High School Football

In a battle of two top quarterbacks, the guys in the trenches won this one

Meridian’s Bryce Vandenhaak takes a short pass 85 yards for a touchdown against Nooksack Valley on Friday, Sept. 29, in Laurel.
Meridian’s Bryce Vandenhaak takes a short pass 85 yards for a touchdown against Nooksack Valley on Friday, Sept. 29, in Laurel. eabell@bhamherald.com

In an unforgettable thriller, in which two of the state’s top-five ranked Class 1A teams combined for 958 yards, Meridian quarterback Simon Burkett said the most important number was zero.

“I wasn’t touched at all on my drop backs,” said Burkett, who completed 17 of 25 passes for 352 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in fifth-ranked Meridian’s 50-36 Northwest Conference win over third-ranked Nooksack Valley before a standing room only gathering Friday.

So, did Burkett want his linemen to be mentioned first?

“Yes, absolutely,” said, ticking off the names of Enrique Gomez, Manny Sabalza, Trevor Pagnossin, Adam Kruzich, Baker Otter (who was injured midway through the game and replaced by Nathan Rutledge) and tight end Tony Schleimer.

“That’s what pleased me so much, was the great support Simon had,” said assistant coach Rob Burkett, Simon’s dad.

Both Burketts, as much as anyone, knew it was not a time for substitutes on this night, which was dedicated to the awareness of childhood cancer.

Even though Meridian (5-0, 2-0 1A NWC) led 50-14 after Cole Roberts scored on an 18-yard fumble return early in the fourth quarter, Nooksack (4-1, 1-1) scored the game’s last 22 points against the Trojans‘ regulars.

It was no wonder Meridian coach Bob Ames said, “I felt our backs were against the wall the whole night.”

In other words, that explains why for these two proud teams, the starters were not about to leave.

Nooksack quarterback Casey Bauman led the Pioneers to a 14-7 lead in the opening quarter with touchdown passes of 11 and 30 yards to Baylor Galley, sandwiched around Roberts’ 1-yard scoring run for the Trojans’ 21-14 lead.

Meridian then scored six consecutive touchdowns on the way to amassing 529 yards from scrimmage.

In the second quarter, Burkett threw scoring passes of 37 yards to Bryce Vandenhaak, 22 yards to Lukas Hemenway and 6 yards to T.J. Dykstra along with a 4-yard scoring run by Roberts, who finished with three touchdowns and 45 yards rushing to go with 67 yards by Burkett and 65 by Vandenhaak.

Vandenhaak took a short pass 85 yards to score in the third quarter, putting the Trojans up 43-14. He finished with seven catches for 202 yards to go with Hemenway’s six catches for 126 yards.

Bauman, headed to play for Montana State in the Big Sky Conference against Burkett at Eastern Washington, went 27 for 46 yards for 335 yards. But Bauman was sacked seven times for a loss of 42 yards, although he finished with 35 net yards on 17 carries. He was intercepted in the second half by Hemenway and Vandenhaak.

Galley, a junior in his first year as a starter, caught eight passes for 109 yards. Kyle Veldman grabbed seven for 110 yards and a 25-yard scoring pass sandwiched around a 5-yard scoring catch by Jordan Veening and a 13-yard touchdown run by Ryan Veening, all in the final frantic minutes.

Nooksack’s versatile Austin O’Bryan caught five passes for 57 yards and rushed 11 times for 50 yards for the Pioneers, who had 429 yards to Meridian’s 529.

Spelling of Rob Burkett’s name corrected Oct. 2, 2017.

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