The first thing Mount Baker football coach Ron Lepper said to his players after the game was “thank you.”
And it was well deserved.
Trailing 21-6 at halftime, the Mountaineers clawed their way back, eventually coming away with a 33-28 win over Class 1A opponent Meridian on Friday, Oct. 2, at Meridian High School.
“I just saw them not quit,” Lepper said. “We didn’t particularly play well in the first half. Meridian got after us pretty good. We asked the kids at halftime, can we play 24 minutes of our football?”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
The Mountaineers came out the second half and were much more physical, and eventually rewarded by two 10-yard TD passes from Mason Bass – the first to T.J. Bass with 4:46 left in the game and then to Thomas Barbo to make it 21-19 at the start of the fourth quarter.
The senior quarterback made the big play on defense too, intercepting a Meridian pass with eight minutes left, leading to the go-ahead score – a two-yard punch-in from Mason Bass. He converted the two-point try to make it 27-21.
But Meridian wasn’t rolling over.
The Trojans took the next drive 72 yards, capped by Nikolas Dritsas’ 10-yard TD catch off a deflected pass from Simon Burkett to give Meridian the lead back at 28-27 with 2:04 remaining.
During the drive, however, a mystery minute was suddenly added to the clock, which ended up favoring the Mountaineers because on the Mounties’ next possession, they took the ball 87 yards to score the game-winning touchdown – a 16-yard pass play from Mason Bass to T.J. Bass with 51 seconds left on the clock.
“I knew the whole time we were going to win,” Barbo said. “We are a really good second-half team. We never give up.”
When coach Ron Lepper was asked about the clock error after the game, he just grinned.
He’d much rather have his quarterback’s four touchdowns – three in air and one on ground – Carson Engholm’s 120 rushing yards and Barbo’s seven catches for 184 yards be the story of the game.
“It was a lot of fun,” Barbo said. “Mason threw some great balls to me, the offensive line did a great job blocking for him.”
The Trojans made a good effort at a last-minute game-winning drive but a Burkett pass in the red zone was overthrown with no time left on the clock.
Burkett finished 15 for 31 with 166 yards and two passing touchdowns – Alan Eyoub caught his first TD pass to put the Trojans up 7-0 in the first quarter – while running for 63 yards on six carries and a 39-yard rumbling score in the first half.
Mount Baker faces Lynden Christian next Friday while Meridian will play Nooksack Valley.
Mer – Alan Eyoub 33 pass from Simon Burkett (Eyoub kick)
Mer – Burkett 39 run (Eyoub kick)
Mer – Nikolas Dritsas 2 run (Eyoub kick)
MB – Jed Schleimer 1 run (kick blocked)
MB – T.J. Bass 10 pass from Mason Bass (Jonathan Ehlers kick)
MB – Thomas Barbo 10 pass from Mason Bass (pass fail)
MB – Mason Bass 4 run (Mason Bass run)
Mer – Dritsas 10 pass from Burkett (Eyoub kick)
MB – T.J. Bass 16 pass from Mason Bass (pass intercepted)
RUSHING — Baker: Jed Schleimer 12-20, Mason Bass 3-13, Carson Engholm 21-120, Vadim Kotsyuba 2-13. Meridian: Simon Burkett 6-63, Nikolas Dritsas 21-58, Tony Schliemer 4-12.
PASSING — Baker: 13-24-1-258. Meridian: Simon Burkett 15-31-1-166, Marcus McGuinn 1-1-0-15.
RECEIVING — Baker: Jed Schleimer 2-31, Carson Engholm 1-3, Thomas Barbo 7-184, T.J. Bass 3-40. Meridian: Marcus McGuinn 3-42, Andrew Logan 1-10, Alan Eyoub 2-39, Simon Burkett 1-15, Nik Dritsas 1-10, Tony Schliemer 1-10, Dakota Jones 5-41, Daniel Young 2-14.