Bellingham High’s football team found the play and the player the Red Raiders needed to maintain a share of the lead in the Lake Division of the 2A Northwest Conference.
Blaine uncovered the running back the Borderites must have to retain a solid shot at the postseason.
That sums up Bellingham’s meaningful 14-13 win over Blaine on a Friday night when both teams earned plenty of defensive praise from their coaches.
Bellingham senior Towner Goodman, a rugby star who had not played many snaps Friday, checked in and circled out of the backfield to catch a short pass in the flat from Morgan Cavalier. Goodman broke a tackle and broke away with his rugby speed to score on an 80-yard dazzler late in the third quarter.
Elijah Kongshaug kicked the conversion for what turned out to be the game’s final point and the Red Raiders’ defense took it from there.
“We didn’t play very well in the first half, so I challenged the team in the locker room at halftime,” Bellingham coach Ted Flint said. “Our whole defense played very well … That was fun.”
In their third consecutive win, the Red Raiders (3-2 overall, 2-0) handled all of Blaine’s threats well except for 145-pound senior Alex Mercado, who rushed 23 times for 120 of the Borderites’ 197 total yards. Mercado’s 23-yard run on Blaine’s first series of the second half and Bryce Kamrath’s conversion gave the Borderites (2-3, 0-2) a 13-7 lead.
Mercado, a standout defensive back and formerly a slot receiver, “learned those plays in two or three days in practice this week,” as Blaine coach Jay Dodd put it. “This was just the tip of the iceberg for Alex.”
Goodman wound up the hero, however — a hungry hero.
“I really was very hungry (to contribute),” said Goodman, who hopes to use his speed in college rugby. He scored on a similar long play two weeks ago against Sammamish.
The unsung heroes, in a sense, were stalwart Bellingham defenders Spencer Lee and Jack Fields, who snuffed Blaine’s last two offensive plays near midfield with less than four minutes remaining.
While the Red Raiders indeed did not often look good offensively in the first half, they displayed their potential with a well-crafted 62-yard scoring drive in the first quarter.
Cavalier rolled left for 19 yards and Issac Ninneman ran 22 yards and Cavalier later ran six huge yards for a first down at the 4-yard-line. Isiah Harrington then scored from the 4.
Blaine hung in with first-half field goals of 27 and 26 yards by Kamrath, who booted his 26-yarder with one second left in the first half.
Goodman isn’t surprised by the success of the Red Raiders, who went 5-5 last season but came into the Blaine game with 77 points in its previous two games.
“We have real good chemistry on this team, a lot of camaraderie,” he said.
Blaine is still very much in the running for a district playoff game, according to how Dodd has solved what amounts to a confusing first season with the 2A teams divided among the historically strongest five teams and the other six, plus possible postseason appearances by Liberty and Sammamish of King County.
“I’ve studied new playoff system a lot,” said Dodd, who took the time to explain everything — when asked why his team retains plenty of hope to emerge from the six-team Lake Division.
“The top four teams in the Sky Division will have byes in Week 9 (and thus go directly to district playoff games in Week 10),” Dodd said. “The next eight teams will be seeded for Week 9, with the No. 5 Sky Division team guaranteed the No. 1 seed against the No. 8 seed, followed by No. 2 against No. 7 and so on. Liberty plays in a 3A league and could get the No. 2 seed.”
The upshot is that no more than one Northwest 2A team can be eliminated from playing in district competition early (although all teams can play up to a 10-game schedule by finding non-league foes for Week 10).
Dodd lauded senior co-captain Jacob Westfall, a solid linebacker, for making the transition from running back to guard, where the Borderites can use his explosive starts.
Bellingham junior Cavalier was a lot better on the run than his statistics showed. He was sacked three times and sacrificed 22 yards on three slides to run out the clock, so he officially finished with 14 carries for 62 yards. But on the eight plays he made yardage, incuding a 42-yard run, he made 105 yards.
In all, there were seven turnovers, including interceptions by Mercado and Seth Blomeen for Blaine and by Lee for Bellingham.
Brock Heppner, Lynden, ran 24 times for 145 yards and two scores and completed 10 of 22 passe for 185 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-14 win over Lakewood. Quarterback Kaleb Bass, Mount Baker, led a 41-20 win over Meridian by running for four touchdowns. Levi Korthuis Lynden Christian, helped keep the Lyncs unbeaten with 118 yards rushing on 29 carries and scored a touchdown. Austin Roberts. Sehome, caught 6 passes for 120 yards and two long scores in a 19-16 loss to Mountlake Terrace.
In other Friday games
Squalicum 45, Meadowdale 7: The Storm improved to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the Wesco 3A North with a non-league rout at Edmonds Stadium. Squalicum will play at Ferndale on Friday, Oct. 5 in their annual 3A rivalry. Details were not available by deadline for this story because of a technical complication.
Lynden Christian 38, Nooksack Valley 19: Levi Korthuis rushed 29 times for 118 yards and a 1-yard touchdown at home for the Class 1A Northwest Conference-leading Lyncs (5-0, 2-0) while Easton Stremler contributed 62 yards on 11 carries, including an 11-yard run. LC’s first and last touchdowns came from Jackson Corkill, who scored on an 11-yard run and caught a 5-yard pass from Bryce Bouwman, who completed 7 of 11 passes for 65 yards and two scores, including a 22-yarder to Tanner Feenstra for a 28-0 halftime lead. Brent DeRuyter continued an outstanding kicking record with five conversions plus a 26-yard field goal and Trajan Schouten completed 4 of passes for 73 yards. For Nooksack (3-2, 0-2), Evan Neitling returned from an injury to score on a 70-yard kickoff return and twice on passes from Austin O’Bryan.
Lynden 31, Lakewood 14: The Lions (5-0, 2-0 in the NWC 2A Sky Division) enjoyed an outstanding game from junior Brock Heppner, who rushed 24 times for 145 yards and two touchdowns and completed 10 of 22 passes for 185 yards and touchdown passes of 50 yards to Grant VanderYacht and 5 yards to Kobe Elsner. Eric Martin-Mann ran 11 times for 111 yards and Marko Samoukovic continued his outstanding kicking with four conversions and a 22-yard field goal. VanderYacht caught three passes for 99 yards and Carson Bode snagged three for 63 yards.
Mount Baker 41, Meridian 20: The Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1) enjoyed a huge game from senior quarterback Kaleb Bass, who ran for four touchdowns, two mid-range and two on short runs. Sam Barrett and Jason Lee ran for one score apiece. “Our defense was just outstanding for 3½ quarters and everybody contributed. It was just a great effort by our kids,” said Baker coach Ron Lepper, whose team claimed a 20-0 halftime lead and extended it to 34-0 in the third quarter before quarterback Dawson Logan led a rally with touchdown passes to Josh Neeter, Dylan Hickok and Cam Webster for the Trojans (3-2, 1-1). “Kaleb was the difference-maker on offense.”
Oak Harbor 28, Ferndale 13: Oak Harbor (5-0 overall) withstood touchdowns of 2 and 13 yards by Gader Fox for Ferndale (1-4, 1-2), which pulled within 21-13 on Fox’s 13-yarder in the third quarter. Oak Harbor clinched the win with a fourth-quarter score.
Mountlake Terrace 19, Sehome 16: Austin Roberts caught six passes for 120 yards and touchdowns of 59 and 21 yards from sophomore Jacob Kaepernick, who completed 17 of 34 passes for 278 yards for Sehome (2-3, 1-1) in a Lake Division game in the 2A NWC. Dylan Roberts ran 18 times for 101 yards and Dawson Smith gained 50 yards on 13 carries. Mountlake Terrace (3-2, 2-0) opened the game with a kickoff return for a touchdown and the Mariners muffed a punt on their 6-yard line to set up Mountlake’s second score. A long pass provided the third score. “We got into the red zone three times and came away with nothing,” said Sehome coach Kevin Beason. “I thought our defense played well, but we beat ourselves.”
Naselle 46, Lummi 12: The Blackhawks (4-2 including two forfeits in the same week, 0-2 in the Northwest B1 Conference) scored on a 15-yard pass from Caleb Revey to Miquel Ortiz and on a 1-yard run by Revey, who completed 12 of 28 passes for 160 yards and two interceptions. “We’re still trying to figure things out,” coach Jim Sandusky said of his young team. “But we’re not far off. We have to reevaluate some starting positions and some extra effort is lacking.” The Blackhawks are in the strong eight-man division in their conference, so all four teams will qualify for the postseason and a shot at getting to state.
Week 6 schedule
Thursday, Oct. 4
Darrington at Lummi, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 5
Blaine at Mountlake Terrace (at Edmonds Stadium) 5 p.m.
Squalicum at Ferndale, 7 p.m.
Meridian at Lynden Christian 7 p.m.
Mount Baker at Nooksack Valley, 7 p.m.
Anacortes at Bellingham (at Civic Stadium), 7 p.m.
Sehome at Cedarcrest, 7 p.m.
Burlington at Lynden, 7 p.m.