Plucky Montesano earns state final berth

mwochnick@theolympian.comNovember 25, 2012 

TACOMA — The Montesano Bulldogs had the community in mind while playing Mount Baker in Saturday morning’s Class 1A state semifinal.

The Bulldogs have endured a lot this season, but nothing bigger than the loss of its grandstands in a late-night Sept. 16 fire that officials still have yet to determine a cause. It happened less than 48 hours after a defeat to Hoquiam that lowered their record to 1-2 through the first three games.

The fire forced Montesano to use Aberdeen’s Stewart Field as their temporary home and returned to Rottle Field – with temporary bleachers in place – for its final home game of the season against Rainier Oct. 19.

Now, the Bulldogs will play for its first state championship since 1994 after drubbing Mount Baker, 28-6, at the Tacoma Dome.

“This means a lot to us,” said senior running back/linebacker Elliot Mendenhall, who had seven rushes for 35 yards, three catches for 21 yards and a team-best 11 tackles. “Going through the stadium burning down and having the whole community outside of the school at midnight (the night of the fire), it’s a real honor to play for a state title ... this feel awesome.”

Mendenhall said a lot has changed for the Bulldogs (11-2) since the 41-14 loss to Hoquiam. Montesano has won 10 in a row, scoring an average of 42.5 points per game. And now, after semifinal losses in four of the previous six seasons, they’ll play for the state title this weekend against Royal, which defeated River View, 31-28, in its semifinal Saturday in Kennewick.

“They preached to us every day about working hard,” Mendenhall said. “Getting 1 percent better every day and last week it was 5 percent better.”

Montesano had a 343-245 advantage in total offense. The Bulldogs held the Mountaineers (11-2) to 87 yards midway through the third quarter for a 28-0 lead.

The Bulldogs got quality performances from several players, including senior quarterback Matthew Jensen, who was 17-for-25 passing for 201 yards and two touchdowns – one to Ben Ohashi, who finished with a team-high eight catches for 79 yards, and Shad Rogers, who had five catches and a team-high 96 yards receiving.

Running back Tucker Ibabao also contributed two touchdowns on runs of 4 and 1 yards. He finished with a team-high 74 yards on 21 carries.

Most of Mount Baker’s offense came from Jake Schleimer, who had a game-high 164 yards on 26 carries and had a 2-yard touchdown run with just over a minute left in the third quarter.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 @megwochnick

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