Meridian coach Bob Ames says senior football leader Nick Dritsas is so quiet, “He wouldn’t say boo on Halloween.”
His statistics, however, screamed out with a frightening example of versatility for other Northwest Conference Class 1A teams in Meridian’s league opener.
Dritsas combined for 229 yards rushing and receiving and scored five touchdowns as the Trojans (2-2 overall, 1-0) claimed a 40-13 win over previously unbeaten Lynden Christian on Friday, Sept. 25.
“He’s a very quiet worker,” Ames said of Dritsas, who caught six passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 17 times for 101 yards and three scores. “He leads by example. (Even though he was all-conference both ways last year), his improvement is the result of work in the weight room.”
LC (3-1, 0-1) trailed 20-7 midway through the third quarter, when Dritsas made a dazzling diving catch in the end zone on a 13-yard pass from Meridian’s promising sophomore quarterback, Simon Burkett.
The Lyncs, though, were anything but dead at that point. They immediately rallied for a 12-play, 65-yard scoring drive, capped by an 11-yard scoring pass from Lucas Roetcisoender to Nate Hielkema.
Dritsas, showing absolutely no weariness even though he played superbly both ways, responded with a game-clinching 43-yard touchdown sprint, breaking several tackles up front on the last play of the third quarter for a 34-13 advantage.
“It was just an inside power play,” Ames said. “They hadn’t been giving us anything on that all night.”
LC coach Galen Kaemingk gave the 160-pound, 5-foot-9 Dritsas his due, saying, “He’s pretty slippery.”
Meridian’s Koby Smith provided the final bit of excitement when he snatched a fumble out of the air and ran 46 yards to score on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Meridian limited LC rushing standout David Bladies, who came in with 333 yards, to 64 yards on 21 carries and one touchdown, which was set up by Hielkema’s 34-yard catch.
Kaemingk — whose team lost to the Trojans in the first round last year then won the rematch — said he believes his guys have a shot at repeating that feat.
“But we’ll have to play a lot better and eliminate the turnovers,” he said of the Lyncs, who lost three fumbles and suffered interceptions by Burkett and Marcus McGuinn.
The Trojans limited Roetcisoender to 7 for 14 passing for 106 yards and the two interceptions. Burkett finished 9 for 15 for 161 yards, no interceptions and his scoring passes of 37 and 13 yards to Dritsas.
Meridian’s big defensive play was a fumble recovery by Levi Compton on LC’s first series. Two plays later, Burkett hit Dritsas in full stride for a nicely executed 37-yard score and a 14-0 lead.
Mer — Nick Dritsas 8 run (Alan Eyoub kick)
Mer — Dritsas 37 pass from Simon Burkett (Eyoub kick)
LC — David Bladies 1 run (Jake Poag kick)
Mer — Dritsas 1 run (pass failed)
Mer — Dritsas 13 pass from Burkett (Eyoub kick)
LC —Nate Hielkema 11 pass from Lucas Roetcisoender (kick blocked)
Mer — Dritsas 43 run (Eyoub kick)
Mer — Koby Smith 46 fumble return (kick blocked)
RUSHING — Meridian: Nick Dritsas 17-101, Tony Schliemer 9-21, Simon Burkett 3-(-6), Dakota Jones 3-18, Koby Smith 1-3, Marcus McGuinn 1-0, Daniel Rubio 1-4, Martin Phannenstiel 1-2. Lynden Christian: David Bladies 21-64, Lucas Roetcisoender 10-27, Nathan Wynstra 2-2, Gavin Mumford 3-5.
PASSING — Meridian: Simon Burkett 9-15-0-161; Marcus McGuinn 1-3-0-5. Lynden Christian: Lucas Roetcisoender 7-14-2-106.
RECEIVING — Meridian: Nick Dritsas 6-128, Marcus McGuinn 2-22, Daniel Young 2-16. Lynden Christian: Zach Roetcisoender 3-39, Nate Hielkema 2-45, Taiji Van Dalen 1-19, David Bladies 1-3.