The Kansas Tiebreaker between Meridian and Nooksack Valley lasted only four plays, but they were enough to provide the biggest thrills of the football careers of Meridian junior standouts Tony Schleimer, Simon Burkett and T.J. Dykstra.
With the ball starting on the 25-yard line at Sedro-Woolley on Tuesday, Nov. 1, as per tiebreaker rules, safety Dykstra immediately intercepted Whatcom County passing leader Casey Bauman. It was Dykstra’s second interception this season and the third of his career.
The Trojans took over on the 25. Schleimer gained 3 yards and Burkett, one of the county’s most productive passers, took a wildcat long snap – rare for him – and cracked over the right side for 8 yards and a first down.
Burkett then handed to Schleimer, who broke several tackles on an inside power play and crossed the goal line with a defender on his back for a 14-yard touchdown, sending the Trojans to the Class 1A Northwest District Playoffs.
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WHAT IT MEANS
Meridian (4-5) will play Saturday night, Nov. 5, in Shoreline against 1A state title contender King’s (8-1), which has lost only to Cascade Conference champion Archbishop Murphy, a 2A state championship hopeful.
In the other 1A district game, Northwest Conference 1A champion Mount Baker (9-0) will face Sultan (6-3) at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Civic Stadium.
Nooksack (5-4) will play a season-ending nonleague game at Lakewood (3-6).
The Kansas Tiebreaker was needed because Meridian and Nooksack each were 3-3 in league play and split two league games.
DYKSTRA DOES IT
Dykstra, one of the county’s best young pass receiving prospects, made only one regular-season start in the defensive backfield – against Nooksack Valley – and made his first interception in that game.
“I started at safety because Nooksack runs a four-receiver set,” said the durable and tough 6-foot Dykstra, who lived up to his new team nickname, “Big Hoss.” “I just read their quarterback.”
Burkett, a regular in the secondary as well as at quarterback, expressed this feeling for all his teammates: “That play was awesome!”
SCHLEIMER’S TURN FOR PUBLICITY
Schleimer, the cousin of record-breaking Mount Baker senior running back Jed Schleimer, has had an encouraging junior season but finally got his turn in the hero’s role.
“Not that I can remember,” he said when asked if he had ever scored a winning touchdown. “It was just a straight inside run. Our line really executed well, and the idea was for me just to run hard.”
For any Schleimer – and there have been many in Whatcom County history – that is fully expected.
Meridian coach Bob Ames – who has eight regulars out with injuries – couldn’t have been more thrilled.
“We’ve had a few of these (tiebreakers) over the years,” said Ames, who has more than 300 wins as the Trojans’ coach since 1974.
He said he hasn’t scouted King’s.
“We’ll be OK,” he said. “We know them pretty well, and they know us pretty well. Our kids just want to play (playoff) football.”