Once the fourth quarter started, Mount Baker’s nightmare began.
The Mountaineers controlled their Class 1A State Playoff quarterfinal game against Eatonville for three quarters, but what transpired during both the final 12 minutes and overtime left Baker in complete disbelief.
Three lost Mountaineer fumbles, a punt netting zero yards, an Eatonville onside-kick recovery and a two-point conversion all within the final 11:51 helped the Cruisers overcome a three-touchdown deficit, sending the game into overtime.
Still, Baker had a chance to make up for its blunders.
But after the Mountaineers scored first in OT and kicked their extra point, Eatonville decided to gamble by going for two following its overtime score.
Cruisers quarterback Jacob McCormick plunged into the line on a QB sneak, as Eatonville’s front helped McCormick break the goal line’s plane with just enough push.
Mount Baker, shocked, slowly walked off the field after suffering a gut-wrenching 29-28 overtime loss to Eatonville on Saturday, Nov. 22, at Civic Stadium.
“We were playing well, and that’s a good football team over there, and give them the benefit,” Baker coach Ron Lepper said in obvious anguish. “They took advantage of opportunities, and we gave them some short fields with turnovers. That’s what football is. It came down to a couple inches right there.”
The loss ended the season for Mount Baker (9-3), which won the Northwest Conference 1A title.
Mount Baker used strong defense, hard-running and some trickery to build a 21-0 lead heading into the fourth.
Liam Short led the Mountaineers with 184 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries, and Jed Schleimer added 98 yards and a score on 14 carries. The Baker sophomore also caught a late second-quarter touchdown from Mason Bass off a fake field goal after the score was initially ruled no good.
In one of the more rare circumstances, the referees ruled Bass’ knee was down before he fired a 9-yard pass to Schleimer with four seconds left in the first half. The call stood until the teams returned for the second half, when it was announced the Mountaineers’ touchdown was in fact successful.
Mount Baker opened the third quarter with a nine-play, 71-yard drive that was capped by a 22-yard Schleimer TD run, extending the Mountaineers’ lead to 21-0.
Throughout the game Baker’s defense held up well against an Eatonville team that scored 72 points last week during its state opening-round game.
But even a pair of red zone stops wasn’t enough to make up for Baker’s offensive miscues down the stretch.
“Our kids don’t give up,” Eatonville coach George Fairhart said. “We just had to find the right formula there. We had to change some things up, and our kids hung in there. They didn’t quit, and they believed in each other.”
The Cruisers first cashed in on the first of two Short fumbles. McCormick finished a 35-yard drive with a 12-yard TD run to cut Mount Baker’s lead to 21-6 with 10:36 to go.
Baker stopped Eatonville after a successful onside-kick recovery, but a punt of 0 yards gave the Cruisers the ball at Mount Bakers 11 with 6:34 to play.
Five plays later Eatonville scored on a fourth-and-6 on a 7-yard TD pass from McCormick to Justin Kaelin, trimming the Mountaineers’ lead to 21-13.
Mount Baker’s defense again came up big after Bass made an errant pitch Eatonville recovered on the Mountaineers’ 6 the following possession.
Baker stopped the Cruisers on a fourth-and-goal, but when the Mountaineers were trying to run the clock out, Short was stripped of the ball, setting up Ryan Franz’s 6-yard TD run with 1:40 left. Eatonville converted the two-point conversion with a QB sneak, tying the game at 21.
Mount Baker scored first in overtime thanks to a 1-yard TD run by Short, but Eatonville ended the Mountaineers’ season with its late heroics.
“I just told the seniors I’m really proud of them,” Lepper said. “I thought we played really well most of the game, but you can’t give up short fields, and we did. It ended up costing us tonight.”
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
MB — Liam Short 1 run (Zane Smith kick)
MB — Jed Schleimer 9 pass from Mason Bass (Smith kick)
MB — Schleimer 22 run (Smith kick)
EAT — Jacob McCormick 12 run (kick fail)
EAT — Justin Kaelin 7 pass from McCormick (Adam Helbig kick)
EAT — Ryan Franz 6 run (McCormick run)
MB — Short 2 run (Smith kick)
EAT — Franz 1 run (McCormick run)
RUSHING — Eatonville: Ryan Franz 14-53, Jacob McCormick 8-31, Justin Kaelin 5-42, Johnathon Warner 5-22, Logan Moose 2-5, Joel Rodriguez 1-2, George Tomal 6-(-7). Mount Baker: Liam Short 33-184, Jed Schleimer 14-98, Mason Bass 3-(-7), Zach Yurchuk 3-(-12).
PASSING — PASSING — Eatonville: Jacob McCormick 10-17-0-73. Mount Baker: Mason Bass 3-6-0-39.
RECEIVING — Eatonville: Johnathon Warner 4-33, Wyatt Coleman 3-24, Justin Kaelin 2-10, Isaac Boettcher 1-6. Mount Baker: Ruvim Tikhonov 1-25, Jed Schleimer 1-9, Cody Zender 1-5 .