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Football forecast: Ferndale’s first-round game draws the most intrigue

4 Whatcom County teams turn attention to state tournament contests

Timberline running back Ronaldo Salazar-Gonzalez is stopped by Ferndale’s Ryder Beaven and Kleaveland Atwood (6) Saturday
Timberline running back Ronaldo Salazar-Gonzalez is stopped by Ferndale’s Ryder Beaven and Kleaveland Atwood (6) Saturday (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

State tournament seedings are set and the time and place of each Whatcom County team’s first-round matchups have been finalized.

Four teams made it, and each will face varying degrees of difficulty in their tournament opening games. All four also earned home games to begin their brackets.

Here’s what you should know:

Game of the week (3A state tournament, first round):

No. 8 Ferndale vs. No. 9 Mount Tahoma

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, Ferndale High School

Ferndale record: 8-2

Ferndale’s result last week: Beat Timberline, 42-14 (week 10 playoff)

Mount Tahoma record: 7-3

Mount Tahoma’s result last week: Beat West Seattle, 53-14 (week 10 playoff)

Final prediction: 33-25, Ferndale

photo  Ferndale’s Bishop Ootsey carries the ball for a first down between a gaggle of Timberline defenders. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Typically, highlighting a team in consecutive weeks (Ferndale) wouldn’t be preferred. However, this is the only game among the four that should be close — a result of the Golden Eagles being the lowest seed in their respective bracket of the local teams (also in a tougher classification).

Both of these squads are quality football teams, but only one can advance. Ferndale, though, has the benefit of hosting. 

Mount Tahoma’s schedule is puzzling. The T-Birds have two losses to teams currently playing in state tournament brackets, but neither of which are in Class 3A. 

They lost to North Kitsap (No. 4 in Class 2A), 24-21, in their first game of the season, and Eastlake (No. 4 in Class 4A) the next week, 35-28. Mount Tahoma’s third loss came against Battle Ground, which finished the season 2-7 overall, in a high-scoring 54-41 game.

The T-Birds’ only win against a team still playing was a 24-20 victory over Class 3A’s No. 13 seed, Lincoln. That said, Mount Tahoma is averaging 32.3 points per game while allowing 15.9.

Ferndale, arguably playing in a more competitive league, is averaging 31.3 points per game while giving up 17.3. The Golden Eagles have two high-quality wins and one horrendous loss to Marysville-Getchell in early October.

Their wins over Lynden (No. 5 in Class 2A bracket) and Marysville-Pilchuck (No. 16 in Class 3A) are why the Golden Eagles were slotted where they are, in addition to a convincing win last week over Timberline.

The winner of this game likely has an extremely tough matchup with top-seeded Yelm (10-0) in the quarterfinals, assuming it beats Marysville-Pilchuck. Ferndale will attempt to make it past the quarterfinals for the first time since 2005 when it won the 3A state championship. 

Ferndale player to watch: RB/DL/K Phoenyx Finkbonner, senior

Watching Ferndale’s usage of Finkbonner is fascinating. 

He’s an excellent short-yardage running back with a powerful rushing style, and he had eight carries for 73 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win over Timberline. 

Finkbonner notched the third most carries of any Golden Eagles offensive player, but they always came in crucial down-and-distance situations. 

Add in his defensive presence and the possibility of him needing to kick a game-winning field goal at some point, and he is one of the most important players on this Ferndale team.

Of note: Finkbonner had a 64-yard touchdown scramble on a would-be punt in last season’s first-round win over Kelso.

photo  Ferndale’s Phoenyx Finkbonner beats the Timberline defense to the endzone. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Mount Tahoma player to watch: QB/DB Tre Walker, senior

Walker is one of Mount Tahoma’s dangerous offensive weapons, especially considering he is leading that group at the quarterback position.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound signal caller had 117 yards rushing via eight carries, according to the Tacoma News Tribune, in the T-Birds’ dominant win over West Seattle last week.

Expect him to be a focal point, and the primary player Ferndale tries to contain.

1A state tournament, first round: No. 6 Nooksack Valley vs. No. 11 Cascade Christian

5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, Civic Stadium

Nooksack Valley record: 7-2

Nooksack Valley’s result last week: Beat Granite Falls, 56-0

Cascade Christian record: 8-2

Cascade Christian’s result last week: Beat Klahowya, 62-22

Final prediction: 51-16, Nooksack Valley

photo  As fans celebrate behind him, Nooksack Valley’s Jackson Bennett runs in for a 63-yard touchdown reception Sept. 8 in the Pioneers’ win over Connell. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Nooksack Valley has something to prove this postseason. The Pioneers have scored 50 or more points four times this season (not including two games where they scored 49) after losing to in-county rival Mount Baker in last year’s 1A state semifinals.

Their two losses were to King’s (No. 5 in 1A bracket) and Lynden Christian (No. 3 in 1A bracket) and were by a combined three points. 

All in all, NV is averaging 48.8 points per game while allowing 14.0 — a clear statement of the Pioneers’ dominance in the regular season while playing a tough slate of games. The Pioneers have two wins against state-bound teams, beating 1A Connell (No. 14) and 3A Mountain View (No. 12) early in the season.

Cascade Christian’s resume boasts four encouraging results for Cougars fans: A 15-13 loss to King’s, a 36-13 win over Life Christian Academy and a 26-0 win over Eatonville.

All three of the above opponents are in the 1A state tournament — with King’s also beating NV by two points — and the Cougars are averaging 41.7 points per game while allowing 12.2.

NV can hang its hat on the quality of opponents it’s played, and it should win this one.

2A state tournament, first round: No. 5 Lynden vs. No. 12 Bremerton

6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, Civic Stadium

Lynden record: 7-2

Lynden’s result last week: Idle

Bremerton record: 8-2

Bremerton’s result last week: Beat Renton, 39-22

Final prediction: 26-7, Lynden

photo  Lynden’s Brant Heppner looks to pass to Cooper Moore Friday, Oct. 27 against Anacortes. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Lynden hasn’t been bounced in the first round of the state tournament since 2017, and that streak should continue this week.

Following their season-opening, three-point loss to Ferndale, the Lions won seven straight games until meeting undefeated Anacortes — the No. 2 seed in this year’s 2A state tournament. Even then, Lynden lost by just seven on a game-sealing end-zone interception.

Bremerton’s resume also lacks a signature win. The Knights’ only game versus a state-bound opponent was a 41-14 loss to North Kitsap. 

The Lions are sure to be hungry after falling short of a 2A Northwest Conference title this season, and they should get out of Civic Stadium on Friday with a win.

1A state tournament, first round: No. 3 Lynden Christian vs. No. 14 Connell

4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, Blaine High School

Lynden Christian record: 7-2

Lynden Christian’s result last week: Idle

Connell record: 5-5

Connell’s result last week: Beat La Salle, 24-21

Final prediction: 63-13, Lynden Christian

photo  Lynden Christian’s Kayden Stuit leaps over a Royal player Sept. 23 during the Lyncs’ game against the Knights. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Connell is a bit of an oddity. The Eagles, with a .500 record, are in the tournament and ahead of two teams with winning records, and it’s all because of their strength of schedule.

Four teams Connell lost to are in the 1A state tournament, and the Eagles’ opponents on the season possess a .606 winning percentage. 

Despite this, the comparison isn’t complicated. Nooksack Valley beat Connell 63-14 in the second week of the season, and LC edged NV 21-20 in the two teams’ regular-season meeting.

In fact, if NV and LC each win this week, the in-county rivals are set to rematch in the quarterfinals.

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