Just when it seemed Nooksack Valley was capable of pulling off a football miracle of sorts, Mount Baker’s Liam Short came through with a different variety of shocker.
With 4 minutes and 4 seconds to play, Short fielded a tricky onside kickoff, juggled the ball adeptly, broke a couple of tackles and burst through the Nooksack front wall. That was all the hard-driving senior needed to score on a stunning 56-yard return, clinching Baker’s 24-14 Class 1A Northwest Conference win on Friday, Sept. 26.
“Obviously we knew it was going to be a battle,” Mount Baker coach Ron Lepper said in a phone interview. “We’re very fortunate to make enough plays to come out with the W.”
Indeed, Nooksack fans had not had much to cheer about as Mount Baker (3-1 overall, 1-0 NWC 1A) built a 17-0 lead with 10 minutes remaining on an 11-play, 86-yard scoring drive.
Baker’s Zach Yurchuk took a pitch around left end and crashed over to score, not long after inexperienced junior quarterback Mason Bass completed the play of the night for the Mounties — a 43-yard pass down the left sideline to Yurchuk on second-and-18 from Baker’s own 17-yard line.
The second quarter developed into a disaster for Nooksack (2-2, 0-1). Short scored on a classic 12-yard burst, carrying a defender over the goal line after breaking two other tackles, capping a 67-yard, 9-play drive.
At the first half gun, senior kicker Zane Smith booted a 22-yard field goal, ending a 10-play, 52-yard drive.
By that time, Nooksack had lost two of its best seniors with injuries — running back/linebacker Curtis Handy and leading receiver Joshua Gimmaka.
But in a game that lasted more than 2½ hours, Nooksack quarterback Tanner Myhre nearly overcame his team’s 16 penalties for 113 yards with the clever, experienced senior’s 25-for-45 passing effort for 327 yards.
Yurchuk’s interception against Myhre — Baker’s only pass theft — came on the first play following Short’s kickoff return and pretty much sealed the Mounties’ win.
Myhre, who surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season in only his fourth game, began the comeback excitement when he found Connor Beard over the middle for a 57-yard touchdown with six minutes to play.
Nooksack sophomore Michael Jackson, playing on the kickoff team, then scrambled to recover Beard’s onside kick. That gave Myhre the opportunity to find Ryan Gelwicks with a short pass on the left sideline, and Gelwicks broke a tackle and turned the play into a 30-yard touchdown with 4:04 remaining.
Myhre then found William Kingma on the right side for a 2-point conversion, pulling the Pioneers within three, 17-14.
Then Short pulled off his game-clinching kickoff return.
Short picked up 76 yards on 18 carries and had plenty of support from hard-running sophomore Jed Schleimer (10 carries for 43 yards) and Yurchuk (9 for 52).
Myhre completed at least two passes to seven different receivers, led by Kingma’s seven catches for 73 yards and Beard’s five grabs for 82. Myhre was 10 for 20 for 111 yards at halftime, so he picked up 216 yards through the air in the second half, including a whopping 195 yards in the fourth-quarter comeback.
Bass played nearly error-free ball for Baker in a promising showing for the 6-foot, 175-pound junior.
Baker came in with 107 points and Nooksack with 103 in their first three games, so the 10-0 halftime score was a bit surprising. But it was nowhere near as surprising as the wild second half.
Since all of the NWC’s four Class 1A teams play each other twice this season, the Mounties and Pioneers will do it all over on Oct. 17 at Mount Baker.
Mount Baker — Liam Short 12 run (Zane Smith kick)
Mount Baker — Smith 22 FG
Mount Baker — Zach Yurchuk 7 run (Smith kick)
Nooksack Valley — Connor Beard 57 pass from Tanner Myhre (kick failed)
Nooksack Valley — Ryan Gelwicks 30 pass from Myhre (William Kingma pass from Myhre)
Mount Baker — Short 56 kickoff return (Smith kick)
NVFirst downs1818Rushing Att-yards45-19216-49Comp-Att-Int5-11-025-46-1Passing yards60327Penalties-yards5-3016-113Fumbles-lost1-11-1
RUSHING — Mount Baker: Liam Short 18-76, Jed Schleimer 10-43, Zach Yurchuk 9-52, Mason Bass 8-21. Nooksack Valley: Tanner Myhre 13-33, Curtis Handy 1-2, Adam Mydland 1-2, Connor Beard 1-12.
PASSING — Mount Baker: Mason Bass 5-11-60-1. Nooksack Valley: Tanner Myhre 25-45-327-1, Joshua Gimmaka 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Mount Baker: Johnny Mata 1-9, Ruvim Tikhonov 2-10, Zach Yurchuk 1-43, Jed Schleimer 1--(minus 2). Nooksack Valley: William Kingma 7-73, Connor Beard 5-82, Curtis Handy 3-34, Joshua Gimmaka 3-41, Joe McNeely 3-27, Ryan Gelwicks 2-37, Adam Mydland 2-33.