Toby Jefferson would likely win Mount Baker’s most improved player award at this point in the season – unless the junior running back wished to nominate his entire offensive line.
Without a fulltime returning starter among the five interior linemen and with only two seniors, the line’s overwhelming improvement was showcased in second-rated Baker’s 24-8 win over third-ranked Lynden Christian in a Northwest Conference Class 1A opener Friday.
Jefferson, a 193-pound combination of speed and grit, scored on runs of 2 and 16 yards while rushing for 116 yards on 28 carries.
“I would agree,” Baker coach Ron Lepper said when told that senior lineman Kris Flowers and 251-pound junior Aidan Corning had enthusiastically nominated Jefferson as the team’s most improved player. “Our expectations are pretty high and we’re not going to lower those.”
Flowers and Corning were too modest to nominate themselves, although they would be in the running along with fellow linemen Cody Saulsbury, a 211-pound senior center; Victor Schuener, a 284-pound junior; and Davin Beason, a 196-pound sophomore.
The linemen were primary reasons the Mounties improved to 4-0 overall even though defensive back/running back Jason Lee and linebacker/tight end Waylon Kentner are the only returning two-way starters.
“We bonded over the summer at Wenatchee camp,” said Corning, back in football after sitting out his sophomore year recovering from a non-football injury.
“Our offensive line really played well,” said Kentner, who knows what he’s talking about – he was an all-state tight end last season. “They’re getting better every day.”
Flowers is typical of the improvement.
“I played a little offense and defense last year (when the Mounties went 8-5 and reached the state quarterfinals) but I played mostly special teams,” Flowers said. “Our guys have a lot of trust in each other. We really have an outstanding center in Cody Saulsbury.”
Because of a strong late-game effort, the defeat was not a total loss for Lynden Christian (2-1), even though the Lyncs fell behind 24-0 when Lee found himself open over the middle and scored on a 24-yard pass from junior quarterback Jacoby Mason, capping a 75-yard drive to open the second half.
The Mounties did not commit a turnover behind Jacoby, who looked like anything but a first-year starter. Jacoby completed 9 of 15 passes for 118 yards, including a 29-yard pass to Ayden Rodriguez to set up Jefferson’s first touchdown for a 10-0 lead. Baker recovered a fumble on LC’ 38 shortly before the key catch by Rodriguez.
The Mounties’ first score was a 30-yard field goal by junior Miguel Zavala, capping an 80-yard drive on their first possession. The snaps from Cade Beason and holds by Jacoby were also excellent on all three extra points.
Then Baker took direct advantage of Lyncs turnovers to score twice.
The second of LC’s three turnovers was an interception by Lee, his team’s seventh in four games. Lee’s 30-yard return landed the Mounties in Lyncs territory and ultimately made possible Jefferson’s second touchdown.
But even down 24-0 with five minutes left in the third quarter, the Lyncs made a game of it. Their defense limited the Mounties to one first down on their final four possessions and LC amassed 125 of its 279 total yards on its last two drives, both against Baker’s regulars.
Trajan Schouten’s 22-yard pass to Tanner Feenstra and Schouten’s two-point conversion toss to Jackson Corkill provided the game’s final points with 2:14 remaining to play.
Schouten finished 21 for 34 with the one interception, but the Mounties’ solid defense limited him to 187 yards for an average completion of nine yards per catch. Corkill caught nine for 70 yards and Feenstra snagged five for 56. The longest gain was Bryce Bouwman’s 28-yard grab.
The Mounties limited LC to 92 yards on 24 rushes, including 79 yards on 14 carries by Easton Stremler.
“When I called time out (late in the fourth quarter), all their eyes were on me,” said LC coach Dan Kaemingk, noting how proud he was to see his team’s focus and effort despite serious adversity. “I’m excited to see how they come out for Monday’s practice.”
In other Friday games:
Lynden 10, Archbishop Murphy 7: The Lions (3-1, 1-0) claimed a three-point win over the Snohomish County power for the second consecutive year, a milestone for Lynden’s program under third-year head coach Blake VanDalen.
All-state kicker Marko Samoukovic, who made 9 of 10 field-goal attempts last season, made good on a 27-yarder with about five minutes remaining to snap a 7-7 tie in the Northwest Conference Sky Division opener. Steven DiLorenzo helped set up Samoukovic’s first field goal attempt this season with effective rushing and finished with 123 yards on 20 carries.
Junior quarterback Baylor Ayres scored the game’s first touchdown on a 1-yard run in the opening quarter. The Wildcats (3-1, 0-1), who were 24-21 losers to the Lions last year, tied the game in the third quarter.
“We gave our Big Play award to (sophomore linebacker) Taivin Van Dalen for a touchdown -saving tackle at midfield in the second quarter,” Blake VanDalen said. “A fumble recovery by Carter VanDiest with less than three minutes to play wrapped it up for us after we got our final first down.”
VanDalen also credited defensive ends Elijah Lyons and Brock Heppner with solid efforts against a team that amassed 73 points against Seattle Cleveland last week.
“We’re so proud of our effort against Archbishop in these two games (Lynden won 24-21 last season,” said VanDalen. “We voted to let them join our league because we thought it would make everyone better.”
Of Lynden’s 210 total yards, 195 were on the ground.
The Lions next will play host to Lakewood (4-0, 2-0) Friday in another major Sky Division game. Lakewood shut out Sedro-Woolley 27-0.
Ferndale 48, Arlington 28: The Golden Eagles (2-2, 2-0) are off to an outstanding start in the Wesco 3A North Division.
Arlington (3-1, 2-1) cut Ferndale’s lead to 21-14 about 20 seconds before halftime, but Michael Bernard’s interception return for a 16-yard touchdown after Arlington had possession to open the second half gave the Eagles a 27-14 advantage.
“Bernard’s pick six was huge because it took away all their momentum,” said Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich. “Our defense did a really good job and our line really controlled the game. We ran 78 offensive plays.”
So did Ferndale’s offense. Bernard also scored the game’s final touchdown on a pass from junior quarterback Haiden Rasmussen, who also ran for a score and threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Broselle.
Sophomore Ryan Pelton, Andrew Monks and Broselle all ran for touchdowns, with Pelton displaying his speed from close to midfield.
Broselle came off a 41-14 win over Marysville-Getchell in which he gained nearly 300 yards combined rushing and receiving and scored four times. In the same game, Pelton gained more than 120 yards including a touchdown of about 80 yards.
Junior kicker James Werth made good on six of seven conversion attempts.
Meridian 34, Nooksack Valley 28: The Trojans (1-3, 1-0), coming off a rugged non-league schedule, opened NWC 1A play by snapping a 28-all tie with a 7-yard pass from Cameron Webster to Ethan Brooks with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter after Webster recovered a fumble in Nooksack territory..
Ryan Johnson and Brooks both scored twice with their speed. Webster threw to Johnson for a score and passed twice to Brooks for touchdowns and Johnson also scored on a kickoff return reported to be about 90 yards. Trent Martin also ran for a Meridian touchdown.
“I was real proud of our kids, considering we came off the toughest non-league schedule we’ve ever played,” Meridian coach Bob Ames said. “ Nooksack (2-2, 0-1) dominated the first quarter with 185 yards and played real well for a 21-7 lead. Our kids made adjustments and held them to 33 yards for the rest of the game.”
Nooksack quarterback Cole Eldridge ran for two touchdowns and threw to Ryan Veening for another score. Dane Winter ran for the Pioneers’ other touchdown.
Ames credited defensive lineman Jon Boger with a dominating effort and Webster with strong play at safety. Defensive lineman Trent Gookstetter and defensive back Austin Anderson also received props
Last Saturday, Northern California small division power Amador of Sutter Creek beat Meridian 41-0 with five interceptions, so Webster’s comeback Friday was huge as he continued his conversion from tight end to quarterback. Webster completed 16 of 31 passes for 117 yards against Amador.
Sehome 28, Mercer Island 14: The Mariners (2-2) claimed a non-conference win as junior quarterback Jacob Kaepernick surpassed 200 yards passing while throwing two long touchdown passes to Tim Malo and hitting Meloy Nelson for Sehome’s first scored in the red zone.
Kaepernick scored on a keeper for the final points and Nelson made four conversions.
“We challenged the kids to play with passion and joy after our (21-20) loss to Centralia (last Saturday),” said Sehome coach Kevin Beason. “We’re real pleased and proud with how our kids responded so well.”
Beason said Malo was impressive on both touchdown catches from about midfield.
Sehome’s defense forced four turnovers. Beason credited running backs Dawson Smith and junior Colin Dorsch with strong efforts on both sides.
“Dorsch provided wonderful support from strong safety on their run game,” Beason said.
Kaepernick came off 15 for 26 passing for 204 yards and one interception against Centralia, which blocked the conversion kick after Kaepernick threw two yards to Malo for the game’s final points. Kaepernick also threw scoring passes of 23 yards to Malo and 14 yards to Nelson.
Squalicum 56, Marysville-Getchell 14: Whatcom County rushing leader Ben Schlenbaker ran for five touchdowns and the Storm (2-2, 1-2) had a shutout until the fourth quarter for its first Wesco 3A North win of the season.
Bryce Pennock and Elliott Aslan each made interceptions for touchdowns. Aslan also ran for a score and Pennock caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Mason Binning in the Storm’s most encouraging effort.
Addison Schrock made good on all eight conversion kicks.
The fast-improving Storm will meet Meadowdale Friday night at Civic Stadium.
Neah Bay 64, Lummi 56: Neah Bay (4-0) held the Blackhawks (3-1) to six points in the final quarter while the Red Devils scored the game’s final eight points with 1:20 left in a non-league eight-man game. Caleb Revey ran 25 times for 237 yards and four touchdowns plus four 2-point conversions. Pressed into duty at quarterback because of injuries, he completed 10 of 30 passes for 214 yards and four scores.
Jaie Leighton caught five passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion and sophomore Nathan Kiely caught three passes for 143 yards and two scores and sophomore William Elzey ran seven times for 117 yards.
“We were without five two-way starters and our young guys did a good job,” said Lummi coach Jim Sandusky, whose team plays its Northwest Football League North Division opener Thursday at home at 6 p.m. against Darrington.
Burlington-Edison 28, Blaine 10: The Borderites (1-3, 0-1) lost their first game in the NWC’s 2A Sky Division after moving up from the Lake Division. No other information was provided.
Cedarcrest 22, Bellingham 18: The Red Wolves (3-1, 1-0) rallied for 15 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Red Raiders (1-3, 0-1) in a Lake Division opener. No other information was provided.
Bellingham came off its first win, 26-0 over Sammamish, in which new senior quarterback Cody Tolle passed for nearly 150 yards and threw two long touchdown passes to Morgan Cavalier. Jack Fields ran for more than 100 yards including a 48-yard score and Chad Oesterling recovered a fumble for a touchdown off a sack.
WEEK FIVE GAMES
Darrington at Lummi, 6 p.m.
Squalicum vs. Meadowdale at Civic Stadium, 7 p.m.
Oak Harbor at Ferndale, 7 p.m.
Meridian at Mount Baker, 7 p.m.
Lynden Christian at Nooksack Valley, 7 p.m.
Lakewood at Lynden, 7 p.m.
Blaine at Archbishop Murphy, 7 p.m.
Sehome vs. Mountlake Terrace at Edmonds Stadium, 8 p.m.
Evergreen vs. Bellingham at Civic Stadium, 5 p.m.