yards on a short pass from Heppner before Hinson caught Warner.
“That play showed the kind of character James has,” Plenkovich said of his senior leader. “James never quits.”
To set up Fox’s winning touchdown, Hinson completed passes of 22 yards to Watiko Leighton, 11 yards to Conner Obergottsberger and later saw Semu power 8 yards to the 3 on third-and-1.
Before the game, Ferndale honored the late Lynden coach Curt Kramme, who had been on the sidelines guiding more often than not memorable Lynden-Ferndale games since 1991.