The first time the Meridian and Nooksack Valley football teams met in a highly anticipated 1A Northwest Conference battle four weeks ago, Meridian was able to build a big lead and hold on for a 14-point victory.
But the rematch was about as close as a football game can be. The second-ranked Trojans traveled to the Pioneers’ house and squeaked out a 28-27 victory Friday to remain undefeated.
It didn’t look like it was going to be a battle between the two standout quarterbacks – Meridian’s Simon Burkett and Nooksack’s Casey Bauman – early, but both played key roles for their teams. Bauman rushed for three touchdowns while throwing for another and contributing on all of Nooksack’s scores.
Burkett threw for two passing touchdowns bumping his season total to 24, with one going for 52 yards to Bryce Vandenhaak as time expired in the second quarter. It would have been the biggest play of the game, if not for Meridian’s touchdown that put them up for good with 3:45 left in the fourth quarter.
Cole Roberts took a screen pass from Burkett and found Vandenhaak on second-and-17 for a 28-yard touchdown pass to seal the game.
Nooksack Valley (4-4, 1-4 1A NWC) was in command for most of the first half, until Roberts punched in a rushing touchdown to knot the game at 7-7.
Meridian went into halftime up 14-7, but the real scoring was just getting started. Bauman found Baylor Galley for a 92-yard touchdown pass following a goal-line stand by the Pioneer defense.
Meridian (8-0, 5-0) answered with Burkett’s second touchdown, again to Vandenhaak for 16 yards. Vandenhaak became the first Whatcom County receiver to catch for over 1,000 yards this season.
What it means
With the win, Meridian clinches the 1A NWC title outright – the Trojans’ first league title since 2011.
Nooksack Valley, meanwhile, still finds itself in a dogfight with Lynden Christian for the league’s final berth into the district playoffs. The two teams will meet Friday in Lynden Christian in what amounts to Week 9 playoff game.