Dejected faces surrounded Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich, looking up at him with disbelief.
Just 30 yards away, Sehome coach Bob Norvell wrapped his arms around player after player, gathering much of his offense to heap praise on their performance.
How long ago seven days felt for both teams.
The Golden Eagles were just a week removed from stunning a No. 1-ranked Lynden squad that was riding a 33-game win streak. The Mariners, on the other hand, had just suffered a 52-6 blowout loss to city rival Squalicum, capping a three-game stretch that saw Sehome lose by at least 28 points in each contest.
Two programs trending in two very different directions.
And then came Friday night, Oct. 24, Sehome looking composed and in control for a full 48 minutes, stunning Ferndale 42-21 and keeping its slim 2A playoff hopes alive at least one more week.
“We had to go through why we were playing football,” Norvell said, “because it’s been a tough stretch for these guys, and I think they showed tonight why they play football. This was a lot of fun.”
A defining win, no doubt, for a once-downtrodden program seeking just a glimmer of hope, and it was quarterback Aaron Nichols who provided the greatest sense of optimism.
Nichols orchestrated back-to-back scoring drives on the Mariners’ first two possessions and eventually finished with a hand in all six of Sehome’s touchdowns — three through the air and the other three on the ground against a stout Golden Eagles defensive line.
“We just wanted to come out and pop them right in the mouth,” Nichols said. “I mean, we knew they were going to be pumped, so we just wanted to come out and prove ourselves to them, and we did that.”
He finished 10-of-17 passing for 225 yards, his most noteworthy play coming on a 70-yard connection with Gunnar Nelson down the left sideline late in the third, just seconds after Ferndale had closed Sehome’s lead to 28-21.
In every game-defining situation, he displayed the poise of a veteran signal caller.
“Well, he is a gunslinger,” Norvell said, “so you get the good and the bad when you have a good gunslinger. Tonight was all good. That was great.”
Sehome’s victory, though, had nothing to do with its ability to move the ball on offense, but rather its willingness to meet head-on the Golden Eagles’ rushing attack, which just a week ago victimized Lynden to the tune of 292 yards and five touchdowns.
Aside from two lengthy runs by Ben Broselle — 49- and 66-yard scores in the second quarter — Ferndale couldn’t move the ball on the ground.
Standout Marcus Nightingale finished with a pedestrian nine carries for 21 yards, and Daniel Jones added 47 yards on a team-high 12 carries.
“As we talked about after the game, nothing is given to us — you have to earn it,” Plenkovich said. “We, for whatever reason, were not ready to go tonight.”
After finding themselves in an early 14-0 hole, Broselle’s 49-yard carry helped ease Ferndale back into the contest. But as was the case all night, the Mariners answered, and did so quickly.
Nichols capped a nine-play, 84-yard drive by hitting Tyler Hruby for an 8-yard score down the seam on fourth down. Facing a third-and-20 just seconds earlier, Nichols connected beautifully with Hruby to set up the fourth-and-manageable.
After a Ferndale three-and-out on its next possession, Nichols drove the dagger even deeper by hitting Marcus Montag for a 61-yard score on a crossing route down the middle of the field, giving Sehome a 28-7 lead with 4:13 to go in the second.
Broselle, who finished with 126 yards on eight carries for the Golden Eagles, busted loose for his 66-yard score the very next possession for Ferndale, but two late touchdowns by Sehome secured the win.
The Mariners (3-5, Northwest Conference 2-4) are set to face Burlington-Edison at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 30, with a berth into the 2A playoffs on the line. Ferndale (3-5, 3-3) hosts Sedro-Woolley the same date and time.
Sehome — Aaron Nichols run 3 (Gabe Weight PAT)
Sehome — Nichols run 1 (Weight PAT)
Ferndale — Ben Broselle run 49 (Andrew Higginson-Fernandez PAT)
Sehome — Tyler Hruby 8 pass from Nichols (Weight PAT)
Sehome — Marcus Montag 61 pass from Nichols (Weight PAT)
Ferndale — Broselle 66 run (Higginson-Fernandez PAT)
Ferndale — Broselle 5 pass from Kyler Schemstad (Higginson-Fernandez PAT)
Sehome — Gunnar Nelson 70 pass from Nichols (Weight PAT)
Sehome — Nichols run 8 (Weight PAT)
RUSHING — Ferndale: Daniel Jones 12-47, Marcus Nightingale 9-21, Justice Powell 6-18, Ben Broselle 8-126, Kyler Schemstad 1-4, Joshua Williams 1-2, Cory Slaughter 1-2, Cameron Blecha 1-6. Sehome: Josh Slesk 22-66, Daton Nestlebush 13-96, Aaron Nichols 10-7, Taylor Rapp 2-6, Gavin Kaepernick 1-(-7).
PASSING — Ferndale: Kyler Schemstad 6-18-1-93, James Hinson 1-1-0-10. Sehome: Aaron Nichols 10-17-3-225, Tyler Hruby 1-1-0-30, Gavin Kaepernick 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Ferndale: Jackson King 3-28, Dante Kelly 1-10, Marcus Nightingale 1-48, Ben Broselle 1-5, Daniel Jones 1-11. Sehome: Taylor Rapp 4-50, Tyler Hruby 4-44, Gunnar Nelson 1-70, Marcus Montag 1-61, Gabe Weight 1-22.