Here are my five takeaways from Week 6 of the prep football season:
1. Lynden is beatable
I know, the Lions have won 33 straight games and have brought home the past three Class 2A state championships. And while six of the 19 AP voters this week selected Tumwater first over Lynden, I still voted the Lions No. 1, and deservedly so, in my opinion. Like coach Kramme has told his team many times, a win is a win no matter if you win by one point or 40 points. And frankly, the Northwest Conference is so competitive I’m not completely shocked an upstart like Burlington-Edison gave the Lions a game. But what last Friday’s 23-21 win over the Tigers illustrated was that Lynden is beatable. Before the game, the Lions’ closest contest was a 38-21 win Week 2 at Lakewood. Burlington-Edison ran well, averaging 4.25 yards per carry and was an efficient 10 of 15 in the pass game. On the other side, the Tigers’ defense limited Lynden to just 3.03 yards per rush and held Lynden to less than a 50 percent pass completion rate. In the Lions’ defense, they have been riddled with myriad injuries, and it will be interesting to see how Lynden responds this week against Ferndale. Still, I don’t think there’s any reason at this point to believe the Lions can’t win another state title, but the narrow win last week certainly raised eyebrows across the 2A state landscape.
2. Squalicum, Burlington-Edison should be considered favorites to join Lynden and Sedro-Woolley in the postseason
Records aside, after Lynden and Sedro-Woolley, the eye test shows Squalicum and Burlington-Edison are the next two best teams in the Class 2A/3A race and should fill the final two vacant postseason spots. Sure, on paper, the race is wide open with Blaine at 2-2 and Sehome at 1-3, the same league record as Burlington-Edison, but we have to look at who each team has played, how they played them and the remaining schedule left. The Storm already has Lynden and Sedro behind them and played both fairly competitively. I wouldn’t be surprised if Squalicum runs the table against Sehome, Blaine and Anacortes to finish 7-2 overall, 5-2 in league. Oddly enough, the Tigers have the same three opponents remaining and could likely also beat all three. I have a hard time counting out Sehome and Blaine this early, but the Mariners’ season has gone from bad to worse with a brutal one-point loss to Blaine followed by back-to-back lopsided losses to Lynden and Sedro. Sehome could surprise, but right now I don’t see the Mariners emulating last year’s season-ending surge with Squalicum, Ferndale and Burlington-Edison left. The Borderites are sitting good at 2-2, in theory, and control their destiny with Squalicum and Burlington-Edison left, but Blaine faces Lynden to close the year, and right now Squalicum and B-E have a better team.
3. Mount Baker has again found the right formula
The Mountaineers have done it again. At the beginning of the year last season coach Ron Lepper didn’t know what to expect of his group. They reached the Class 1A state title game. This year with a plethora of newcomers, I doubted Baker. But the Mountaineers are 5-1, 3-0 in league, ranked No. 6 in state and are in the driver’s seat for a NWC 1A title and the top seed heading into the postseason. And Baker’s formula has been tough running and hard-nosed defense. Liam Short is one of the best runners in the conference, and he gives the Mountaineers an invaluable piece on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. He’s compiled 505 yards and six touchdowns on 69 carries during the team’s first three league games against Meridian, Nooksack Valley and Meridian. There’s little reason to believe he won’t keep that going against the same teams a second time around. Baker’s matchup with Meridian next week should decide the 1A title, and with King’s awaiting the 1A’s NWC No. 2 seed, both teams will be gunning for that No. 1 spot. Remember, although King’s is 4-2, its two losses were to Lynden and Class 3A Lakeside, which is 5-1.
4. Adding a passing element to Ferndale’s attack would be beneficial
Anyone who’s watch Ferndale’s potent wing-T attack knows when its at its best, it’s fun to watch and near impossible to stop. Even in the Golden Eagles’ 24-17 loss to Squalicum last week, they ran for 319 yards, averaging 6.13 yards per carry. But when the Golden Eagles found themselves trailing by a TD late, it seemed as if they had no chance to comeback on their final drive. Watching Ferndale’s offensive evolve over the past six weeks has been interesting. Quarterback Kyler Schemstad completed 20 of 38 passes during the first two weeks, both non-league losses. Since Week 2, Schemstad has only completed 8 of 25 passes. Cleary, Ferndale went back to its ground game, and the Golden Eagles had success, going 2-2 since the change in philosophy, but the need for some passing element was apparent last week. Perhaps, the Golden Eagles could surprise this week against Lynden by trying to be more balanced.
5. The parity among Class 2A/3A teams is the best its been in years
Granted I’ve only been covering Whatcom County prep football for five years, three as a full-time reporter and two as a stringer, but even in talking with coaches across the league it’s become evident just how competitive this year’s Class 2A/3A teams are. Bellingham is having success with its independent schedule, but removing the Red Raiders from the other team’s league schedule, combined with the addition of Blaine and improvements of teams such as Squalicum and Sehome has made this year’s contests ultra competitive. Really the only team that hasn’t played at least one close game is Sedro-Woolley, but the Cubs will likely get one next week when they host Lynden. The talent level and lack of disparity should make for a fun final three weeks of the regular season, and taking a look at how the Northwest Conference teams fare in the postseason against those outside the area will also be intriguing.