It wasn’t hard to tell how much Mount Baker’s football team enjoyed this season, and benefited from it.
Even when the Mounties knew it was over, they lingered on the field, shedding tears unashamedly while greeting family and friends in a steady rain.
La Center’s well-earned 25-13 win in the state Class 1A quarterfinals on Saturday, Nov. 19, at Woodland did not stop the previously unbeaten Mounties (10-1) from squeezing out as many minutes together in uniform as they could.
Living up to their reputation as a classy outfit, the Mounties made no excuses and gave La Center well-deserved credit for being good enough to advance to the state semifinals against Connell, a 56-21 winner over Meridian earlier in the day.
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“La Center (11-1 with 11 wins in a row) did what they needed to do to win,” Baker coach Ron Lepper said, referring to a remarkably hard-charging running game straight out of the 1950s, before most high school teams began amassing gaudy passing statistics.
“I think our kids played hard with a lot of class,” Lepper said. “Give credit to La Center. They played the game they needed to play” – primarily 184 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Jeffrey Mayolo.
Baker trailed 19-13 at halftime, having scored on a 29-yard pass from sophomore Kaleb Bass to junior Thomas Barbo and a 25-yard pass from Bass to senior Jed Schleimer for his 39th touchdown of the season.
The Mounties, however, were limited to 20 offensive plays in the first half – and then things got much worse.
They finished with just 31 plays, after running only 11 snaps in the second half.
“It was extremely frustrating,” said Schleimer, who finished with 12 rushes for 58 yards and two catches for 54 yards.
“They’re really good up front,” said Schleimer, Baker’s career rushing leader, indicating La Center had the best line charge Baker faced this season.
“They played very well,” Barbo said.
Standout defensive lineman T.J. Bass, headed to Idaho on a football scholarship, put it as frankly as anyone for Baker: “They did more to win it than we did.”
La Center rushed a whopping 50 times for 255 yards and Trico League MVP Jeremy Scott passed only five times, completing four for 83 yards. He made a short pass that Thomas Dreyer turned into a 53-yard touchdown on the Wildcats’ third play of the opening quarter.
Mayolo, La Center’s durable and tough 165-pound senior rushing leader, took it from there. He carried 35 times to amass his 184 yards, and scored on a 7-yard second-quarter run and a game-clinching 11-yard dash with 1:56 remaining following the first of Scott’s two interceptions in the final two minutes.
A goal-line stand Baker will long remember prevented the Wildcats from scoring even though they opened the second half with a 79-yard, 15-play drive, all but one of them runs, to eat up nearly 10 minutes. Baker couldn’t capitalize, though, and the Wildcats then held the ball for nearly nine minutes with 14 more plays, all runs, until only 3:21 remained.
Scott scored La Center’s third touchdown on a head-cracking 4-yard for a 19-6 second-quarter lead, capping an 83-yard, 14-play drive. He added to his hero status in the final two minutes of the second half when he erased any miracle Baker big-play possibilities with his two interceptions.
Of Baker’s 195 yards, 154 came on five plays, including two long catches by Barbo (whose three catches for 69 yards came on the same second-quarter drive) and two catches by Schleimer on passes from Bass, who finished 6 for 12 for 123 yards.
The other long play was Schleimer’s 37-yard run, which set up his 25-yard touchdown catch, cutting La Center’s lead to 19-13 with 10 seconds left in the first half.
“So far, they’re the best team we faced,” said Schleimer, forgetting with his “so far” that the season was over. It was that kind of emotional night for the Mounties.
LC – Thomas Dreyer 53 pass from Jeremy Scott (kick blocked)
LC – Jeffrey Mayolo 7 run (run failed)
MB – Thomas Barbo 29 pass from Kaleb Bass (run failed)
LC – Scott 4 run (Sean Fox kick)
MB – Jed Schleimer 25 pass from Bass (Jonathan Ehlers kick)
LC – Mayolo 11 run (kick failed)
RUSHING – Mount Baker: Jed Schleimer 12-58, Carson Engholm 6-23, Kaleb Bass 2-(minus 9). La Center: Jeffrey Mayolo 35-184, Thomas Dreyer 5-21, Jeremy Scott 7-37, Colton Dolezal 2-2, Evan Honore 1-11.
PASSING – Mount Baker: Bass 5-11-123-2. La Center: Scott 4-5-83-0.
RECEIVING – Mount Baker: Thomas Barbo 3-69, Jed Schleimer 2-54. La Center: Thomas Dreyer 1-53, Jake Wise 3-30.