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Ferndale clinches 3A state berth with lopsided win over Timberline

Golden Eagles pile up 324 yards rushing, 6 TDs in 42-14 win

Ferndale’s Conner Walcker leaps in for the touchdown Saturday
Ferndale’s Conner Walcker leaps in for the touchdown Saturday (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

FERNDALE — The Golden Eagles galloped into the 3A state tournament via 324 yards rushing and six touchdowns as Ferndale defeated Timberline 42-14 in a week 10 playoff game on Saturday, Nov. 4 at Ferndale High School.

Nine different ball carriers helped Ferndale (8-2) secure its second consecutive state berth, toting the rock a combined 53 times and averaging 6.1 yards per carry on the night. 

Conversely, Ferndale held Timberline (5-5) — a quality rushing offense — to just 32 yards on 19 carries.

“I was pretty concerned coming in, just with their athleticism and size,” Ferndale head coach Jamie Plenkovich said. “Our guys did a good job battling defensively. We did a great job taking away the run game.”

photo  Ferndale’s Talan Bungard runs in for a touchdown. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Senior Eastern Washington University commit Conner Walcker led Ferndale on the ground with 125 yards and two TDs on 14 carries. Much of Walcker’s production came on a 49-yard run early in the second quarter — the longest play of the game.

Walcker, along with other seniors like quarterback Bishop Ootsey and lineman Camden Raymond, have been integral to Ferndale’s continued success after losing 13 seniors at the end of last year. Six of those players were high-level starters, and three are currently on NCAA Division I rosters.

“We lost three college football players that are playing on Saturdays,” Plenkovich said. “So for our guys to step up and back to this point, I’m super proud of our guys.”

Ferndale was the No. 7 seed in last year’s 3A state tournament and lost to No. 2 Eastside Catholic — the eventual state runners-up — in the quarterfinals.

They will head into “State Seeding Sunday,” Nov. 5, ranked third in the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s RPI rankings. 

photo  Ferndale’s Bishop Ootsey breaks up a pass intended for Timberline’s Cedric Ragland. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

“We’ve got to keep winning. I feel like the tensions are high and you got to stay calm [during state],” Walcker said. “I love that pressure.”

Walcker got Ferndale on the board early, with 7:01 left in the first quarter, on a 7-yard rushing score. On the first play of the second quarter, Walcker got his second TD on a 5-yard run, giving Ferndale a 14-0 lead after just two offensive drives.

Senior running back Phoenyx Finkbonner, who had 73 yards rushing and two TDs on just eight carries, scored his first on a 12-yard run with 7:30 left in the first half.

Timberline punted on each of its first three drives, but a turnover on downs by the Golden Eagles gave the Blazers the ball on their own 20 with time to spare. Capping off an 80-yard scoring drive, sophomore quarterback Synjae Colston found senior wide receiver Cedric Ragland for a 16-yard TD with 13.4 seconds left in the half and Ferndale led 21-7 at the break.

On a down night for the Golden Eagles’ leading rusher, junior Talan Bungard re-extended Ferndale’s lead to 21 with 8:29 left in the third quarter on a 6-yard rushing TD. Bungard finished with 55 rushing yards on 13 carries.

photo  Ferndale’s Conner Walcker, Jacob Gandy and Aydin O’Tool take down Timberline’s Darrell Gipson Jr. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

That was the beginning of another set of 21 unanswered points for Ferndale, as Finkbonner and junior running back Jacob Gandy punched in rushing scores over the game’s final 15 minutes. 

Timberline got one more score — a 21-yard TD pass from Colston to junior wide receiver Sunny Nguyen — with 48 seconds left in the game.

Plenkovich praised his team’s defensive effort against senior tight end and linebacker Darrell Gipson Jr., arguably Timberline’s top talent. Gipson Jr. finished with five catches for 67 yards.

“We knew in third down and any critical down here, they were going to try to get him the football,” Plenkovich said. “He’s a big body on defense, too, and active.”

Gandy finished with eight carries for 33 yards and a score, while Ootsey ran six times for 33 yards and completed 6-of-7 passes for 33 yards.

For Timberline, Colston completed 10-of-21 passes for 166 yards and two TDs.

The Blazers’ season came to an end, while the Golden Eagles will await their opponent for next week’s round of 16.

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