BELLINGHAM — Less than 24 hours earlier, Bellingham’s Civic Stadium was witness to the ugly side of high school football, when Squalicum’s Class 3A district playoff game ended after Rainier Beach left the field following a brawl in the closing minutes.
Saturday, fans at the same site were treated to some of the best high school athletics have to offer — kids being kids, enjoying the game they love to play.
Fifth-ranked Ferndale (9-1) celebrated its 35-7 district playoff win over Capital by watching a handful of players sliding on their stomachs through puddles of rainwater in the southwest end zone, as the rest of the joyfully splashed their way to the locker room.
The Cougars (6-4) were elminated after winning four straight games to close out the regular season.
“It was unbelievable,” said Ferndale’s Ben Broselle, who rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries. “I know a lot of guys on their team, and we were talking the whole time. It was just a fun atmosphere. Nobody was chipping at each other. There was no bad mouthing each other. It was just a great atmosphere.”
Of course, the atmosphere is whole lot more fun when a team is able to roll up 443 yards rushing and secure a trip to the 3A state playoffs.
Ferndale is the Northwest District’s No. 4 seed, and will travel to face the Sea-King District’s No. 1 seed — top-ranked O’Dea (10-0) — in the first round Saturday.
“We want to continue this season; we want to continue this family,” Broselle said.”This is one of the best teams I’ve been on and one of my favorite teams I’ve been on. We just want to keep playing together, and to do that, we need to win next week.”
Broselle wasn’t the only Ferndale back to have a good time Saturday, as Cole Semu added 170 yards and two TDs on 15 carries and Justice Powell chipped in 70 more on 15 attempts.
The unstoppable trio was the picture of patience on Ferndale’s first two drives, as the Golden Eagles were as steady as the rain that started to fall shortly before kickoff.
Ferndale’s first possession took 14 plays and consumed 68 yards and most of the first quarter before Broselle bulled his way in from a yard out on the first play of the second quarter.
The Golden Eagles’ second opportunity lasted 11 plays and chewed up 64 yards with a steady diet of 7-, 8- and 9-yard runs, before Semu broke around the left end for a 12-yard touchdown.
“It was just practice and the discipline the coaches have been preaching on those drives,” Semu said.
But Ferndale showed it also can produce with big strikes, as Broselle scored from 21 yards out with 1:46 left in the first half, before breaking off a 70-yard run 1:07 into the third. Semu added a 81-yard sprint through the middle.
“My line did everything on that one,” Broselle said of his 70-yard touchdown run. “It was a wide-open hole. I just saw the hole, followed my guard who was pulling and busted it.”
The Ferndale defense was equally impressive, limiting the Cougars to 128 yards of total offense, including 57 yards on 32 carries. David Ainuu’s 7-yard touchdown run late in the third was the only thing that prevented a shutout.
With defense like that, the Golden Eagles’ fun-loving postgame slides through the puddles on their bellies were well deserved. Now Ferndale will see if it can continue its fun for another week.
“I think we’ve got to prepare well and do all the little things right,” Semu said. “That’s what all the good teams do.”