The Montesano Bulldogs had the community in mind when playing Mount Baker in Saturday morning’s 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 brought 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 on Oct. 19.
Now, the Bulldogs will play for its first state championship since 1994 after their 28-6 victory over Mount Baker at the Tacoma Dome.
“This means a lot to us,” said senior running back 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 with the Bulldogs (11-2) since their second loss of the season, a 41-14 loss to Hoquiam. Since then, Montesano has won 10 consecutive games, scoring an average of 42.5 points per game.
And now, after state semifinal losses in four of the past six seasons, the Bulldogs will play for the state title next weekend against Royal, which defeated River View, 31-28, in its semifinal Saturday in Kennewick.
“They preached us every day about working hard,” Mendenhall said. “Getting one percent better everyday and last week it was 5 percent better.”
Montesano had a 343-245 advantage on total yards of offense after limiting the Mountaineers (11-2) to just 87 yards of offense through 21/2 quarters. and had a 28-0 lead.
The Bulldogs got all-around performances from several players, including senior quarterback Matthew Jensen was 17 of 25 for 201 yards and two touchdown passes — one to Ben Ohashi, who finished with a team-high eight catches and 79 yards and Shad Rogers, who had five catches and a team-high 96 yards receiving.
The two rushing touchdowns came from Tucker Ibabao on runs of 4 and 1. He finished with a team-high 74 yards on 21 carries.