It was about 3 1/2 years ago, Bellingham coach Ted Flint said, that he remembered going to watch the eighth-grade football championship games.
“I remember watching Kulshan (Middle School), and they really didn’t have all that much,” Flint said. “The were getting beat pretty good, but there were two kids who were playing their hearts out and going full speed all the time. I remember saying, ‘I hope we get those two kids.’ It ended up being Connor Wallace and Ethan Fields. Ethan was their quarterback and Connor was was the running back.”
Fields and Wallace both ended up going to Bellingham High, and now that they’re seniors, they’re still playing full speed and with every ounce of heart they can muster.
They’ll need that sort of effort Friday, as the Red Raiders open 2A Northwest Conference play by hosting defending league champion Lynden at Civic Stadium.
A little production like Wallace showed last week in a non-league victory over Shorewood wouldn’t hurt, either.
All Wallace did was rush for 247 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries (9.9 average) – a big step up from the 19 yards he was held to on six carries by Lynden Christian in Week 1.
“The line blocked insanely well,” Wallace said of last week’s performance, echoing comments from his coach about the improved offensive line play last week. “Our whole scheme worked against their defense. Everyone, especially after our loss to Lynden Christian, wanted to come back and have a good win.”
Wallace now stands second in Whatcom County behind Squalicum’s Triston Smith with 266 yards rushing.
Seeing good production out of Wallace is nothing new for the Red Raiders – he led the team in rushing (823 yards, seven touchdowns) as a junior and added another 188 yards and a TD on 26 receptions.
“He runs full speed and has great vision and great desire,” Flint said.
And that, more than anything, describes the running style for the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Wallace, who said he wears No. 15 because he looks up to former Ohio State and current Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
“I look for the hole, run as fast as I can and keep running until I hit the ground,” Wallace said.
It’s a style he said he learned watching former Bellingham standout Tanner Aliff, who Wallace said, “trusted the hole, sprinted as fast as he could and never stopped. He practiced and he played hard all the time.”
It’s that full-speed, full-heart mentality Wallace and his fellow seniors are trying to instill at Bellingham this season – the program’s second since returning to the 2A NWC after spending their freshman and sophomore seasons playing an independent schedule to help rebuild the program.
“Starting our sophomore year playing other divisions, it was just a beginning to stepping up to the bigger league,” Wallace said. “We all got experience on how to play fast at the varsity level – going from C team to varsity. Then last year, playing with all the big teams again was just an introduction. This year we’re ready to step up and compete with them.”
That means not just hoping they can play with traditional NWC powers, such as Lynden, but believing they can be competitive.
“I guess since before we were freshman, Bellingham High School’s been a joke football team,” Wallace said. “We just decided when were older and were the leaders of the football team, we’re not going to be that joke. We’re going to be one of the big teams.”
Flint said he noticed a change in the team’s attitude, beginning at summer camps
“Always before, we could ask who we would play, and we asked not to play the 4A schools and not to play the 3A schools,” Flint said. “This year, we just played whoever they gave us, and we hung right in there with the 4A schools and the 3A schools. We we can compete if we play like we’re capable.”