With persistent help from his defense, Sehome quarterback Jacob Kaepernick opened the 2019 season by displaying the remarkable resilience that enabled him to lead the Mariners to the Class 2A state playoffs in football and baseball as a sophomore.
The strong-armed junior had only two opportunities on Nooksack Valley’s side of the field but made the most of both in the Mariners’ 14-13 win with a Kansas tiebreaker in a non-classification season opener Friday night at Civic Stadium.
Both teams played so hard that the game seemed to have a playoff atmosphere, complete with a huge throng of Sehome students joyfully flooding the field seconds after the Mariners stopped a two-point conversion attempt that could have won the tiebreaker for Nooksack.
Coaches Kevin Beason of Sehome and Rob Myhre of Nooksack expressed considerable pride in seemingly durable defenses they hope can carry their offenses to the postseason.
“I have 100 percent trust in my teammates,” said Kaepernick, who completed 7 of 7 passes to Melloy Nelson and Tim Malo on a 16-play, 84-yard drive, leading to Dawson Smith’s 4-yard second-effort touchdown in the third quarter. Nelson’s conversion kick produced a 7-7 tie.
The rest of regulation was scoreless, setting up a tiebreaker that proved memorable. But regulation was far from uneventful, considering that Nelson finished with eight catches for 89 yards and Malo with six for 34 yards.
When Sehome got the ball first on the 25-yard line, Kaepernick calmly found 155-pound sophomore Zach Chisholm for a 15-yard gain on third-and-11 for the sophomore’s first meaningful varsity play.
Kaepernick followed with a 7-yard pass to Malo. Smith cracked for 3 yards on a tough play and Kaepernick scored on a keeper.
But Nooksack was far from done. In their half of the tiebreaker, new backfield starters Dane Winter, Scout Whittern and first-time senior quarterback Cole Eldridge combined for 13 yards, followed by Winter’s 12-yard touchdown on an outstanding sprint up the middle.
After a long night filled with a combined 18 penalties, Myhre opted to send Winter on a 2-point win-or-else run for the conversion. The gang-tackling Mariners swarmed the rugged Winter and the game was finally over.
Winter showed great determination, picking up 154 yards on 17 carries to lead Nooksack’s 324-177 total yardage advantage. Eldridge, formerly a running back, gained 76 yards on 16 carries, including a 6-yard touchdown in the second quarter, not long after Eldridge completed a 26-yard pass to Braden Leyba.
Felipe Arreola-Martinez, a hard-hitting junior who is one of four returning defensive starters, earned particular praise from Beason.
“We learned a lot about our young team tonight,” the second-year coach said.
“I agree with Coach Beason,” said Arreola-Martinez, who made tackle after tackle under the grinding pressure of five ultimately unsuccessful opportunities inside Sehome’s 30-yard line. He noted that he received exceptional support from 180-pound sophomore linebacker Finnegan Hall.
Kaepernick finished 15 for 26 for 138 yards with one interception, by Eldridge, who also demonstrated considerable arm strength while going 7 for 19 for 60 yards without an interception.
“We practiced those sideline patterns all summer,” Kaepernick said of his three key connections with Malo on Sehome’s 84-yard scoring drive. “Tim did a great job of keeping his toes inbounds, just as we have practiced so many times.”
Smith led Sehome with 46 hard-earned yards on 17 carries. His 4-yard touchdown was actually a second-, third- and fourth-effort production. That’s how many players had a crack at the elusive senior.
What made that third-quarter drive so memorable was that until that point, the Mariners had been held to 67 total yards on 20 plays.
MOUNT BAKER 21, LYNDEN 14
In a memorable battle of perennial state playoff qualifiers, Mount Baker opened with a 21-14 win over 2018 Class 2A state runner-up Lynden at Rollie De Koster Field.
“This really was very much a total team effort,” said Baker coach Ron Lepper, whose team claimed a 21-7 lead in the third quarter on a short run by rushing leader Jason Lee in the Mounties’ first win over the Lions since 1990. Lepper, in his 24th season as head coach, estimated it was about Baker’s 10th meeting with the Lions in his tenure.
A run of more than 40 yards by Toby Jefferson began what turned out to be Baker’s winning drive. The Mounties held off the Lions with an interception by Ayden Rodriguez on Lynden’s 2-yard line with about three minutes remaining, Lepper said. Mason Jacoby and Mark Tikhonov also made interceptions.
Jacoby, in his first season as Baker’s quarterback, scored on a 1-yard run and all-state tight end Waylon Kentner scored on a short pass from Jacoby, producing a 14-7 halftime advantage. (Complete statistics were not yet available.)
Lepper credited his entire defense with an outstanding showing. He said junior defensive lineman Phil Paez and sophomore linebacker Davin Beason were particularly noteworthy in their first starts.
“Our offensive line performed better than expected,” Lepper said. “Overall, this was just a great effort. It was fun to see contributions from so many of our kids.”
Lynden rushing standout Steven DiLorenzo, returning after an injury cost him most of his junior season, led the Lions with 76 yards on 13 carries including a 5-yard touchdown. Junior quarterback Baylor Ayres scored on a 5-yard run in the fourth quarter and completed 6 of 14 passes for 167 yards including three to Brock Heppner for 95 yards. Heppner rotated with Ayres at quarterback.
Lynden suffered four turnovers and Baker had none.
“I was happy for Ron Lepper because his kids played so clean,” said Lynden coach Blake Van Dalen. “They definitely deserved to win. Baker made it a street fight and they won the fight.”
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 49, BELLINGHAM 7
After a 94-yard interception return from Bellingham High School’s Andre Triplett cut Lynden Christian’s lead to 13-7 in the second quarter, the Lyncs responded with a 76-yard, 15-play scoring drive, capped by Trajan Schouten’s 14-yard scoring pass to junior Cole Moorlag in a non-classification game at Civic Field.
“That drive was kind of a big gut check,” said LC coach Dan Kaemingk, whose team lost only seven seniors — albeit all valuable starters — after advancing to the state 1A semifinals last season.
Schouten opened the scoring with a 27-yard pass to Jackson Corkill, who caught four passes for 41 yards as Schouten finished 13 for 21 for 131 yards, three touchdowns and the one interception.
Easton Stremler led the Lyncs with 17 carries for 131 yards and touchdowns of 7 and 6 yards. Levi Korthuis gained 91 yards on seven carries and added an 18-yard catch to become the third 100-yard producer of the early evening game. LC amassed 468 yards and limited Bellingham to 50 yards on 32 plays, including 41 yards on 11 rushes by Jack Fields.
Five players scored for LC, including a highlight 12-yard catch by 230-pound receiver Zach Sipma, who also played well on the defensive line. Reserve running backs Devonta Bootsma and David Bootsma scored in the fourth quarter on 2- and 24-yard runs.
The Red Raiders opened the game in a 10-man formation to honor the memory of their late teammate Butch Mullins.
“I was expecting big things but these were even bigger,” Schouten said.
“It was all about our line,” said Stremler, who estimated he had gained 20 pounds to 190 with extensive off-season weight training. “I saw some big holes.”
“We’ve got a two-headed monster type in Easton and Levi,” said Kaemingk, pleased to see that if both runners stay healthy, neither is likely to need to carry the ball 30 times.
LUMMI 58, TACOMA BAPTIST 12
Caleb Revey accounted for 54 points before a home crowd in a non-league 1B eight-man contest. He had eight catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns plus a 2-point conversion; three rushes for 61 yards and two touchdowns along with a 2-point conversion; and three touchdown passes while completing 4 of 5 for 108 yards plus a two-point conversion. All told, he amassed 369 yards of total offense.
Jaie Leighton caught 4 passes for 127 yards and two scores while quarterback Isaiah Jefferson completed 18 of 22 passes for 265 yards and four touchdowns plus a pair of 2-point conversions. Jordan Jackson caught a 33-yard touchdown pass and Nathan Keily snagged an 18-yard scoring toss.
Krayton Williams had four sacks, 10 tackles and a fumble recovery while Miguel Ortez had 16 tackles at outside linebacker.
“It was a good start although we have a long way to go,” said Lummi coach Jim Sandusky, in his 17th season.. “But it’s good to be headed in the right direction.”
Sandusky anticipates a strong test Friday night at La Conner.
BLAINE 27, CHIEF SEALTH 8
The Borderites, having moved up to the officially designated stronger 2A Sky Division in the Northwest Conference, began with an encouraging win over the Seattle squad.
Returning quarterback Will McKinney threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Kivika Hee on Blaine’s opening drive for the only score of the first half. Oscar Caridad scored on runs of 3 and 5 yards and Jack Lopez sprang a 70-yarder for Blaine’s final score.
Zane Rector and Seth Blomeen had interceptions and linebacker Gavino Rodriguez and lineman Wyatt Cole helped with a defensive shutout. Chief Sealth’s score came on a fumble return.
“We’ll get a huge test from Lord Tweedsmuir (B.C.) on Friday at Blaine,” coach Jay Dodd said. “They lost in the regular season last year only to Lynden and were ranked No. 1 in the province before they were beaten in the first round of the playoffs.”
SQUALICUM 34, REDMOND 26
The Storm, having lost many standouts from last year’s 3A Wesco North champions, also wound up in the encouraged category with a quality victory. No other information was provided by deadline.
SEDRO-WOOLLEY 44, MERIDIAN 14
The Cubs dominated as junior quarterback Kaden Plymale threw three touchdown passes. Trent Martin scored both of Meridian’s touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including one on a pass from new quarterback Cam Webster, formerly a tight end.
Meridian coach Bob Ames begins his 46th season. Two of his standouts are expected to be senior linemen Joe Plagerman and Sam Brooks, both of whom made all-league 1A last year.
Brent VanderVeen had scoring catches of 17 and 35 yards for the Cubs. Peyton Burrell had a 45-yard interception and a 12-yard catch for scores and Connor Davis had touchdown runs of 15 and 27 yards.
LAKE STEVENS 55, FERNDALE 0
Lake Stevens, a Class 4A state finalist last season, made sure the Golden Eagles’ traditional rivalry (now non-conference) with Lynden will match two hungry teams when they meet Friday night at Ferndale. It’s an unusual season when both rivals meet coming off losses.
Lynden at Ferndale, 7 p.m.
Sehome at Mount Baker, 7 p.m.
Lord Tweedsmuir (B.C.) at Blaine, 7 p.m.
Squalicum at Arlington, 7 p.m.
Lummi at La Conner, 7 p.m.
Bellingham at Lakewood, 7 p.m.
Nooksack ar Granite Falls, 7 p.m.
Meridian at Colville, 1 p.m.
Neah Bay at Lynden Christian, 3 p.m.