Football has become as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. The tradition started shortly after the game was invented in 1876, and has been a part of the National Football League schedule since the league’s inception in 1920.
Nowhere is it a bigger tradition than in Whatcom County, where Thanksgiving leftovers always seemed to be served up with some high school football playoff action.
In fact, with Lynden and Lummi qualifying for the state semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 29, this marks the 20th straight year Whatcom County has at least one team playing in the state semifinals. Most of the time there is more than one, as county teams have appeared in the semifinals 36 times over the past two decades, and two games this year will make that total 38.
After Lynden secured its trip to the semifinals with a 52-28 quarterfinal win over Hockinson on Saturday, Nov. 22, Lynden coach Curt Kramme was asked what he was looking forward to in the next week.
“Practicing on Thanksgiving,” Kramme said with a big smile. “That is always my favorite thing to do."
Lynden will play in a Class 2A semifinal for the fourth straight year and the 12th time in the past two decades when it travels to Moses Lake to play Ellensburg at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The game marks the second straight year the Lions and Bulldogs have met in the semifinals — Lynden won last year’s game 21-7.
Lummi, meanwhile, will renew its rivalry with Northwest 1B League foe Neah Bay at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Tacoma Dome. The game will mark the fifth time in six years the Blackhawks and Red Devils have met in the state semifinals. Neah Bay has won the past two — and also a quarterfinal meeting in 2011.
The Blackhawks will be making their eight semifinal appearance since 2005.
So as Whatcom County prepares to renew its annual Thanksgiving weekend tradition, it’s the perfect time to look back on all the previous games of the past two decades.
The Golden Eagles entered their first state semifinal with an unblemished record, thanks in large part to 2,000-yard rusher Ash Perrin and close victories over Lynnwood 13-12 in the first round and Capital 14-12 in the quarterfinals. But they were no match for the top-ranked Irish who rushed for 250 yards and turned three Ferndale turnovers into 20 points on their way to an eventual state championship game win over Prosser.
The Trojans entered at 11-2 and were led by Gabe Matheson’s 846 yards rushing and Jeb Kratzig’s 1,287 yards passing, but Ridgefield backfield tandem Jon Christiopher and Nate Edgar were simply too much. The duo combined for 276 yards and four rushing TDs to help the Spudders reach the state championship game for the first time in school history, where they eventually beat Leavenworth Cascade.
Jeb Kratzig (1,858 yards passing) teamed with Brian Williams (1,210 yards rushing) to help the Trojans reach the semifinals with an unbeaten record, but Kyle Wallace and Toledo broke their hearts, when Wallace scored on fourth-and-goal from the Meridian 1 with 33 seconds remaining. The Indians gained 60 of their 167 yards on that final drive, but ultimately ended up losing to Royal in the championship game.
Matthias Wilson became the state’s single-season leading rusher at the time and led the one-loss Golden Eagles to the state championship game for the first time, as he rushed for 187 of his 196 yards in the first half. Ferndale’s defense held the powerful Knights offense to 19 yards in the first half and didn’t allow a first down until late in the third quarter. Top-ranked Lakes would beat the Golden Eagles for the state title the next week.
The Lyncs entered with just two losses thanks to a balanced offensive attack that had four backs — Erik Vanderpol, Greg Dykstra, Chad Bajema and Joey Mellema— with more than 600 yards rushing. Rob Dykstra ended up being the semifinal star, though, as he made two fourth-quarter interceptions inside the 10-yard line, including one with 2:04 remaining, to send LC to the title game for the first time, where it ultimately beat Colfax 22-20 to claim the title.
The Lions entered with only one loss, thanks in part to 1,100-yard rushing Lance Ellis and 2,600-yard passer Tony Wilson. Lynden led 14-13 at halftime, but an interception by Darius Washington early in the third quarter swung momentum toward the Marauders. Drew Langstratt caught a pair of 5-yard TD passes for Lynden in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough, and Mariner went on to lose to Capital in the championship game.
Thanks to the rushing attack of Robert Davis (1,785 yards), Kyler Randall (993), Tyler Smith (769) and Derrick Thompson (668), the Golden Eagles entered with an unblemished record. It looked like they would carry that record forward when Davis scored on a 3-yard run with 4:41 to play, but Josh Fewel scored from a yard out with 24 seconds to play to lift the Mustangs to the title game, where they would ultimately win the title.
Quarterback Jeff Bennum, who threw for 3,127 yards and 45 TDs, and 1,200-yard receiver Eli Slesk led the Trojans throughout the season and helped them rip the Cardinals on their way to a perfect season. Bennum threw for 168 yards and four TDs in the first half, and Joe Pears returned an interception 17 yards for a TD to start the scoring. Meridian went on to beat Yakima East Valley 57-14 in the championship game to claim its first state title.
Eli Slesk passed for 3,370 yards and 32 touchdowns to help the Trojans advance to the semifinals with another unblemished record. Senior wide receiver Doug Miller scored both of Meridian’s touchdowns in the game, including the game winner with 3:30 remaining, and had two interceptions in the final three minutes to secure Meridian’s second straight trip to the title game, where it eventually fell 30-14 to Omak.
Lynden rebounded from two late-season losses, thanks in part to 1,600-yard running back T.J. Busch, to reach the semifinal. In a game at Kennewick, Rob Davis scooped in a 23-yard touchdown pass from Eric Powell on the Lions’ second play in overtime after West Valley had battled back from a 24-7 deficit midway through the third quarter. The Lions went on to fall to Bellevue 42-15 in the state championship game.
The Lyncs rode Brent Berendsen (611 yards rushing), Darin Meenderinck (559) and Scott Dirksen (411) to 11 straight wins to reach the semifinals. LC suffered 71 yards in penalties, two turnovers and the loss of Clint Bosman to injury but still led, until Elma drove 74 yards on 11 plays and scored on a 2-yard Todd Basler run with 1:17 remaining to end the Lyncs’ season on the Eagles’ way to a state title.
After two losses to open the season, the Lions rode T.J. Bush and Dan Lapinsky back to the semifinals. Lynden held the top-ranked Lancers’ rushing attack, which entered with 3,125 yards, to just 72 yards on 25 carries, as the Lions jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead and never allowed Lakes closer than 14 points the rest of the way. The win set up a title rematch with Bellevue, which again downed Lynden 28-10.
The Lyncs rode quarterback Mark Holleman (1,619 yards, 26 TDs passing) to a 10-1 record and another semifinal showdown with Elma. They seemed poised to get revenge, leading 19-14 with seven seconds left, but a strange series of events after LC tried to take a safety and run out the clock ended up with Elma’s Caleb Rose recovering what was ruled a fumble for a game-winning TD. The Eagles ultimately lost in the title game.
Thanks to quarterback Jordan Slesk (3,213 yards and 44 TDs) and a wealth of weapons, the Trojans cruised to the semifinals, but the top-ranked Trojans faced a 13-point deficit thanks to a number of turnovers and crucial penalties. But Brady Emmons’ 45-yard fumble recovery return for a TD got the Trojans started, and Slesk hit Mac VanDiest with what proved to be the winning TD. Meridian went on to beat Pullman 34-10 to win the title.
Junior quarterback Jake Locker was one of four Golden Eagle runners with more than 750 yards rushing, as the Golden Eagles entered with just one loss. Locker scored on a 24-yard run on a broken play on Ferndale’s first offensive possession and scored on a 65-yard punt return, and the rout was on. John Baker rushed for 102 yards, and Ferndale held Kelso to 66 yards of total offense. Ferndale went on to fall in a 31-28 heartbreaker against Bellevue in the title game.
Cody Visser (1,349 yards, 20 TDs) and quarterback Alex Ellig (1,659 yards, 14 TDs) led the two-loss Lions into the semifinal against top-ranked Bellevue. Lynden hung close through three quarters, but a Ryan Lee interception at the Bellevue 3 with 4:33 to play and Keith Rosenberg’s 97-yard TD run on the next play ended the Lions’ hopes of battling back from a 13-point deficit. Bellevue went on to beat Ferndale for the title.
With a trio of 1,000-yard rushers — Jake Locker (1,338 yards), Antoine Dudley (1,082) and Adam Wilgus (1,042) — Ferndale rolled to the semifinals for a second straight year without a loss. The Golden Eagles churned up 553 yards of total offense, led by Locker’s 202 yards and two TDs in the game. Dudley also rushed for 125 yards and two scores. The Golden Eagles kept rolling the next week, beating Prosser 47-12 to claim the first state title in program history.
The Blackhawks suffered only one loss and advanced to the Tacoma Dome for the first time, where they ran into the three-time defending state champions. A lack of size ended up hurting Lummi, as Tyler Martin ran for 299 yards and four TDs, including a 73-yard score in the second quarter. Blackhawks quarterback Andrew Jefferson passed for 322 yards and three TDs, but it wasn’t enough, as the Tigercats went on to win another title.
Quarterback Chris Bolt threw for 2,789 yards and 32 TDs and Dirk Dallas had 1,167 yards and 11 TDs receiving, as the Lions reached the semifinals with just one loss. The Lynden defense was the star of the game, though, as it held high-powered Tumwater to its lowest point total and 37 yards rushing on 17 carries. Dallas finished with 136 yards and a TD in the game, as Lynden went on to beat Centralia 14-10 to claim the state title.
With quarterback Tyler Slesk (3,048 yards, 40 TDs) throwing to a number of targets, Meridian outgunned a number of opponents to reach the semifinals. But against Royal in chilly Kennewick, the defense did not allow a point and forced two crucial turnovers, including one in overtime. It also had a crucial stop in OT, allowing Sean Hurlbut to haul in the game winner, as the Trojans went on to claim their third state title with a 27-22 win over Connell.
In only its fifth year, Lummi reached the state semifinals for a second straight time. Once there 5-foot-7, 155-pound senior Allen Revey came up with perhaps the biggest play in the program’s short history, as he picked off a pass in the fourth quarter to secure the Blackhawks’ win. Revey also had 251 yards of all-purpose yardage, had a team-high nine tackles and scored on a 38-yard shovel pass. The Blackhawks would lose 12-6 to St. John-Endicott in the title game.
Despite regular-season losses to rivals Ferndale and Burlington-Edison, the Lions found themselves two wins shy of defending their state title thanks in part to the running of Stephen Johnson (889 yards) and the passing of Tate Dallas (2,425 yards, 29 TDs). Unfortunately, high-powered Prosser stood in their way in the semifinals, and despite a nice second-half rally, the Mustangs pulled away on two Steve Natho TD runs. Prosser went on to win the title.
The Blackhawks reached the semifinals for a third straight year, and with only one loss, they thought this might be the year they win it all. Jordan Hughes and the Warriors had other ideas, as he rushed for 183 yards, caught four passes for 146 yards and scored eight touchdowns, including one on an 84-yard kickoff return. Lummi’s Gale Jefferson caught 11 passes for 236 yards and two TDs, but it was the Warriors that went on to win the title.
Two-loss Lynden reached the semifinals on the legs of David Gaylord and quarterback Jordan Hastings, the explosiveness of Blair Bomber and a stingy defense. Gaylord, the team’s primary running back, hit Bomber for an 80-yard TD on the first play from scrimmage, Hastings passed for a pair of TDs and the Lions made a crucial fourth-quarter stop to beat the Wildcats, avenging a season-opening loss to ATM. Lynden went on to surprise Prosser 35-34 in overtime to win the state title.
The Lions again rebounded from a season-opening loss to the Wildcats to reach the semifinals thanks in part to quarterback Jordan Hastings (2,402 yards passing, 23 TDs) and receivers Blair Bomber (861 yards, 11 TDs) and Ryan Seto (904 yards, 8 TDs). Once again, Lynden proved too much in the Tacoma Dome, as Seto scored a pair of first-half TDs and the Lions scored 17 points in a two-minute span in the fourth. Lynden went on to beat Spokane West Valley 16-6 for the title.
With Tyler Perry passing for 2,037 yards and running for 1,098 and Nick deGrasse running for another 1,125 yards, the Pioneers reached the semifinals for the first time since 1975 after a 27-point come-from-behind win at King’s in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find an answer for Tyler Walrath, who scored three TDs, and the Cougars shut out Nooksack in the second half. Cascade Christian lost to Connell in the state final.
After a one-year absence, the Blackhawks made it back to the Tacoma Dome and started a new playoff rivalry with Neah Bay. Lummi claimed round one thanks to the Blackhawks’ ability to run the football. Ty Jameson rushed for three touchdowns, and Eddy Williams added two more, as Lummi jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, as they rolled up 336 yards on the ground. The Blackhawks fell 80-40 to Tri-Cities Prep in the title game.
Behind Zach Slesk’s 2,842 yards passing and Mitchell Tripp’s 1,024 yards receiving, the Trojans reached the semifinals for the first time in four years with a perfect record, before they ran into a Cascade Christian buzz saw. The Cougars limited Meridian’s high-powered attack to 141 yards of total offense and scored a pair of first-half touchdowns to dispatch with a Whatcom County team for the second straight year, as the Cougars went on to beat Connell in the final.
Lummi rolled through the regular season with the single-purpose of getting back to the 1B state title game, as it entered the semifinals without a loss. The Blackhawks kept that string alive with another lopsided win over their league rivals, as Eddie Williams rushed for 188 yards and scored three TDs and Eric Robinson rushed for 105 yards and scored twice. Lummi went on to beat top-ranked Cusick 55-30 to claim its first state title.
The Lions raced to their first undefeated regular season and rolled to the semifinals thanks to a strong defense, the magic of quarterback Josh Kraght, the receiving of Zach Vis (1,227 yards, 14 TDs) and the running of Kyle Hanson (1,110 yards, 11 TDs). A semifinal win didn’t come easy, as the Lions needed to score the game’s final 17 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter on a 46-yard pass from Kraght to Vis and a 28-yard Santiago Lopez field goal. Lynden beat Archbishop Murphy 17-16 in the final.
After a season-opening loss to King’s, Josh Kraght (2,740 yards passing, 1,502 yards rushing) and a talented group of seniors got the Lions back to the state semifinals. Lynden used three early fourth-down conversions to build some momentum and rolled up 575 yards of total offense. Kraght rushed for the first four scores of the game before hitting Luke Christianson for the fifth. Lynden went on to beat Tumwater 41-7 to successfully defend its 2A state title.
The Mountaineers reached the Tacoma Dome for the first time in program history with just one loss thanks to the running of Jake Schleimer (1,779 yards, 26 TDs) and Izaiha Schwinden (875 and 10) and a physical defense. Unfortunately, they ran into motivated Montesano, which scored the first 28 points of the game. Ben Ohashi had 79 yards and a TD receiving and a key interception in the end zone at the end of the first half, as the Bulldogs went on to win the state title.
For the second straight year, Josiah Greene and Neah Bay ended Lummi’s season, this time in the state semifinals. Greene rushed for 279 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries and passed for another score to lead the Red Devils over their league rivals. Jared Tom and Logan Brady combined to pass for 260 yards and three touchdowns, including 107 to Austin Brockie, but it wasn’t enough against the eventual state runners up.
Another year, another semifinal. This time the Lions were led by a stingy defense, spearheaded by linebacker Jaremy Martin. Lynden found itself in a defense battle at Moses Lake. After spotting the Bulldogs a second-quarter score on a 64-yard pass to Gabe Caskey, Lynden evened the score on a Martin catch before taking the lead in the third quarter on a 1-yard run by Trent Postma. Jalani Phelps added an insurance TD, and the Lions went on to win their third straight state title.
The Mountaineers reloaded and got back to the state semifinal with just one loss, riding the legs of Izaiha Schwinden (1,355 yards, 23 TDs) and Liam Short (1,163 yards, 18 TDs). After jumping ahead, the Mountaineers saw the Cougars score a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to send the game to overtime, but Alex Tyska booted a game-winning 28-yard field goal to send Mount Baker to its first state title game, where it lost 31-13 to Freeman.
The Blackhawks got back to the Tacoma Dome for a second straight year, but ran into their two biggest rivals — Neah Bay and turnovers. Two lost fumbles and a number of other mental miscues proved to be too much for Lummi to overcome, as Cody Cummins rushed for 115 yards and two TDs and Josiah Greene had three touchdown tosses for the eventual state champions. Logan Toby has TD passes to Dean Williams and Kavarez Lane in the game.