Mount Baker football coach Ron Lepper has waited 18 years for a second unbeaten regular season, and William Pilat has waited 18 years for a moment in the football spotlight.
Or so it seemed to Pilat, a highly competitive 5-foot-5, 136-pound first-year starter at cornerback who turned 18 on Oct. 16. The senior’s three interceptions provided much of the spark for Mount Baker’s 49-7 1A Northwest Conference win over Meridian on Friday, Oct. 28.
“I’m so happy for him,” said Lepper, who enjoyed his first unbeaten regular season since 1998, his third season leading the program. “In our first game (against Meridian this season), they went after him, and we put a taller guy in. But after that game, William was great about it and said he would do whatever it takes.”
Whatcom County rushing leader Jed Schleimer ran 13 times for 105 yards and four touchdowns, giving the senior 29 scores on the ground for the Mountaineers (9-0, 6-0 1A NWC). Fellow 1,000-plus-yard running back Carson Engholm scored on runs of 12 and 45 yards and finished with 73 yards on 11 carries.
What it means
Meridian (4-5, 3-3) will face Nooksack Valley in a Kansas tiebreaker on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at Sedro-Woolley at a time to be determined for the NWC’s only other 1A district playoff spot. The loser will still play a season-ending nonleague game in Week 10.
Baker will face Cascade Conference No. 2 seed Sultan at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, at Civic Stadium for the right to play in the state tournament for the fifth consecutive season.
Pilat’s big night
“This seems unbelievable,” said Pilat, who was a special-teams contributor the previous two years. “It just happened. I came in with one interception (all season). I think I had only three picks my entire career.”
Pilat accomplished the feat against a good quarterback in Meridian’s Simon Burkett, who came in with 1,548 passing yards. He completed 20 of 42 passes for 245 yards, including seven for 101 yards to T.J. Dykstra. But Pilat and Engholm, who had one interception, frustrated the promising junior.
“I really tried hard to score on that first pick,” said Pilat, who returned an interception 37 yards with fine open-field running on the game’s second play.
Schleimer later scored on a 16-yard run.
With Meridian playing stubborn first-quarter defense, even though it has lost six two-way starters to injuries, the Trojans reached Mount Baker’s 17. Meridian threatened to tie the score when Pilat’s second pick preserved the lead. On Meridian’s next series, Engholm’s pass theft eventually led to his 12-yard touchdown sprint for a 14-0 lead following Schleimer’s 37-yard gallop on the final play of the opening quarter.
On Baker’s first defensive series of the second half, Pilat made his third pick, and his teammates mobbed him.
Bass, Barbo sharp
Sophomore quarterback Kaleb Bass scored on a 3-yard run for a 28-0 lead after Schleimer’s 67-yard fumble return. Bass threw only seven times but completed four for 56 yards, all to standout junior Thomas Barbo.
Jonathan Ehlers made good on all seven conversion kicks.
Baker’s ‘D’ outstanding
“We struggled offensively in the first quarter, but our defense gave us a chance,” said Lepper, whose crew limited Meridian to 4 net yards rushing in the first half and 29 for the game, including a last-minute 8-yard touchdown run by Tony Schleimer, Jed’s nephew. “Our defense really played well.”
MB – Jed Schleimer 16 run (Jonathan Ehlers kick)
MB – Carson Engholm 12 run (Ehlers kick)
MB – Schleimer 6 run (Ehlers kick)
MB – Kaleb Bass 3 run (Ehlers kick)
MB – Engholm 45 run (Ehlers kick)
MB – Schleimer 18 run (Ehlers kick)
MB – Schleimer 5 run (Ehlers kick)
Mer – Tony Schleimer 8 run (Nick Sebastian kick)
RUSHING – Mount Baker: Jed Schleimer 13-105, Carson Engholm 11-73, Kaleb Bass 3-(-8), Carson Brandland 1-(-1), Sam Barrett 2-3, Jay Allen 1-3. Meridian: Tony Schleimer 9-38, Simon Burkett 2-(-10), Cole Roberts 1-1.
PASSING – Mount Baker: Kaleb Bass 4-7-56-1, Jed Schleimer 0-1-0-0. Meridian: Simon Burkett 20-45-245-4.
RECEIVING – Mount Baker: Thomas Barbo 4-56. Meridian: T.J. Dykstra 7-101, Lukas Hemenway 5-33, Tony Schleimer 3-47, Andrew Logan 3-24, Cole Roberts 1-19, Dawson Phillips 1-21.