High School Football

They’ve won the 1A NWC crown five straight years, but everyone seems to overlook them in 2017

Mount Baker’s Carson Engholm dives for the goal line during a 1A Northwest District playoff game against Sultan Nov. 4 at Civic Stadium in Bellingham.
Mount Baker’s Carson Engholm dives for the goal line during a 1A Northwest District playoff game against Sultan Nov. 4 at Civic Stadium in Bellingham. eabell@bhamherald.com

Just about anybody watching the 1A Northwest Conference is talking about Meridian’s Simon Burkett and Nooksack Valley’s Casey Bauman – a pair of quarterbacks already committed to NCAA Division I schools – playing their senior seasons before heading off to the Big Sky Conference.

Those who aren’t are marveling over the size – both physical and turnout numbers – on the practice fields at Lynden Christian.

Meanwhile, the Mount Baker football team – champion of the 1A NWC the past five seasons and loser of just one league game during that stretch (27-1) – quietly goes about its business, seemingly undaunted by what others are doing.

“We’re just trying to do the things we’ve been doing the past couple of years – play with our hearts and put a good product on the field for people to watch,” Mountaineers senior Kyler Steeves said.

Yes, Mount Baker seems a bit overlooked in 2017, but that’s exactly the way coach Ron Lepper and his team like it. The only people the Mountaineers have something to prove to is themselves.

“We have this acronym – PIE – that we talk about every day,” senior Carson Engholm said. “We all try to prove it every day. We’ve got something to prove, because that’s how we want to play the game. We enjoy doing it together.”

0827 Baker FOOT graphic (2)

Lepper said PIE was instituted because of the success the team has had the past five seasons to help “make sure we don’t take that for granted.” He said he hopes it reminds players, “who can’t even remember when we weren’t as successful as we’ve been the past few years,” to work hard and take care of what they can control.

So what kind of PIE is Mount Baker in 2017?

“The good kind,” senior Thomas Barbo said, “but most pie is good.”

Mount Baker once again finds itself replacing a talented group of senior leaders off last year’s team.

“We’ve had some pretty good seniors,” Lepper said. “The thing is they can lead and try to pass it on, but then it’s up to the younger group to take it on. It’s like that old saying: ‘You can lead a horse to water.’”

When you look around, throughout history, a team or empire that’s been in power, it doesn’t last forever. Obviously, we want to give ourselves a chance to continue the succes we’ve had.

Mount Baker coach Ron Lepper

Ron Lepper
Ron Lepper

Though the Mountaineers lost the running back who’s led them in rushing each of the past three years with the graduation of Jed Schleimer, they still return plenty of offensive production in Engholm (1,350 yards rushing, 19 TDs last year) and Barbo (720 yards receiving, 9 TDs). Junior, quarterback Kaleb Bass (1,337 yards passing, 14 TDs) returns with a full season under his belt, and Carson Brandland (262 yards rushing, 57 receiving yards, 3 TDs) is among a list of other talented options expected to make an impact.

Up front, though, Mount Baker lost three of its six starters, including giant tight end T.J. Bass. Lepper said there is likely to be some shuffling to find the right combination that will likely include Kyler and Luke Steeves, Braeden Shannon, Jay Allen, Noah Rathjen and Hayden Linderman at tight end.

“We’re probably going to be run heavy,” Lepper said. “We have the weapons to throw the ball, too; we just need to get a coach who’s willing to take a chance on some pass plays.”

Defensively, the Mountaineers also have some big shoes to fill in their front eight, though the Steeves brothers on the line and Allen, Linderman and Brandland at linebacker all saw time last year. The defensive backfield should be in good, experienced hands with the return of Barbo, Engholm and Bass, though Barbo also may see time at linebacker.

27-1 Mount Baker’s record in 1A NWC games the past five seasons.

“Defensively, we’re just trying to find the combo we need there,” Lepper said. “(Linebacker) Sam Barrett’s been pretty impressive since the open of camp.”

Once it finds the right combination, Baker always hopes to challenge opponents to match the hard-hitting style that has carried it to at least the state quarterfinals five straight years.

“Nothing’s really changed for us,” Lepper said. “We want to play a physical brand of football and give great effort. We’ve got some work to do. Defensively we took a hit to our front eight, and we need to find the pieces there. We lost some pretty good dudes. We’ve been good at replacing guys the last few years, but we need to prove that we can do that again this year. That’s just Baker football. That’s what we do.”

2017 schedule

Date

Opponent

Time

Sept. 1

Roosevelt+

7 p.m.

Sept. 8

at Kelowna

4 p.m.

Sept. 15

at Port Townsend

7 p.m.

Sept. 22

at Nooksack Valley*

7 p.m.

Sept. 29

Lynden Christian*#

7 p.m.

Oct. 6

at Meridian*

7 p.m.

Oct. 13

Nooksack Valley*

7 p.m.

Oct. 20

at Lynden Christian*

7 p.m.

Oct. 27

Meridian*

7 p.m.

*NWC 1A game; +at Meridian; #at Civic Stadium

2016 results

Date

Opponent

Time

Sept. 2

at Roosevelt

W 38-35

Sept. 9

Kelowna

W 62-8

Sept. 16

Port Townsend

W 56-7

Sept. 23

Nooksack Valley*

W 44-36

Sept. 30

at Lynden Christian*

W 51-7

Oct. 7

Meridian*

W 41-28

Oct. 17

at Nooksack Valley*

W 57-36

Oct. 21

Lynden Christian*

W 41-12

Oct. 28

at Meridian*

W 49-7

CLASS 1A NORTHWEST DISTRICT PLAYOFFS

Nov. 4

Sultan

W 41-0

CLASS 1A STATE PLAYOFFS

Nov. 12

Hoquiam

W 39-14

Nov. 19

La Center

L 25-13

*NWC 1A game

2017 roster

No.

Player

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

Pos.

3

Kobee Malone

5-8

150

Jr.

RB/DB

4

Mason Jacoby

6-0

140

Fr.

QB/DB

5

Zandy Zender

5-10

151

Sr.

WR/DB

9

Carson Brandland

5-11

162

Sr.

QB/LB

10

Jordan Craker

5-11

140

So.

QB/DB

11

Chris Van Liew

5-8

Sr.7

So.

WR/DB

12

Kaleb Bass

5-10

156

Jr.

QB/DB

19

Michael Kentner

6-2

170

Jr.

WR/DB

22

Mark Tikhonov

5-9

147

So.

RB/LB

23

Colton Knutzon

5-9

140

So.

RB?LB

24

Carson Engholm

6-0

171

Sr.

RB/DB

26

Junior Camacho

5-9

166

Sr.

RB/DB

30

Anthony Binchus

5-8

154

So.

WR/DB

31

Jason Lee

5-11

172

So.

RB/DB

32

Thomas Barbo

6-2

197

Sr.

RB/LB

33

Vincent Figueroa

5-10

144

So.

RB/LB

34

Sam Barrett

5-9

172

Jr.

RB/LB

44

Hayden Linderman

5-10

182

Sr.

TE/LB

51

Jay Allen

6-1

187

Jr.

OL/LB

52

Luke Steeves

5-11

185

Sr.

OL/DL

55

Noah Rathjen

5-8

214

Jr.

OL/LB

56

Braeden Shannon

5-10

256

Jr.

OL/DL

57

J.J. Kalsbeek

5-9

211

Jr.

OL/DL

58

Owyn Alvino-Vance

5-8

181

Jr.

OL/DL

59

Anthony Hadeen

5-8

152

Jr.

OL/DL

60

Roberto Garcia

5-10

224

Sr.

OL/DL

61

Cade Beason

6-3

200

So.

OL/DL

66

Cody Saulsbury

5-11

221

So.

OL/DL

67

Kyler Steeves

5-11

166

Sr.

OL/DL

72

Carson Hatch

5-10

235

Jr.

OL/DL

76

Kanin Moa

5-11

232

So.

OL/DL

78

Adam Harrington

6-2

217

Jr.

OL/DL

79

Logan Sanday

6-1

216

Jr.

OL/DL

80

Chase Barter

6-0

174

Sr.

WR/DB

86

Waylon Kentner

6-2

186

So.

TE/LB

Head coach: Ron Lepper

Assistant coaches: Tom Horsmon, Dave Galbraith, Rob Brandland, Joe Amarando, Derek Johnson, Taylor Engels, McHenry Pattison, Danny Williamson, and Bret Pugmire

2016 statistical leaders

Rushing

Player

Att.

Yards

Avg.

TD

Jed Schleimer

201

1,878

9.3

36

Carson Engholm*

156

1,350

8.7

19

Carson Brandland*

22

262

11.4

2

Junior Camacho*

8

81

10.1

0

Jay Allen*

15

74

4.9

2

Passing

Player

Cmp.

Att.

Yards

TD

Int.

Kaleb Bass*

60

102

1,337

14

5

Receiving

Player

Rec.

Yards

Avg.

TD

Thomas Barbo*

29

720

24.8

9

Jed Schleimer

14

341

24.4

3

T.J. Bass

7

129

18.4

0

Carson Brandland*

4

57

14.3

1

Carson Engholm*

3

53

17.7

0

*Returning player

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