Here are my five takeaways from last Friday’s football games as we move into Week 4 of the prep football season.
1. Mount Baker looks like, well, Mount Baker again: The Mountaineers are back. Perhaps I discredited the team since they only returned three of its starters from last year’s state-runner-up team. Couple that with the loss Baker took to Sedro-Woolley to open the year, and I wasn’t anticipating another strong season. But sure enough, five weeks into fall, the Mountaineers are 3-1, ranked high in the Class 1A poll and just beat Nooksack Valley, which I thought would be the favorite to come out on top in the 1As. Getting the nod now three weeks straight, it appears Mount Baker has settled with junior Mason Bass at quarterback. What’s really helping the Mountaineers, though, is the return of running back/linebacker Liam Short. When 100 percent, Short is a handful. I’d argue he’s one of the top running backs in the league, and he’s proved that each of the past two weeks running for a combined 196 yards and four touchdowns. He also sealed the game with a kick return last Friday. Defensively, Baker has been tough, too, allowing just 8.6 points per game during its past three outings.
2. Lynden has plenty of depth: One of the neater stories this fall has been the emergence of Lynden senior newcomer Jonathan Whetnall. I recall asking Scooter Hastings earlier this season for our prep football preview who would be a player or two people don’t know of yet but will by season’s end, and the first name he gave me was Whetnall’s. The senior wide receiver/defensive back has attended Lynden but didn’t decide to come out for football until this season. Although his coming out party was his three-interception performance against Lakewood, he’s been key when it comes to filling in for the myriad injuries the Lions have endured. With Hastings out last week, Whetnall recorded six catches for 125 yards and a TD. Lucas Peterson filled in for Trent Postma, rushing for 66 yards and a TD, and Lynden’s defense overcame the loss of Trey Shagren and Drew Krause to hold Anacortes to seven points. Injuries can turn any team’s season upside down, but Lynden is proving it can reload when a key player is forced to the sideline.
3. Ferndale might finish under .500 during the regular season: It isn’t so much a knock on Ferndale as it is a combination of its difficult non-conference schedule and the Northwest Conference’s overall improvement, but the Golden Eagles, as odd as it sounds, might finish under .500 during the regular season. Frankly, I’m not sure the last time that’s happened, but Ferndale was 5-5 in 2011. Right now the Golden Eagles are 1-3, but they have a tough remaining schedule that includes Squalicum, Lynden, Sehome and Sedro-Woolley after Anacortes this week. I don’t see Ferndale beating either Lynden or Sedro-Woolley, and even Sehome and Squalicum should be tough games.
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4. Sedro-Woolley’s defense is impressive: Statistically, the Cubs have the best defense in the Northwest Conference through four weeks. Based on the eye test, I’m not ready to say Sedro-Woolley’s defense is as strong as Lynden’s. The Lions are really good and have given up more points because they’ve subbed in backups after building early leads. Sedro-Woolley is allowing just 2.06 yards per carry (111 rushes for 229 yards and one TD). That’s pretty impressive. Through four games, the Cubs haven’t allowed more than 86 rushing yards in a game. I went into the Squalicum-Sedro game last week thinking the Storm’s passing attack might present the Cubs’ defense problems, but I was wrong. Christian Jorgensen had his roughest game of the season, throwing for 177 yards and three interceptions. Linebacker Chad Wilburg is a force, and the Cubs have a plethora of speedy defensive backs, headlined by Carter Crosby and Mason Elms.
5. Kudos to Bellingham: Following 15 consecutive losses, the Red Raiders broke through last Friday with a 47-30 win over Charles Wright Academy. Taking as many defeats as Bellingham did has to be tough, but a lot of credit should be given to the players for sticking in there when times got tough. Also, coach Ted Flint earned his first win. What stood out the most from last Friday’s game was senior running back Tanner Aliff’s performance. He carried the ball 39 times for 449 yards and seven TDs. Flint said the rushing performance was the sixth best in Washington state history. While Bellingham’s win was the first of the season it will undoubtedly go along way in restoring confidence as the Red Raiders begin the process of earning opponent’s respect.