Lynden coach Blake VanDalen faced a difficult pre-game decision but was rewarded with an enjoyable outcome.
Even without team rushing leader Steven DiLorenzo, the Lions ran for 271 yards in their 34-7 win over Blaine on Friday, wrapping up their second consecutive Class 2A Sky Division title.
Quarterback Brock Heppner ran for a pair of 5-yard touchdowns and caught a 19-yard scoring pass from alternating quarterback Baylor Ayres, who ran for 127 yards on 16 carries including touchdown scrambles of 11 and 13 yards.
“That was hard,” VanDalen said of telling DiLorenzo he would be held out of his last home game to avoid aggravating an injury. “How do you tell a kid with that much heart that he won’t play?”
While celebrating the way the Lions earned the Sky’s top seed for the Class 2A district playoffs, DiLorenzo said he understood the situation.
DiLorenzo got a kick out of seeing Ayres and Heppner (80 yards on nine carries) run so well, along with junior Caleb Wheeler (eight carries for 40 yards), and the passionate approach of all-state linebacker Bodie Human when he got the chance to block ferociously and run well (four carries for 24 yards) in the backfield.
“If this had been a playoff game I would have played,” said DiLorenzo, who nonetheless will welcome the first-round playoff bye the Lions (6-2 overall, 4-1 Sky) have earned in Week 9 as one of the top three Sky seeds. Lynden’s statistics show he needs fewer than 30 yards to surpass 1,000.
Blaine (1-7, 0-5), in its first season in the Sky Division, will have the Sky’s No. 6 seed and will host a loser-out game against No. 1 seed Liberty on Friday.
No sooner had the gun sounded and VanDalen had briefly and joyfully talked with his team, senior leader Heppner, speaking as the coach he plans to become, called the team together to deliver an emphatic message.
“We have to get better!” he said with a firm voice.
A moment later, Heppner said he couldn’t have been more earnest.
“We really can drastically get better!” he said, emphasizing “drastically.”
“I agree that we can drastically improve,” said VanDalen, whose Lions did bounce back nicely from a 14-7 loss to Sedro-Woolley. “We have shown flashes of just how good we can be” (such as in Lynden’s 56-47 non-league win over state title contender Steilacoom in Week 3.
Ayres, a talented junior who also completed 5 of 8 passes for 61 yards, including three to Heppner for 44 yards, called Heppner “a great mentor” while also praising how well their line opened holes.
“Baylor has been just so patient,” VanDalen said.
Blaine, which may have played the toughest schedule in its history, opened with an impressive drive from its 20 to Lynden’s 11, where a 28-yard field-goal attempt went wide left.
The Borderites netted 52 yards on that drive, which included a nifty 18-yard third-down pass from junior quarterback Will McKinney to Zane Rector.
But Lynden’s defense made adjustments and limited Blaine to 59 yards the rest of the way until the Borderites’ final possession. On that push, Blaine netted 82 yards and scored with 54 seconds left on a 1-yard keeper by McKinney. That enabled the Borderites to finish with 200 total yards, including 71 on 21 carries by Oscar Caridad, who gained more than 200 the week before against Lakewood.
The Lions scored on drives of 80 and 75 yards for a 13-0 halftime lead. Lynden followed with drives of 77, 49 and 60 yards and finished with 381 yards total offense.
It wasn’t all Ayres and Heppner, who now has 14 touchdowns rushing and receiving while Ayres has played quarterback.
Not only did the entire defense play well, but Evan Potter caught a key 21-yard pass from Heppner on the Lions’ first drive. Wheeler snagged a 13-yard pass from Ayres on third-and 13 from his own 41 on the second drive. Human ran for 14 yards on the third drive. Lukas Lohrer caught an 18-yard pass from Heppner on the fourth drive.
In other Friday high school football games
Sehome 2, Bellingham 0: Citing a number of injured players, the Red Raiders (1-6, 0-3) forfeited to the Mariners (6-2, 3-0), who earned their second consecutive Lake Division title. Bellingham’s varsity season is over.
Sehome will play a Week 9 loser-out game Friday at Burlington-Edison (1-7, 1-4), the fifth-place Sky Division team and a 34-6 loser Friday to Sky co-champion Lakewood (7-1, 4-1), which has a bye this week and is seeded No. 2 behind Lynden for Week 10. Sedro-Woolley will host Cedarcrest in another elimination game.
Sehome was coming off a 40-0 non-league win Oct 18 against West Seattle. Jacob Kaepernick completed 11 of 20 passes for 280 yards and six touchdowns, all in the first half. The junior quarterback threw to Melloy Nelson for 76- and 15-yard scores, to sophomore Caleb Ryan for 3- and 39-yard touchdowns, to junior Tim Malo for a 35-yard score and to sophomore Derrick Hayward for a 56-yard touchdown.
Alternating running backs Dawson Smith and Colin Dorsch combined for 94 yards rushing to support Kaepernick.
Ferndale 54, Stanwood 19: The Golden Eagles (4-4, 4-2) were to learn their Wesco 3A cross-over opponent for Week 9 following the late Saturday night game between Squalicum and Oak Harbor. A Squalicum win would drop the Eagles into fourth place and would set up a loser-out game against Shorecrest. A Squalicum loss would give the Eagles the No. 2 seed, plus a seeding game in Week 9 against a Wesco South opponent.
Ferndale’s explosive backfield of senior Jacob Broselle, sophomore Ryan Pelton and freshman Isaiah Carlson combined for multiple touchdowns and more than 200 yards rushing (full statistics were not yet available). Broselle, who came into the game with 11 touchdowns according to Ferndale’s figures, also caught a scoring pass from beyond midfield from junior quarterback Haiden Rasmussen.
In Ferndale’s 42-14 loss to league champion Marysville-Pilchuck the week before, Broselle, Pelton and Carlson combined for more than 225 yards rushing, with Pelton providing two touchdown runs.
Mark Kolbert capped Ferndale’s effort against Stanwood (2-6, 1-5) with the last two touchdowns on runs.
“We did a good job of taking care of business,” said Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich, pleased that his young team rebounded from losses to Squalicum and Wesco North champion Marysville-Pilchuck, “We had a strong team effort on defense.”
Lynden Christian 34, Nooksack Valley 6: The Lyncs (6-1, 4-1) retained their hopes of at least a Northwest Conference 1A title tie as Trajan Schouten threw scoring passes of 13 yards to Jackson Corkill and 3 yards to Levi Korthuis, and junior Logan Dykstra fired touchdown tosses of 40 yards to Corkill and 5 yards to Zach Sipma.
Senior kicker Eli DenBleyker, a soccer standout in his first football season, made field goals of 29 and 27 points and all four conversions.
If LC gains at least a title tie, it would mean that the city of Lynden’s two football teams would have the historic accomplishment of both earning league championships in consecutive years.
LC’s home game against Meridian has been moved up to Halloween night on Thursday.
Ryan Veening scored for Nooksack (2-6, 0-5) on a pass from Keldon Weidkamp.
Mount Baker 43, Meridian 21: The Mountaineers (7-1, 4-1 NWC 1A) amassed all their points in the first three quarters while retaining hopes of at least a title tie with Lynden Christian heading into the final week of league play.
Junior quarterback Mason Jacoby threw two touchdown passes to Aiden Rodriguez and Toby Jefferson ran for two scores, giving the Mounties a 28-7 halftime lead. Rodriguez (who now has 10 touchdowns for the season) and Jason Lee ran for scores in the third quarter and Miguel Zavala went 5 for 5 on conversion kicks. Baker’s other two points were on Jacoby’s scramble. (Full statistics were not yet available.)
Meridian (2-6, 2-3), which is locked into the 1A league’s third and final playoff spot, received two touchdown passes of 5 and 49 yards from quarterback Cam Webster to Ryan Johnson and a 2-yard scoring run by Webster. Meridian stats show that the first-year quarterback, a senior who previously played tight end, has well over 1,000 yards passing.
Meridian’s game at Lynden Christian was moved up to Thursday because the Trojans must play a full pigtail district elimination game on the road Tuesday, Nov. 5, against the North Sound No. 4 seed. If Meridian wins, the Trojans would play again as early as Friday, Nov. 8, in a loser-out game in Week 10.
Naselle 40, Lummi 26: Naselle (8-0, 4-0) clinched the Northwest B League’s No. 1 seed for the eight-man Class B1 playoffs. Lummi (6-2, 3-1) will host Neah Bay (7-1, 3-1) Friday at 7 p.m. for the No 2 seed and a Week 10 bye, which goes to the top two seeds.
Lummi, which is in the postseason for the 16th consecutive year under coach Jim Sandusky, scored on an 85-yard kickoff return by Caleb Revey, who also ran for a touchdown. Duncan Toby caught a 30-yard scoring pass from Jordan Jackson and an 8-yarder from Revey.
Lummi was coming off a 54-52 win over Crescent in Joyce on the Olympic Peninsula on Oct. 19. Jackson threw three touchdown passes to Revey, who also scored twice on the ground and finished with more than 300 combined yards passing and rushing, Sandusky noted. Toby also had two scores in a wild game in which the Blackhawks had six 2-point conversions.
Crescent scored the game’s last eight points, but Jackson recovered an onside kick to clinch the win.