Meridian’s 26-15 homecoming win over Mount Baker left Trojans football coach Bob Ames marveling over how balanced the four-team Class 1A Northwest Conference really is.
“We’re 3-0 (in league) and the other three teams are 1-2 (after Friday night’s games) and we could finish 0-3 in the second half,” said Ames, speaking with the wisdom of a coach in his 44 th season at Meridian.
He meant no disrespect to his 6-0 overall squad, but rather pointed out how the Trojans received a hugely competitive effort from all three first-half opponents.
“Mount Baker is still Mount Baker tough,” Ames said. “They still have some scary dudes.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
But Meridian’s stars are pretty scary, too.
Quarterback Simon Burkett completed 20 of 36 passes for 316 yards and touchdown passes of 59 yards to Bryce Vandenhaak and 17 yards to Harlon Stuit, giving Burkett 17 scoring throws and 1,782 yards.
Meridian used eight different receivers, with homecoming king T.J. Dykstra catching six balls for 71 yards, tight end Tony Schleimer grabbing two for 74 yards and Vandenhaak snagging two for 67 yards.
BAKER UP AT HALF
The Mountaineers (4-2, 1-2) opened with a 49-yard touchdown run by Carson Engholm on their first possession and took a 15-12 halftime lead with a 9-yard scoring pass from Kaleb Bass to Carson Brandland, plus added three points on a conversion kick by Roberto Garcia and a two-point conversion run by Engholm.
Meridian scored on a 25-yard run by Cole Roberts, quickly followed by Vandenhaak’s 59-yard touchdown off Burkett’s short pass.
MERIDIAN’S D SHINES
The Trojans’ defense took advantage of Stuit’s pretty leaping 17-yard catch in the end zone, followed by Lukas Hemenway’s 5-yard scoring run with 5:49 remaining, plus two conversions by Kevin Galiano.
Vandenhaak preserved the second-half shutout with an interception with 12 seconds left. Hemenway also made a vital interception. With less than three minutes remaining, the Trojans stopped Baker on the 26-yard line with a third-down tackle by Dylon Hickok and a fourth-down stop by Adam Kruzich.
Ames knew his team had overcome real talent. “That No. 24 (Engholm with 16 carries for 100 yards), No. 34 (Sam Barrett with 16 carries for 86 yards) and No 32 (Thomas Barbo with five catches for 73 yards) are as good as anyone around,” Ames said.
Vandenhaak threw a 21-yard pass to Burkett on a trick play. Burkett returned the favor in the second half with a double-reverse flea-flicker. He flipped to Roberts, who threw to Vandenhaak, who flipped back to Burkett, who threw 37 yards to Schleimer.
“I’m a running back who can catch,” Vandenhaak said with a grin. Not to mention pass, too. "We actually practice those plays!"