High School Football

For four years, Mount Baker has experienced unprecedented success; will it continue?

Mount Baker seeking fifth straight trip to 1A quarterfinals in 2016

Mount Baker football coach Ron Lepper and running back/linebacker Jed Schleimer talk about what to expect from the Mountaineers in 2016.
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Mount Baker football coach Ron Lepper and running back/linebacker Jed Schleimer talk about what to expect from the Mountaineers in 2016.

Perhaps more than any other team in Whatcom County, there’s a special bond between the Mount Baker football team and the surrounding community it calls home.

Mount Baker Highway drivers routinely send the Mountaineers a honk of support when the team is practicing on its roadside facility, and coaches return a wave of appreciation. Part of the connection exists because the team traditionally embodies the community’s gritty, blue-collar work ethic on the gridiron.

“Our community is great,” senior running back/linebacker Jed Schleimer said. “Seeing the number of people in the stands, that really pumps us up and makes us want to work harder to give them a good product.”

Over the past four years, coach Ron Lepper’s squad has delivered more than just a good product – Mount Baker has sustained an unprecedented level of success, reaching at least the Class 1A state quarterfinals each year and advancing to the program’s first state semifinal appearance in 2012 and the title game in 2013.

You never know when it’s going to happen again. We don’t take that lightly, and there’s a lot of work to get back to that point, but it’s also a lot of fun to get there and do those things.

Mount Baker coach Ron Lepper

It’s a run the team would love to continue in 2016.

“The community obviously has very high expectations for us, but for the team, our expectations are way higher,” Schleimer said. “Four years running of winning the conference title is a big deal to us.”

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Mountaineers’ run has been their ability to overcome the graduation of a handful of crucial players each year while maintaining strong chemistry.

They’ll face a similar challenge again, as Mount Baker must replace its starting quarterback and two all-state linemen.

.816 Mount Baker’s winning percentage the past four seasons (40-9), when the Mountaineers have won four straight 1A NWC titles and advanced to at least the state quarterfinals.

“We pride ourselves in doing certain things,” Lepper said, “and replacing guys is one of them. You may not be as big or as good or as strong as the guy you’re replacing, but you’re replacing somebody, and you have a chance to step into that position, and we need you to play at that level. Guys have answered that challenge.”

That task should be made easier this year, as Mount Baker returns its top two running backs – Schleimer and Carson Engholm, who combined for nearly 3,400 yards and 40 touchdowns in 2015.

They’ll run behind a line that has three returners – Gene Fleming, Maxwell Tolman and tight end T.J. Bass – and will mix in a couple of seniors who have been waiting for their chance – Will Hunter and Braxton Shannon.

One of our mission statements we tell the kids is we want to put on a good show every Friday night. Whether we win or lose, we want people to feel they got their money’s worth.

Mount Baker coach Ron Lepper

They’ll protect sophomore quarterback Caleb Bass – a former ball boy and the younger brother of former Baker players Seth and Mason Bass. This won’t be the first time a sophomore has called signals for Lepper, who said he sees potential in the youngster if he plays within himself.

The return of leading receiver Thomas Barbo – last year’s midseason move from running back – should help.

Mount Baker’s defensive front seven again figures to be stout with the return of the three linemen along with Schleimer and Carson Brandland at linebacker.

“We pride ourselves in being physical on both sides of the ball,” Lepper said. “That’s Baker football.”

And that’s a team its community can get behind.

2016 schedule

Date

Opponent

Time

Sept. 2

at Roosevelt

7 p.m.

Sept. 9

Kelowna (B.C.)

7 p.m.

Sept. 16

Port Townsend

7 p.m.

Sept. 23

Nooksack Valley*

7 p.m.

Sept. 30

at Lynden Christian*

7 p.m.

Oct. 7

Meridian*

7 p.m.

Oct. 14

at Nooksack Valley*

7 p.m.

Oct. 21

Lynden Christian*

7 p.m.

Oct. 28

at Meridian*

7 p.m.

*1A Northwest Conference game

2016 roster

No.

Player

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

Pos.

3

Kobee Malone

5-7

141

So.

RB/DB

4

Jed Schleimer

6-2

203

Sr.

RB/LB

5

Zandy Zender

5-10

144

Jr.

WR/DB

9

Carson Brandland

5-11

154

Jr.

QB/LB

11

Sergey Fandalyuk

6-0

136

Sr.

WR/DB

12

Kaleb Bass

5-10

146

So.

QB/DB

19

Michael Kentner

6-2

167

So.

WR/DB

20

Colten Harkness

6-0

142

So.

RB/LB

21

Jonathan Ehlers

5-7

152

Sr.

RB/DB

22

William Pilat

5-5

136

Sr.

WR/DB

24

Carson Engholm

6-0

156

So.

RB/DB

26

Junior Camacho

5-8

156

Jr.

RB/DB

32

Thomas Barbo

6-2

194

Jr.

RB/LB

33

Sam Barrett

5-9

162

So.

RB/LB

39

Jay Allen

6-1

176

So.

RB/LB

41

Alex Kotsyuba

5-10

156

So.

RB/LB

44

Hayden Linderman

5-10

173

Jr.

TE/LB

47

T.J. Bass

6-5

266

Sr.

TE/DL

50

Ethan Miller

5-8

186

Jr.

OL/DL

52

Luke Steeves

5-10

185

Jr.

OL/DL

53

Michael Barton

5-9

187

Jr.

OL/LB

55

Noah Rathjen

5-7

210

So.

OL/LB

56

Braeden Shannon

5-8

225

So.

OL/DL

57

J.J. Kalsbeek

5-9

191

So.

OL/DL

58

Owyn Alvino-Vance

5-7

175

So.

OL/DL

59

Wyatt Marsing

6-0

183

Sr.

OL/DL

60

Roberto Garcia

5-10

224

Jr.

OL/DL

61

Will Hunter

6-0

182

Sr.

OL/LB

66

Gene Fleming

6-0

196

Sr.

OL/DL

67

Kyler Steeves

5-11

166

Jr.

OL/DL

73

Jordan Mitchell

5-11

278

Jr.

OL/DL

75

Maxwell Tolman

5-11

236

Sr.

OL/DL

77

Braxton Shannon

5-10

231

Sr.

OL/DL

79

Logan Sanday

5-11

226

So.

OL/DL

80

Chase Barter

6-0

150

Jr.

WR/DB

81

Noah Armstrong

5-7

142

Jr.

WR/DB

84

Jesus Torrero

5-7

145

Sr.

RB/DB

87

Chase Craiger

6-0

174

So.

TE/DE

2015 results

Date

Opponent

Score

Sept. 4

at Sedro-Woolley

L 20-7

Sept. 11

Oroville

W 69-14

Sept. 18

Cascade

W 52-0

Sept. 25

Nooksack Valley*

W 64-30

Oct. 2

at Meridian*

W 33-28

Oct. 9

Lynden Christian*

W 38-22

Oct. 16

at Nooksack Valley*

W 57-14

Oct. 23

Meridian*

W 36-15

Oct. 30

at Lynden Christian*

W 27-15

1A NORTHWEST DISTRICT PLAYOFFS

Nov. 6

Sultan

W 56-7

1A STATE PLAYOFFS

Nov. 14

Kalama

W 47-42

Nov. 21

Montesano

L 51-21

*1A Northwest Conference game

2015 statistical leaders

RUSHING

Player

Att.

Yards

Avg.

TD

Jed Schleimer

220

2,511

11.4

34

Carson Engholm

131

883

6.7

6

Vadim Kotsyuba

30

244

8.1

2

Mason Bass

40

223

5.6

7

PASSING

Player

Att.

Cmp.

Yards

TD

Int.

Mason Bass

135

71

1,292

14

9

Jed Schleimer

2

1

26

1

0

RECEIVING

Player

Rec.

Yards

Avg.

TD

Thomas Barbo

31

623

20.1

7

T.J. Bass

13

225

17.3

3

Vadim Kotsyuba

11

179

16.3

2

Jed Schleimer

11

143

13.0

2

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