Mount Baker’s football team can take a championship feeling and a top seed into the Class 1A Northwest District playoffs, but the Mountaineers won’t feel like they’re at home.
That’s because, in the wake of Baker’s mud-filled 20-0 win over Lynden Christian on Thursday, Oct. 30, the Mounties (7-2 overall, 5-1 Northwest Conference 1A) won’t be at home despite their lofty credentials. They are looking for a field.
“We can’t play another game on this field,” said Baker coach Ron Lepper. “I’m pretty certain we’ll face (Bothell) Cedar Park Christian, but (today) we’ll be looking for a place and a time next week.
“We’ve had harder rain, but this was the worst field conditions we’ve ever had here,” said Lepper, in his 19th season as head coach.
Coaches, players and fans couldn’t believe how bad their beloved turf really was — even though that didn’t prevent them from getting their footwear thoroughly muddy after the game in celebration — but the horrendous conditions did not daunt the Mounties.
In fact, sophomore running back Jed Schleimer broke a tackle, received what he called “just an amazing block from Jax Toctocan” and turned a sweep into a 62-yard touchdown on Baker’s first play from scrimmage.
“Usually we cut that play — a wing right 48 sweep — (up field) and that’s what we did,” said Schleimer, who finished with 90 yards on 11 carries. “I’m not really surprised I scored (despite the conditions). I trust our line and (they made sure) the field was no trouble on that play.”
Likewise, junior quarterback Mason Bass threw a pretty 32-yard touchdown pass to Ruvim Tikhonov for a 13-0 lead on Baker’s second play of the second quarter on the first of only two throws he attempted.
“My feet would sink six inches but my foot didn’t slide because the ground acted like a suction cup,” said Bass, explaining how he played so smoothly that Baker did not have a turnover.
Baker’s rushing leader, senior Liam Short, scored on a 15-yard fourth-quarter run and finished with 92 yards on 16 carries to surpass 1,000 yards for the season.
Short, looking fully as tough as any coach could ask in such horrible conditions, somehow did not lose yardage until his 13th carry. On his 14th, he burst over the left side to score with 5:37 left, capping a 64-yard, eight-play drive on which he netted 62 yards on five carries.
Short was relatively fresh because Lepper divided plays among Schleimer, Zach Yurchuk and Short.
“I wasn’t worried (about a 2-yard loss before his touchdown) because in these conditions, you’re going to lose some,” said Short. “But I really wanted the ball (after finally being tackled for a loss).”
The Mounties amassed 214 yards rushing on 42 cracks to go with Bass’ nicely executed over-the-middle scoring strike to Tikhonov.
Baker limited the Lyncs (5-4, 2-4) — who won’t be in the playoffs but can schedule a 10th game — to 25 yards rushing and 68 passing as the Mounties shackled junior quarterback Lucas Roetcisoender on 7-for-25 passing for 68 yards but without an interception.
The Lyncs were hurt badly when senior rushing leader Jordan Jansen was knocked out early with an injury after only two carries.
“We played hard,” said Lepper, proud of his team’s comeback from a 10-9 loss to Meridian last week. “It’s nice to finish (the regular season) off like this. That was a great defensive stand” — in the third quarter, when the Lyncs apparently blocked a punt and recovered on the Baker 20.
Roetcisoender completed an 11-yard pass to Zach Roetcisoender on fourth down to the 5, but Baker’s Cody Zender made a tackle for no gain and Johnny Mata led a sterling pass defense that ended the threat with three incompletions.
Baker’s defense — often led by linebacker Paul Lebedev — set up both of the first two scoring drives, seemingly refusing to let the mud bother the Mounties at all.
The Lyncs, however, refused to give in, playing with determination as they have so often this season. They stopped the Mounties on their first three possessions of the second half, keeping LC in the game until Short finally burst through.
MB — Jed Schleimer 62 run (run failed)
MB — Ruvim Tikhonov 32 pass from Mason Bass (Zane Smith kick)
MB — Liam Short 15 run (Smith kick)
RUSHING — Lynden Christian: Lucas Roetcisoender 10-(minus 1), Blake Mellema 7-6, Jordan Jansen 2-1, Nathan Rusnak 1-19. Mount Baker: Liam Short 16-92, Jed Schleimer 11-90, Zach Yurchuk 7-25, Mason Bass 3-4, Johnny Mata 3-2, Jeremiah Cronk 1-1, Jeff Anderson 1-0.
PASSING — Lynden Christian: Lucas Roetcisoender 7-25-68-0. Mount Baker: Mason Bass 1-2-32-0.
RECEIVING — : Lynden Christian: Alex Vander Velden 3-32, Zach Roetcisoender 1-11, Blake Mellema 1-11, Nathan Rusnak 1-5, Travis Roosma 1-9. Mount Baker: Ruvim Tikhonov 1-32.