The nice thing about back-to-back runs to the Tacoma Dome is the Mount Baker football team knows what to expect when the calendar flips to November.
“The last couple of years, they’ve really given us opportunities to come out here and experience what it feels like to be in a state game,” quarterback Mason Bass said. “I feel like them getting here really helped us out tonight. The experience of playing in a playoff game just helps.”
Even before the National Anthem prior to its Class 1A Northwest District Playoff game against Cedar Park Christian on Friday, Nov. 7, at Civic Stadium, Mount Baker players lined up in numerical order, awaiting pregame introductions.
And once the game started, the Mountaineers continued to look comfortable, scoring the game’s first 49 points before calling off the dogs after halftime and cruising to a 70-13 state-qualifying victory.
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Mount Baker (8-2) heads to state for a third straight year, and as the top seed out of the Northwest District, it will host Southwest District No. 3 seed Montesano on Nov. 14 or 15. That game and a potential state quarterfinal likely will be played at Civic — a place the Mountaineers found very much to their liking on Friday night.
“We just wanted to hop on top of it, get it done,” Bass said. “We haven’t played a full 48 minutes of football yet.”
They didn’t get that on Friday, either, but not because the Mountaineers weren’t ready for full-time duty. The game got out of hand so quickly, Mount Baker lifted its starters on both sides of the ball coming out of the second half locker room — and still ended up winning the second half 21-13, despite lost fumbles on back-to-back offensive plays that helped the Eagles to their only points of the game.
The Mountaineers took control of the game in a very un-Mount Baker like fashion — through the air.
They scored their first three touchdowns of the night thanks to the right arm of Bass and the sure hands of Carson Schmidt, Johnny Mata and Ruvim Tikhonov.
“They crowded the box and didn’t have a safety,” Mount Baker coach Ron Lepper said. “(passing the ball) loosened them up a little bit, which was good. We wanted to get Mason throwing the ball. We’ve been working hard the last couple of weeks trying to throw the ball better. I’m really proud of the way he did that tonight.”
On the Mountaineers’ second play from scrimmage, Bass found Schmidt wide open over the middle for a 43-yard catch and run for a touchdown and 7-0 lead just 2:12 into the the game.
On the third play of Mount Baker’s next possession, Bass found Mata equally open down the left sideline for a 26-yard TD pass.
Bass didn’t even wait a down on the Mountaineers’ third offensive possession, as he let it fly, allowing Tikhonov to out-jump a Cedar Park defender for a 27-yard scoring strike.
“I’ve got to credit my receivers and my line,” Bass said. “I was getting lots of time and my receivers were making great catches.”
The result was a 21-0 Mount Baker lead before the Northwest Conference’s second-leading rusher — Liam Short — even got a sniff of the ball.
Jed Schleimer proved the Mountaineers can still run the ball when they want to, as he scored on a 13-yard run in first quarter and a 28-yard gallop in the second, before Bass connected with Schmidt for the junior quarterback’s fourth TD pass of the night and Mata added a 9-yard scoring run on the final play of the half.
Though the offense certainly took center stage in the first half, the defense and special teams deserved plenty of credit as each forced and recovered a fumble on the Eagles’ side of the field — recoveries going to Paul Lebedev and Cody Zender — and Cedar Park Christian accounted for only 123 yards of total offense and one serious drive all night. In the first half, Mount Baker’s average starting position was the Eagles’ 47.
“Our defense is doing an amazing job of getting the three-and-outs,” said Bass, who passed for 140 yards. “They really stepped up, and that’s what we need from now on.”
But as experience over the past two seasons has taught them, things are only going to get tougher from here for the Mountaineers.
“We know we’ve got to earn it every week,” Lepper said. “We talked about it —got to earn it every week. This one’s done, and now it’s time to move on.”
|Cedar Park Chr.||0||0||13||0||—||13|
MB — Carson Schmidt 43 pass from Mason Bass (Zane Smith kick)
MB — Johnny Mata 26 pass from Bass (Smith kick)
MB — Ruvim Tikhonov 27 pass from Bass (Smith kick)
MB — Jed Schleimer 13 run (Smith kick)
MB — Schleimer 28 run (Smith kick)
MB — Schmidt 13 pass from Bass (Smith kick)
MB — Mata 9 run (Smith kick)
CPC— Brent Devine 45 fumble return (Bradley Cumley kick)
CPC — Isaiah Ammon 22 pass from Jaden Sheffey (kick failed)
MB — Thomas Barbo 21 run (Smith kick)
MB — Jonathan Ehlers 10 run (Smith kick)
MB — Carson Engholm 2 run (Smith kick)
RUSHING — Cedar Park Christian: Caleb Piscue 6-15, Brent Devine 3-11, Isaiah Ammon 4-(-1), Garrett Painley 2-2, No. 30 1-4. Mount Baker: Jed Schleimer 7-76, Liam Short 7-55, Johnny Mata 2-32, Zach Yurchuk 5-33, Mason Bass 1-2, Jeff Anderson 3-2, Jeremiah Cronk 2-3, Brandon Breitenstein 1-5, Carson Engholm 5-10, Thomas Barbo 6-56, Jonathan Ehlers 1-10.
PASSING — Cedar Park Christian: Isaiah Ammon 10-20-1-75, Jaden Sheffey 1-1-0-22, Noah Anglin 1-1-0-(-5). Mount Baker: Mason Bass 5-8-0-140, Brandon Breitenstein 1-1-0-19.
RECEIVING — Cedar Park Christian: Jacob Farrell 3-27, Noah Anglin 2-4, Caleb Piscue 3-5, Jaden Sheffey 1-6, Josh Krause 2-28, Isaiah Ammon 1-22. Mount Baker: Carson Schmidt 2-56, Johnny Mata 1-26, Ruvim Tikhonov 1-27, Cody Zender 2-50.