High School Football

Here’s why the Lynden football team has found two arms are better than one

Blaine defender Seth Blomeen (31) attempts to stop Lynden quarterback James Marsh on Nov. 2. The Lions face Fife in the state quarterfinals Saturday.
Blaine defender Seth Blomeen (31) attempts to stop Lynden quarterback James Marsh on Nov. 2. The Lions face Fife in the state quarterfinals Saturday. For The Bellingham Herald

Somewhere in America other than at Lynden High, a school may have a quarterback who has produced touchdowns passing, running and receiving in three consecutive elimination games on the way to the state semifinals.

But two such players who alternate series at quarterback and receiver? One player with two remarkable “quarterback cycle” games — passing, running and catching touchdowns in the same game — and the other with one?

Well, that’s downright improbable.

It’s also a highly unusual “statistical blip,“ as Lynden quarterbacks James Marsh and Brock Heppner readily acknowledge.

It’s not as though Marsh, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior, and Heppner, a 6-1, 195-pound junior, are actually trying to accomplish the rare feat, especially with so many talented teammates.

“I didn’t even notice that James had done it the second time,” Heppner said.

“I don’t even like looking at statistics,” Marsh said.

But there’s no doubt they can both throw, run and catch with superior skills.

“When we first found out we would alternate (starting in Week 6), we made a few jokes about throwing to each other,” Heppner said. “But now I love throwing to a guy as big as James.”

Marsh agreed, as both also noted being blessed with outstanding big-play threats Grant VanderYacht and Kobe Elsner, along with an experienced offensive line.

The third-seeded Lions (11-0) may face their toughest test in the Class 2A semifinals against seventh-seeded Fife (11-1) Saturday at 1 p.m. at Puyallup’s Sparks Field.

Fife, in its first state semifinal appearance, qualified by beating previously undefeated Black Hills 14-0 with two touchdowns in the final four minutes. At stake is a berth in the title game Dec. 1 at the Tacoma Dome against the winner between top-seeded Hockinson and fourth-seeded Liberty.

Meanwhile, Lynden Christian (10-2), the other Whatcom County winner in the quarterfinals, will meet Newport (10-1) in a 1A semifinal at 4 p.m. at Lions Field in Moses Lake.

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Lynden’s Brock Heppner (3) slips through the hands of Tumwater linebacker Jack Prentice during the second quarter of the 2A state playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 17. The Lions face Fife in the state quarterfinals Saturday. Paul Conrad For The Bellingham Herald

QBs also play DB

Lynden coach Blake VanDalen came up with the idea to alternate quarterbacks in order to try to keep them both fresher on defense and to have two experienced signal-callers ready at all times in the playoffs.

“It took a selfless senior like James Marsh to make this work, to make sure we’re all on the same page,” VanDalen said. “They just asked me where they would be on offense when they weren’t at quarterback.”

The answer was at receiver, where Marsh makes an imposing target for Heppner at wide receiver or tight end, and where Heppner can play the same spots well and, as he put it, “I love to block.”

“I could understand his (VanDalen’s) reasoning when he talked with us about it,” Marsh said.

In loser-out wins over Blaine, Eatonville and Tumwater, Marsh has been involved in 10 touchdowns while accomplishing the cycle in the first and third games.

Heppner has had a hand in seven scores while completing the cycle against Eatonville, when he was selected WIAA Athlete of the Week.

Neither has suffered an interception while combining for 34 for 57 passing for 551 yards and eight touchdowns in the three games.

Marsh is 19 for 34 for 274 yards and four scores, has run 40 times for 266 yards and has six catches from Heppner for 139 yards and two scores.

Heppner is 15 for 23 for 277 yards and four scores, with 25 carries for 115 yards and five catches for 39 yards.

Both also have played impressively in the defensive backfield.

They readily acknowledge their offensive line has made all this possible, ticking off the names of right tackle Harley Vandenberg, right guard Houston DeJong, center Kaden Mayberry, left guard Cooper Brown and left tackle Jacob Kettels. Marsh hasn’t been sacked in the memorable three-game stretch and Heppner has been sacked only once.

“I take the blame for that sack,” Heppner said. “It was my fault.”

“I didn’t expect to be playing quarterback this season,” said Heppner, who impressively led the Lions over Lakewood in the fifth game when Marsh was out for one game with a concussion sustained the week earlier against Archbishop Murphy.

But then, Heppner expected to be playing primarily defense last year as a sophomore when Marsh was ruled out with a shoulder injury shortly after that season started. Instead, Heppner also played quarterback until Marsh returned at midseason.

“I wasn’t physically or mentally ready to play (varsity quarterback) last season,” said Heppner, who said he will never forget how Marsh helped him at practice and on the sideline during games.

That was fitting, since both are interested in coaching careers.

Marsh and Heppner, who were both regulars on Lynden’s 2A state basketball champions last season, said their hoop experience made a big difference in understanding how to cope with state playoff pressure.

Marsh is also a standout baseball pitcher but isn’t sure about what he’ll do in college. Heppner “definitely” intends to play college football. Marsh grew up loving sports while watching his brother, Zack Halvorson, play quarterback at Bellingham High and Pacific Lutheran University and seeing his sister, Olivia, perform in sports at Bellingham.

Lynden Christian in semis, too

Lynden Christian is bidding for its first appearance in the state finals since 2002, when the Lyncs were runner-up in Class 1A. Newport advanced with a 7-6 win over Zillah.

Lyncs’ quarterback, junior Trajan Schouten, who also was selected WIAA Athlete of the Week, has thrown for 19 touchdowns and more than 1,500 yards, while senior running back Levi Korthuis has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards.

LC’s defense is well-honed, having shut out Cascade Christian 20-0 in their state opener followed by a 45-6 win over previously unbeaten Hoquiam.