Here are my five takeaways from last Friday’s football games as we move into Week 4 of the prep football season.
1. Northwest Conference is loaded with star receivers: Perhaps teams are just throwing the ball more this fall, but throughout the Northwest Conference the skill at the receiver position has really stood out. This couldn’t have been more apparent than during the Lynden-Squalicum game I covered last week. Lynden slot receiver Jordan Wittenberg, who leads the league in receptions with 25, was featured, as was fellow receivers Scooter Hastings (eight rec., 245 yards, three TDs) and Lucas Peterson. Ben Peterson (19 rec., 320 yards, three TDs) leads Squalicum’s lethal receiving corp, which includes Josiah Westbrook (13 rec., 175 yards, three TDs) and Damek Mitchell (seven rec., 161 yards, TD). Other standouts so far include Anacortes’ Ty Johnson (13 rec., 272 yards, five TDs), Nooksack Valley’s Willy Kingma (14 rec., 211 yards, two TDs) and Josh Gimmaka (13 rec., 201 yards, four TDs) and Blaine’s Anthony Ball (nine rec., 150 yards, three TDs).
2. Ferndale’s at its best when it sticks to its identity: The Golden Eagles threw the ball 38 times during the first two weeks. Last year, it took Ferndale eight games to reach that total. During its conference-opening 33-14 win against Blaine at home last Friday, Ferndale stuck to the ground game, only throwing the ball three times. While it might not be the most aesthetically pleasing style of play, the ground-and-pound has proved effective for the Golden Eagles. Senior back Marcus Nightingale, who leads the NWC in rushing yards (415), rumbled for 139 yards and two TDs on 23 carries, and Ben Broselle added 76 yards and two scores on 10 carries. Ferndale compiled a 319 total yards on 51 carries, good for a 6.3 yard-per-carry average.
3. Sehome has solved its quarterback situation: Coach Bob Norvell was unsure heading into the season whether or not Taylor Rapp or Gavin Kaepernick would get the call under center. Rapp started during Sehome’s season-opening loss against Cascade Christian, but Kaepernick has started the last two games. This allows Rapp to be used where he’s most effective, getting handoffs out the backfield of catching passes out wide. Kaepernick has looked pretty sharp, too, completing 19 of 29 passes for 407 yards, five TDs and two interceptions during his two starts. Moving forward, knowing who’ll be leading the Mariners’ offense should only help Sehome.
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4. Lynden can ride its ground game: The Lions have an offense that can run and pass, but the run game for the most part hadn’t been featured through the first two weeks. Senior defending Class 2A State Player of the Year Trent Postma is about as good of a back as a coach could want, but he hadn’t been receiving a full workload. He got 10 carries in Week 1 and was slowed with a 14 carry, 64-yard outing during Week 2. The Lions turned to him early in the second half against Squalicum, and he ran for 125 yards on 13 carries before exiting the third quarter with an injury. QB Sterling Somers picked up the slack, running for 73 yards and two TDs on 16 carries.
5. Class 1A race could be closer than originally anticipated: Early in the year, the 1As appeared to be Nooksack Valley’s for the taking given Lynden Christian’s relatively soft schedule and lopsided early losses from Mount Baker and Meridian. But taking a step back and looking at the team’s body of work, all four could be a lot closer than originally anticipated. Mount Baker’s opening loss was to Sedro-Woolley, which should be a state contender in the 2As, and since the Mountaineers have throttled their last two opponents, winning by a combined score of 96-12. Meridian took a blowout loss to an up-start Squalicum team and beat Hoquiam only 14-7. But that same Hoquiam club beat No. 4-ranked Tenino last Friday, and the Trojans bounced back from their Week 2 loss to shutout Chelan 35-0. Furthermore, sure, Lynden Christian hasn’t played great competition, but the Lyncs have outscored their three opponents by a score of 128-13.