Jed Schleimer almost surely won’t have to carry the ball 220 times, as he did last year, but he’s now 4-0 while surrounded by plenty of improved offensive talent at Mount Baker.
The fourth-year running back actually had more receiving yards (92) than rushing yards (87) but turned in a typical four-touchdown performance in Baker’s 44-36 win over Nooksack Valley (2-2) in a wild Class 1A Northwest Conference football opener on Friday, Sept. 23.
“It definitely helps the team as a whole,” Schleimer said of getting plenty of help from the improved likes of senior wide receiver Thomas Barbo, running back Carson Engholm, tight end T.J. Bass and sophomore quarterback Kaleb Bass, among others. “Teams still key on me, but that opens things up for others.”
The Mountaineers withstood 29-of-44 passing for 326 yards and four touchdowns by junior Casey Bauman, Nooksack’s strong-armed 6-foot-5 college prospect.
“I thought we played pretty well, but it was disappointing to be beaten at our own (passing) game,” Nooksack coach Robb Myhre said of Kaleb Bass, who completed 11 of 14 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns.
“I actually like to throw the ball,” Baker coach Ron Lepper – known for more than occasionally running the ball – said with a grin.
BAKER STRIKES FIRST
The Mountaineers took a 21-0 lead on Schleimer’s 1-yard run, Barbo’s 84-yard touchdown catch in full stride on a pretty pass from Bass and Schleimer’s 18-yard pass from Bass.
Nooksack, however, scored four of the next five touchdowns as Bauman found Colton Kautz for 29- and 49-yard scores and also threw scoring strikes to Tre Silva for 14 yards and Michael O’Bryan for 33. O’Brien’s score and Bauman’s conversion run produced a 28-28 tie, shortly after Schleimer’s 20-yard run put Baker back up 28-20.
A 23-yard field goal by Jonathan Ehlers gave Baker the lead for good at 31-28 late in the third quarter. Engholm, who had a game-high 113 yards on 14 carries, then scored on a 10-yard dash, and Bass capped the offensive explosion with a difficult 40-yard cross-field scoring throw to Schleimer with just over six minutes left.
PIONEERS DON’T QUIT
Nooksack pulled within the final 44-36 with 1:55 to play as Kautz capped a 14-play, 70-yard scoring drive with his third touchdown, a 3-yard run.
Baker special-teams player Sergey Fandalyuk then recovered Nooksack’s onside kick to spoil the Pioneers’ chances of a tie in regulation.
ENGHOLM EMBRACES CONTACT
“Carson Engholm is really improved,” said Schleimer, who gained 2,511 yards rushing last season but only 143 receiving. “He’s really running hard, and he’s embracing contact.”
T.J. Bass, the 6-5, 266-pound tight end, set the physical tone when he rumbled 33 yards on the first play, a nifty pass from his younger brother Kaleb, who is in his first year as a starter.
MB – Jed Schleimer 1 run (Jonathan Ehlers kick)
MB – Thomas Barbo 84 pass from Kaleb Bass (Ehlers kick)
MB – Schleimer 18 pass from Bass (Ehlers kick)
NV – Colton Kautz 29 pass from Casey Bauman (Jordan Veening kick)
NV – Tre Silva 14 pass from Bauman (Veening kick)
NV – Kautz 49 pass from Bauman (kick failed)
MB – Schleimer 20 run (Ehlers run)
NV – Michael O’Bryan 33 pass from Bauman (Bauman run)
MB – Ehlers 23 FG
MB – Carson Engholm 10 run (Ehlers kick)
MB – Schleimer 40 pass from Bass (kick failed)
NV – Kautz 3 run (Austin O’Bryan pass from Bauman)
RUSHING – Nooksack Valley: Tre Silva 5-19, Casey Bauman 17-20, Colton Kautz 5-13. Mount Baker: Jed Schleimer 17-87, Carson Engholm 14-113, Kaleb Bass 2-(-8), Carson Brandland 2-32.
PASSING – Nooksack Valley: Casey Bauman 29-44-326-0. Mount Baker: Kaleb Bass 11-14-279-1.
RECEIVING – Nooksack Valley: Michael O’Bryan 7-70, Tre Silva 7-55, Austin O”Bryan 7-67, Colton Kautz 5-102, Kyle Veldman 3-32. Mount Baker: Jed Schleimer 4-92, Thomas Barbo 3-119, T.J. Bass 3-59, Carson Brandland 1-9.