High School Football

Oh brother! The Schleimer family sure knows how to run the football

Mount Baker’s Jed Schleimer dives through Sultan defenders into the end zone for a touchdown in a 1A Northwest District playoff game Nov. 4 at Civic Stadium in Bellingham. Mount Baker won 41-0.
Mount Baker’s Jed Schleimer dives through Sultan defenders into the end zone for a touchdown in a 1A Northwest District playoff game Nov. 4 at Civic Stadium in Bellingham. Mount Baker won 41-0. eabell@bhamherald.com

Jed Schleimer is concerned with adding to a family foursome’s total of 14,949 rushing yards only insofar as he hungers to be part of a number no Mount Baker football player has ever experienced.

That is No. 1.

Jed’s nephew Tony Schleimer, has the same goal, but at rival Meridian, in the wake of two postseason upsets.

Only one thing is certain: just one Schleimer can reach the state Class 1A title game this season.

The Mount Baker Mountaineers and Meridian Trojans play Saturday. If second-ranked Mount Baker (11-0) beats No. 6 La Center (10-1) at Woodland, and if Meridian (6-5) upsets No. 3 Connell (10-1) at Civic Stadium in the state quarterfinals, the Schleimers – who are best friends – would meet in the semifinals.

Tony, a junior who leads the Trojans in rushing, has afforded his father, John Schleimer, a lineman’s dream: the chance to watch his son play running back.

After a family move from Illinois, John, the oldest Schleimer brother, played as a lineman and tight end as a senior at Mount Baker, a few years before a guy named Ron Lepper showed up at Mount Baker.

After becoming head coach at Baker in 1996, Lepper has coached four outstanding Schleimer running backs – Joe, Jim, Jake and Jed, in that order – who have combined to amass those 14,949 yards.

And counting. Jed has taken more than his share of kidding for setting the family record with 5,377 yards, including 1,847 this season.

Tony, meanwhile, has amassed 733 yards as a junior after first playing varsity as a sophomore, on teams that have passed far more often than most statewide, thanks to second-season varsity quarterback standout Simon Burkett, also a junior.

That’s a lot of numbers to absorb. But, of course, the Schleimers are far more than numbers to Lepper and Meridian coach Bob Ames.

“Tony’s just a great kid,” Ames said. “He’s a great teammate, a fun kid with a great sense of humor – just a good, solid player. He can do so many things … he’s also a good receiver and blocker … he’s our Swiss army knife.”

Lepper has the same feelings, fourfold. What would he say had he known he would have four fine, thoroughly rugged running backs from the same Deming family?

“I would say, ‘Thank you,’ ” said Lepper. “And don’t forget, they have all been outstanding defensive players, as well.”

In fact, from his home Lepper can see the abode of Jack and Debbi Schleimer, the parents of the five football-loving brothers along with older daughter, Sarah, who was a fine athlete in her own right and whose husband, Brandon Carson, coaches football at Marysville-Pilchuck.

Since all the Schleimers except Sarah still live in Whatcom County, Mount Baker games are a Schleimer party.

Jed acknowledges what an honor it is to be the last in a line of brothers who likely are the most productive collective ground-gainers in the history of Whatcom County, where several sets of family members have been passing stars.

After all, only a tiny fraction of families can claim five football-playing brothers, much less standouts like the Schleimer crew.

“I remember how Joe was our featured guy,” Lepper said, “when he was a junior and how Jim (two years behind Joe) was always going to get the ball. He had 481 carries as a junior and senior.

“I remember how Jake really broke out in his senior year, when we reached the state semifinals in 2012.”

The next year, Mount Baker played in a title game for the first time. Jed played on special teams as a freshman that season.

Mount Baker, which will play in the state quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive season, saw Jed set the family rushing records by the end of his junior season. Even though he may not exceed last year’s 12-game total of 2,511 yards, thanks to the emergence of standout backfield teammate Carson Engholm as a junior, that won’t matter to him, especially if he again reaches a state title game.

“This is pretty special,” Jed said of his team’s opportunity.

He said he would also relish the chance to face Tony for the fifth time, especially since both play linebacker, and sometimes safety, and they have often tackled each other.

“I treat Jed like a cousin,” Tony said of their close friendship.

“Yes, we’re basically best friends,” Jed said.

While the family’s success has inspired Tony, he said what really got him going was serving as Meridian’s ballboy in the fifth grade along with his buddy, Burkett, for the 2010 team. They recalled their first exposure to the Tacoma Dome in the state semifinals. That was the most recent Trojans team to reach the quarterfinals in the noteworthy career of Ames, whose teams have won 308 games and three state titles in his 43 seasons as head coach.

“Our kids just keep playing hard,” Ames said, referring to the Trojans’ 17-14 upset of No. 8 King’s in the district playoffs and their 34-21 first-round state win over No. 5 Cascade Christian last week. “We’re overachieving. To win (Saturday) would mean another week together, and that would be awesome.”

Lepper echoed Ames and both Jed and Tony.

“I’m just enjoying every day with our team now,” Lepper said.

And every day each team continues to play means another page in the history of Whatcom County’s most storied rushing family.

Whatcom County teams in state quarterfinals

CLASS 2A

• Lynden vs. Spokane West Valley (at Gonzaga Prep, Spokane), 3 p.m. Saturday

CLASS 1A

• Connell at Meridian (at Civic Stadium), 1 p.m. Saturday

• Mount Baker at La Center (at Woodland), 6 p.m. Saturday

CLASS 1B

• Naselle at Lummi, 7 p.m. Friday

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