Marques George carried Mount Baker (7-4) in the final weeks of the regular season and continued to come up big for the Mountaineers. With the help of fellow running back Wilhem Maloley, the Mountaineers were able to beat Lakeside 35-20 and advance to the 1A State Semifinals.
The Mountaineers rushed for 379 yards and were repeatedly able to advance the ball throughout the contest.
Maloley extended the Mountaineers advantage 14-6 after a quick drive resulting in a 21-yard rushing touchdown. Mount Baker kept their foot on the pedal as George ended the second quarter with two rushes of more than 25 yards. With less than a minute to go in the quarter, the Mountaineers fooled the Eagle defense with a 34-yard rushing touchdown by Landen Hanstead on an inside reverse to go up 21-6 at the half.
With a two-score lead, Mount Baker continued to squash the Eagles defense with the run game. George broke out for a 44-yard run on the opening play of the third quarter. The run led to quarterback Landon Smith scoring on a walk-in two yard touchdown run.
Although George did not make it in the end zone, his huge rushing spurts gave the Mountaineer control.
“My blocks are great,” George said. “And when they’re great, it’s easy.”
Trailing 28-6 in the final minutes of the third, Kole Hunsaker led the Eagles 94 yards down the field, culminating in a 8-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Mikkelson.
Heading into the final quarter, the Eagles defense forced the Mountaineers to punt quickly. The following Lakeside drive resulted in a touchdown pass from Hunsaker to Sadahiro Patterson for 72 yards. After failing their previous couple of two-point conversions, Hunsaker found Patterson again to force a one score game 28-20.
With seven minutes to go, the Eagles got the turnover they needed in an interception by Caleb Kakuda.
The Mountaineers defense got driven all the way down to their own 26 yard line before forcing the most critical turnover of the game with four minutes to go. Hunsaker capped off his three touchdowns and 315 passing yards with a crucial fumble.
The Mountaineers found success through a three-man rush as Hunsaker was forced to scramble throughout the game. The tough front for Mt Baker was able to prevent any comeback hopes for the Eagles.
“We pride ourselves on (physicality),” Mt Baker coach Ron Lepper said. “And we’ve learned through adversity. Driving all the way over here – people thought we were crazy.”
The Mountaineers capitalized on the turnover and finished the last minutes of the game the way they started; running the ball. Maloley found the endzone for his second score on an eight yard run to ice the game 35-20.
“Being able to cause that fumble and get to the endzone was just awesome,” said Lepper. “After going 3-4 overall (earlier) we said ‘Hey, why not us?’. That’s been our mentality and it’s paid off.”
In what looked like a potentially miraculous comeback, the Mountaineers stuck to their game plan and advanced to the 1A State Semifinals.
“It’s the mindset,” George said on what it took to advance. “We’re a physical team all around and we worked for this.”
“We’ve had our backs against the wall for the last couple weeks,” Lepper said. “(At halftime) we knew we still had a lot of work to do.”
The Mountaineers will play for a shot at the 1A State Championship as they play Nooksack Valley (8-2) Saturday Nov. 26.