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Football forecast: Ferndale, Nooksack Valley gearing up for playoffs

Ferndale's home game versus Timberline headlines week 10

Ferndale’s Phoenyx Finkbonner is lifted into the air Sept. 15 after scoring a touchdown in Ferndale’s 22-16 win over Glacier Peak. The Golden Eagles will host Timberline for their week 10 playoff game with a 3A state tournament berth on the line.
Ferndale’s Phoenyx Finkbonner is lifted into the air Sept. 15 after scoring a touchdown in Ferndale’s 22-16 win over Glacier Peak. The Golden Eagles will host Timberline for their week 10 playoff game with a 3A state tournament berth on the line. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

It’s playoff football time in Whatcom County. Six local teams are playing season-ending week 10 games this week, and two others will battle for state tournament spots via play-in games.

Ferndale will host a playoff game, while Nooksack Valley is going on the road. 

All told, there are seven games this week — the most we will have for the remainder of the football season.

Here’s what you should know about the matches: 

Game of the week: Timberline at Ferndale

5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, Ferndale High School

Ferndale record: 7-2 (4-2 3A Wesco North)

Ferndale’s result last week: Beat Edmonds-Woodway, 49-14

Timberline record: 5-4 (4-3 3A South Sound Conference)

Timberline’s result last week: Beat Peninsula, 35-0

Final prediction: 31-21, Ferndale

photo  Ferndale’s Bishop Ootsey center, lets out a yell Sept. 15 as he and teammates celebrate their win against Glacier Peak. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Ferndale has now reached a week 10 playoff game for the eighth straight season (not counting 2020–21, where there was no postseason). The Golden Eagles are 3-4 in those games coming into this contest but, similar to last season, they once again have the benefit of hosting the game.

It’s been a nearly perfect October for Ferndale, which has won three in a row. Its last loss was to Marysville-Getchell, 14-13, on Oct. 6. Now the Golden Eagles are playing for their second straight 3A state tournament berth.

Ferndale is averaging 30.1 points per game while allowing 17.7. Timberline is near that mark while also playing in a difficult conference, averaging 28.0 points per game and 17.9 points per game allowed.

Timberline comes into the game following a three-way tiebreaker with Capital and Peninsula on Tuesday, Oct. 31 — emerging as the South Sound Conference’s third-place team behind Yelm and Gig Harbor.

If we’re putting any weight in the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s RPI rankings (proceed with caution), Ferndale is ranked No. 4 after nine weeks and Timberline is No. 27. Timberline is, however, the highest-ranked four-loss team on the list.

Ferndale is powered through its running game — no surprise to many Golden Eagles lifers. Amassing gaudy numbers on the ground, Ferndale has three rushers over 500 yards on the season, according to Whatcom Preps, in junior running back Talan Bungard, senior running back Phoenyx Finkbonner and senior wingback Conner Walcker.

This is the Blazers’ third consecutive playoff game in week 10, but they have gone 0-2 in those contests (both 28-7 losses). 

Ferndale player to watch: WB/S, Conner Walcker, senior

photo  Ferndale’s Conner Walcker pushes away a Glacier Peak defender Sept. 15 as he runs down the sideline for a first down. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Yes, Walcker was the player to watch the last time Ferndale was tagged the Game of the Week, but that was nearly two months ago (Sept. 15). Bungard is going to carry the ball more than any other Golden Eagle (156 carries, 990 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2023), but Walcker adds the element of surprise to Ferndale’s offense.

The senior is averaging 12.3 yards per carry (543 rush yards and seven touchdowns) at the wingback position this season, according to Whatcom Preps, getting the ball anywhere that will use his explosive speed and dynamic rushing ability. He also has 11 catches on the year for 310 yards. 

Walcker will also be key on the defensive side of the ball as a safety, entering this week as the fifth-leading tackler in Whatcom County with 63 tackles, according to Whatcom Preps.

Timberline player to watch: LB/TE Darrell Gipson Jr., junior

Gipson will be a difficult player for Ferndale’s offensive line to contain. The junior has amassed 89 total tackles, 22 tackles for loss, five sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and much more. 

If Ferndale allows Gipson to start plugging holes, the Golden Eagles’ rushing attack could struggle more than it has in most games this season. 

An insane stat line: Gipson recorded 20 tackles, six tackles for loss, three pass breakups, a blocked punt, two catches and a receiving touchdown in Timberline’s 35-0 win over Peninsula last week, according to Jon Manley of the Tacoma News Tribune.

Nooksack Valley at Granite Falls

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, Granite Falls High School

Nooksack Valley record: 6-2 (3-1 NWC)

Nooksack Valley’s result last week: Beat Blaine, 49-2

Granite Falls record: 7-2 (3-1 Emerald Sound Conference)

Granite Falls’ result last week: Beat South Whidbey, 56-31

Final prediction: 55-13, Nooksack Valley

photo  Nooksack Valley’s Colton Lentz gets hit low Oct. 6 as he leaps into the end zone for the touchdown. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

A three-way tiebreaker for a second straight season was avoided with Lynden Christian’s win over Mount Baker on Thursday, Oct. 26 — sending Nooksack Valley to the postseason.

The Pioneers, however, will now have to get past a crossover game with Granite Falls to decide which team advances to the 1A state tournament. LC got the bye week after going 4-0 in league games (including a 21-20 win over Nooksack Valley on Friday, Oct. 6).

Nooksack Valley comes into the game as the No. 9 ranked team in Class 1A within the WIAA’s RPI rankings. Granite Falls, which plays in a far less competitive league, is No. 12.

Granite Falls suffered a 22-13 loss to Meridian in the first game of the season, while Nooksack Valley crushed the Trojans, 65-14, on Sept. 29. 

The Pioneers have an average margin of victory of 32.1 (47.9 points per game, 15.8 points allowed per game), to Granite Falls’ average of 14.5 (34.1 points per game, 19.6 points allowed per game) against lesser opponents. Nooksack Valley’s two losses were also by a combined three points — both to state championship contenders in King’s and LC.

Nooksack Valley should have no problem reaching the 1A state tournament for the second straight season.

Squalicum at Mount Baker

6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, Mount Baker High School

Squalicum record: 3-6 (1-6 NWC)

Squalicum’s result last week: Lost to Sedro-Woolley, 50-7

Mount Baker record: 3-6 (2-2 NWC)

Mount Baker’s result last week: Lost to Lynden Christian, 49-13

Final prediction: 25-18, Mount Baker

This is a difficult game to pick, particularly because both teams’ schedules could not have been more different.

Squalicum’s only league win was a 28-13 victory over a Burlington-Edison team that finished its season 0-8 overall and 0-6 in NWC games. The Storm’s other two victories were in weeks one and two versus Canadian teams.

Mount Baker, on the other hand, won league games versus Blaine and Meridian — far from the conference’s top teams, but tougher tasks than Squalicum’s British Columbian opponents. 

Squalicum’s 38-34 loss to Sehome on Friday, Oct. 20 was an encouraging one, particularly because the Mariners had been competitive for much of the season. 

Both teams will finish their seasons with this contest, making it a leave-it-all-on-the-field scenario.

Sehome at Mount Vernon

6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, Mount Vernon High School

Sehome record: 6-3 (4-3 NWC)

Sehome’s result last week: Beat Lakewood, 24-20

Mount Vernon record: 2-7 (0-6 3A Wesco North)

Mount Vernon’s result last week: Beat Lynnwood, 52-12

Final prediction: 27-23, Sehome

Sehome’s up-and-down season will conclude versus Class 3A Mount Vernon. The Mariners are victims of a loaded 2A NWC, finishing fourth in the league despite winning four conference games.

After losing three of four games from Sept. 15 – Oct. 7, Sehome fell out of the playoff race. The three losses were to Lynden, Anacortes and Sedro-Woolley — the former two are headed to the 2A state tournament.

The Mariners have a good opportunity to finish the season on a high note and with four consecutive victories.

Sultan at Bellingham

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, Civic Stadium

Bellingham record: 5-4 (League N/A)

Bellingham’s result last week: Lost to Meridian, 23-21

Sultan record: 6-3 (1-3 Emerald Sound Conference)

Sultan’s result last week: Beat Klahowya, 56-27

Final prediction: 36-32, Bellingham

photo  Bellingham’s Wyatt Stephan hauls in a pass for a 49-yard touchdown Oct. 13 in a game versus Blaine. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Last week was Bellingham’s second “prove it” game of the season. The Bayhawks have had a nice season in their independent schedule, and they scheduled Meridian for Friday, Oct. 27 to gauge their competitiveness in the NWC.

Unfortunately, after an impressive 40-23 win over Blaine on Oct. 13 (also a NWC opponent), Bellingham lost to Meridian on a last-second, game-winning field goal — ending the Bayhawks’ five-game win streak that stretched back to Sept. 21.

Sultan won’t roll over for Bellingham, and this should be an interesting season-ender for both teams.

Meridian at Cedar Park Christian

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, Juanita High School

Meridian record: 4-5 (0-4 NWC)

Meridian’s result last week: Beat Bellingham, 23-21

Cedar Park Christian record: 5-4 (2-2 Emerald Sound Conference)

Cedar Park Christian’s result last week: Forfeited to King’s

Final prediction: 21-16, Meridian

photo  Meridian’s Jaeger Fyfe intercepts a pass intended for Mount Baker’s Landen Hanstead Oct. 20 during a game against the Mountaineers. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Meridian snapped its four-game losing streak last week, defeating Bellingham in a close contest. The Trojans’ opportunities to earn a league win have passed, but they can still conclude their season on a high note when they head south to take on Cedar Park Christian.

It’s been a rollercoaster season for Meridian, as the best they can finish is 5-5 after beginning the season 3-1. The Trojans are rebuilding, and this is a chance to carry some momentum into next season.

Blaine at East Jefferson

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, Port Townsend Memorial Stadium

Blaine record: 2-7 (1-3 NWC)

Blaine’s result last week: Lost to Nooksack Valley, 49-2

East Jefferson record: 0-8 (0-5)

East Jefferson’s result last week: Lost to Bellevue Christian, 51-12

Final prediction: 53-19, Blaine

Blaine gave itself an opportunity to finish the season with a blowout win, scheduling a winless East Jefferson team that has been outscored 408-73 this year. 

East Jefferson has allowed 50 or more points in five of its eight games this season, including a 74-0 loss to Cascade Christian School on Sept. 23.

Blaine has lost three in a row, but all to good local opponents. The Borderites should return to Whatcom County with a statement win.

Football standings — Nov. 1

3A Wesco North

Football League Overall
Team W-L W-L
Arlington 7-0 9-0
Marysville-Pilchuck 5-2 6-3
Ferndale 4-2 7-2
Marysville-Getchell 4-3 6-3
Stanwood 2-5 3-6
Oak Harbor 2-5 3-6
Mount Vernon 0-6 2-7

2A Northwest Conference

Football League Overall
Team W-L W-L
Anacortes 7-0 9-0
Lynden 6-1 7-2
Sedro-Woolley 4-3 6-3
Sehome 4-3 6-3
Archbishop Murphy 4-3 5-4
Lakewood 2-5 3-6
Squalicum 1-6 3-6
Burlington-Edison 0-7 0-9

1A Northwest Conference

Football League Overall
Team W-L W-L
Lynden Christian 4-0 7-2
Nooksack Valley 3-1 6-2
Mount Baker 2-2 3-6
Blaine 1-3 2-7
Meridian 0-4 4-5


Football League Overall
Team W-L W-L
Bellingham N/A 5-4

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