High School Football

How Mount Baker can return to 1A state semifinals for first time in 3 years

Mount Baker’s Carson Brandland, bottom, Carson Engholm, right, and Noah Rathjen, top, tackle Nooksack Valley’s Tre Silva Sept. 23 at Mount Baker High School. The Mountaineers face La Center in the Class 1A state quarterfinals Saturday at Woodlannd.
Mount Baker’s Carson Brandland, bottom, Carson Engholm, right, and Noah Rathjen, top, tackle Nooksack Valley’s Tre Silva Sept. 23 at Mount Baker High School. The Mountaineers face La Center in the Class 1A state quarterfinals Saturday at Woodlannd. eabell@bhamherald.com

Mount Baker at La Center

The Mount Baker football teams heads south to face La Center in the Class 1A state quarterfinals for the third time in the past five years. The Mountaineers have had their season end in this round the past two years, but are hoping for a return to the Final Four.

Time: 6 p.m.

Site: Woodland High School

1119 FOOT Baker (3)

Scouting the Mountaineers

Coach: Ron Lepper (21st season, 157-67)

District: Northwest (No. 1 seed)

Previous state appearances: 13 (last in 2015)

State record: 12-13

State titles: None

Mountaineers update: No. 2 Mount Baker moved on to the 1A state quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive year with a 39-14 first-round win over Hoquiam on last Saturday. Now the Mountaineers hope to get beyond the quarterfinals for the first time since 2013. Thomas Barbo caught three passes for 110 yards and two first-half touchdowns against the Grizzlies. Jed Schleimer had another monster game with 232 yards and a TD on 23 carries, while Carson Engholm added 97 yards and two scores on 19 carries. The duo each has rushed for more than 1,300 yards this year and have combined for 55 TDs on the ground. Schleimer’s also a force at linebacker for Mount Baker, but has the versatility to move into the defensive backfield when the Mountaineers need him there.

Player to watch: He’s only a sophomore, but Kaleb Bass showed he’s plenty capable of hitting a big pass when Mount Baker needs one. He ran a play-action fake to find Barbo wide open for a 53-yard TD on Mount Baker’s first drive last week and added an 18-yard scoring toss right before the end of the first half. He has 1,215 yards passing and 12 TDs and has been intercepted just three times.

Key to the game: Mount Baker held the Grizzlies to 13 first downs but still allowed 275 yards of total offense last week. More than a third of that came on Hoquiam’s two scoring plays. The Mountaineers must prevent big plays like that this week.

Scouting the Wildcats

Coach: John Lambert (18th season, 129-62)

District: Southwest (No. 1 seed)

Previous state appearances: 10 (last in 2014)

State record: 6-10

State titles: None

Wildcats update: Sixth-ranked La Center cruised past Port Townsend 28-7 in the first round of the state playoffs last Friday. This is the first time since they lost to Mount Baker in 2013 that the Wildcats have reached the state quarterfinals. La Center jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead last week, but allowed Port Townsend to stick around with three interceptions. Evan Honore scored on a 35-yard run just 2:09 into the game. Trico MVP Jeremy Scott also had a 16-yard touchdown pass to Honore. Colton Dolezal had a 13-yard touchdown run in the first half, as the Wildcats rushed for 300 yards in the game and held the Redhawks to just 108 on the ground and 166 yards of total offense.

Player to watch: La Center running back Jeffrey Mayolo rushed for 135 yards, including 62 on a game-clinching drive, and scored on a 1-yard run with 7:31 to put the game away. The Trico co-Offensive Player of the Year has rushed for more than 1,300 yards this season.

Key to the game: This is the fifth time the Mountaineers and Wildcats have met in the state playoffs. La Center won the first two meetings in the first round in 2003 and ’04, before Mount Baker grabbed back-to-back quarterfinal meetings in 2012 and ’13. The Wildcats know they need to match the Mountaineers’ physicality if they want to emerge with a win.

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