High School Football

It’s been a magical ride; can Meridian continue it through the 1A state quarterfinals?

Meridian’s Cole Roberts runs toward an opening Oct. 21 against Nooksack Valley. The Trojans host Connell in the Class 1A state quarterfinals Saturday at Civic Stadium.
Meridian’s Cole Roberts runs toward an opening Oct. 21 against Nooksack Valley. The Trojans host Connell in the Class 1A state quarterfinals Saturday at Civic Stadium. For The Bellingham Herald

Connell at Meridian

The Meridian football team has upset ranked opponents in back-to-back posteason games and now gets to host No. 3 Connell Saturday at Civic Stadium in the Class 1A state quarterfinals. The two teams last met in the 2006 1A state title game, which the Trojans won.

Time: 1 p.m.

Site: Civic Stadium

1119 FOOT Meridian (3)

Scouting the Eagles

Coach: Wayne Riner (17th season, 164-44)

District: Yakima Valley (No. 3 seed)

Previous state appearances: 24 (last in 2015)

State record: 34-21

State titles: Three (2002, ’09, ’11)

Eagles update: Third-ranked Connell advanced with a 48-28 first-round win over Montesano Friday. The Eagles rolled up 608 yards of total offense in the game. Quarterback Brian Hawkins passed for 265 yards and helped Connell jump out to a 34-7 lead in the first half. Connell returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the second half, but also allowed a 79-yard kickoff return for a TD. The Eagles have won four straight by a combined 177 points since falling 28-21 to top-ranked Royal on Oct. 14. The Connell defense has three shutouts this season, and the 28 points it allowed last week marked only the third time the Eagles have allowed more than 16 this season. This is a rematch of the 2006 1A state title game, which Meridian won 27-22.

Player to watch: Jaxs Whitby rushed for 200 yards and four touchdowns, including one on a 45-yard run to lead the Connell offensive attack last week. He and Hawkins combined for six touchdowns in a Week 10 win over Granger. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior knows how to find the end zone.

Key to the game: Connell is facing an opponent that has upset ranked opponents in do-or-die situations the past two weeks. They can’t afford to let Meridian hang around and gain some confidence, or the Trojans might just find away to get add another upset to its resume this season.

Scouting the Trojans

Coach: Bob Ames (43rd season, 308-153)

District: Northwest (No. 2 seed)

Previous state appearances: 22 (last in 2015)

State record: 30-19

State titles: Three (1999, 2003, ’07)

Trojans update: After having to win a tie-breaker just to reach the postseason, Meridian knocked off No. 5 Cascade Christian 34-21 in the first round of the state playoffs Saturday, one week after beating No. 8 King’s 17-14 in the district playoffs. Tony Schleimer led the Trojans with 78 yards on 21 carries, while Cole Roberts added 70 yards on 16 attempts. Schleimer leads the team with 733 yards and 11 TDs this season. T.J. Dykstra caught four passes for 63 yards, while Dawson Logan had three catches for 57 yards and a TD and Dawson Phillips caught four passes for 43 yards and a score. The Meridian defense limited Cascade Christian to 63 yards rushing but surrendered 249 yards and a TD through the air.

Player to watch: Simon Burkett earned WIAA Athlete of the Week honors after rushing for three touchdowns and throwing for another in last week’s win over Cascade Christian. He’s passed for 2,076 yards and 16 TDs and rushed for 569 yards and 12 more scores this season.

Key to the game: The Trojans have found a way to knock off two ranked opponents on the road the last two weeks. They get to stay closer to home this week, but the challenge gets much tougher against a Connell team that has averaged nearly 50 points a game. The Meridian defense has got to find a way to reduce that number Saturday, as Meridian has managed to score more than 40 just once this year.

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