Heppner leads with three rushing TDs in redemption win
FERNDALE -- It was a measuring stick for two programs searching for their first wins of the year early in the season. Both Lynden and Ferndale were coming off painful losses from last week but it was the Lions that separated themselves on Friday night.
No. 8 Lynden (1-1) pounded the rock for 259 yards and imposed their will on the Golden Eagles (0-2) in a 33-21 win that was not as close as the score indicated.
Senior quarterback Brock Heppner ran for 132 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Lions in a bounce-back win after being upset 21-14 by Mount Baker last week.
“We wanted redemption from Baker,” Heppner said. “It feels pretty nice to get this win. First win of the season, and against Ferndale, it means a lot more. All we wanted was to redeem ourselves.”
With a steady rain falling the entire night, the Lions were forced to go away from their usual balanced offense and rode the legs of Heppner, senior tailback Steven DiLorenzo (92 yards, one TD on 17 carries) and junior quarterback Baylor Ayres (four carries for 45 yards and a TD).
On the other side, Ferndale was reeling from a 55-0 thrashing from Lake Stevens, the Class 4A runners-up in 2018. Golden Eagles’ four-star guard and defensive tackle, Geirean Hatchett, who signed with the University of Washington, wasn’t enough to help the Golden Eagles’ ground game get traction this week.
“You can’t really block the dude or keep him blocked for very long,” Heppner said.
The Golden Eagles’ did see some promising flashes from their offense with big plays that set up their three touchdowns, including one from senior running back Jacob Broselle, who had a 34-yard run down the sideline and a 51-yard reception.
But it was the turnovers, lack of third-down conversions and inability to slow Lynden’s rushing attack that ultimately doomed Ferndale.
“They just kept driving it down the field and we couldn’t stop them,” Broselle said. “We were making mistakes, just the little things; jumping offsides, not making those conversions when we needed to. It hurt us in the end.”
The Lions led by as many as 20 with 3:04 left to play, with the score 33-13 after Heppner tacked on his third rushing TD of the night, but it was a slugfest for most of the first half.
Lynden scored quickly after drilling Ferndale’s punter and forcing a fumble on the opening drive after the Golden Eagles tried a fake punt run. The Lions recovered on the Golden Eagles’ 21 before Heppner punched it in from one-yard out to take an early 7-0 lead with 8:34 left in the first quarter.
Ferndale tied it up early in the second quarter after Broselle hauled in a 51-yard pass down the sideline, setting up his six-yard sweep around the left side for a touchdown to notch it up at seven a piece.
The Lions drove down the field, capped by DiLorenzo’s five-yard TD run around the right side to help the Lions regain the lead at 13-7.
Then the momentum-shifter happened.
Ferndale drove the length of the field, highlighted by sophomore running back Ryan Pelton’s 29-yard run down the sideline, and three plays later the Golden Eagles found themselves one-yard away from potentially taking their first lead of the game.
Ferndale ran it up the gut and lost the ball with three seconds left before the half as Lynden senior Jordan Elsner recovered and the Lions ran out the clock to go into the break.
“We just knew we needed to get a stop and, wow, what a big one,” VanDalen said.
It’s all Lynden needed.
The Lions took the second-half kickoff and orchestrated a clock-eating drive, with heavy doses of quarterback keepers from Heppner that ate up the first nine minutes of the third quarter. It finally ended with his nine-yard TD romp that put the Lions up 19-7.
“Same play every time and we just couldn’t stop it,” Broselle said.
Two plays later, senior DB Eric Bode picked off Ferndale and returned it 12 yards down to the Golden Eagles’ 44. A couple of first downs later and Ayres ran it in from 10 yards out and Lynden went up 26-7 with 11 minutes to play.
The Lions fully utilized the new 40-second play clock. In previous years, teams had 25 seconds to run a play once the referee placed the ball. This year WIAA implemented a running 40-second clock. As soon as the whistle is blown after a player is tackled, the play clock goes to 40 and starts running.
“When we’re behind, like last week, we didn’t like it,” VanDalen said. “When we control the tempo, like tonight, we love the 40-second clock. We drained that third quarter.”
This week, unlike against Mount Baker, the Lions had the lead for the entire game. It takes them about 10 seconds to line up, so instead of having 25 seconds like in previous years, they often had 30 seconds to call a play against Ferndale. That extra time allowed the Lions to implement audibles and catch the Golden Eagles off guard.
Lynden now prepares to host what could be its stiffest test this season in second-ranked Steilacoom (1-1). The Class 2A Sentinels are led by five-star wide receiver Emeka Egbuka, the No. 1 rated junior athlete in Washington and the No. 9 athlete in the nation. The following week the Lions face No. 4 Archbishop Murphy, a team that upset top-ranked Hockinson 27-21 on Friday.
“We were humbled last week,” VanDalen said. “We were not the best version of ourselves, and today we took a step toward being the team we want to be. Next week will be interesting.”
Ferndale is traveling to Marysville-Getchell (0-1) in its 3A Wesco opener next Friday at 7 p.m.
Scores from around the county:
Mount Baker 28, Sehome 10
Nooksack Valley 42, Granite Falls 0
Lakewood 49, Bellingham 0
Lord Tweedsmuir 21, Blaine 0
Arlington 33, Squalicum 7