RECORD: 10-1 – COACH: Bob Ames
LEAGUE: 8-0 (1st Place in the NCC)
CLASSIFICATION: 2A – Playoffs: State Quarterfinalist
POINTS PER GAME: 35.8 – POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME: 7.5
POINT DIFFERENTIAL: +28.3
GAME BY GAME:
Week 1: Meridian 45, King’s 0
Week 2: Meridian 31, Nooksack Valley 0
Week 3: Meridian 55, Ocosta 12
Week 4: Meridian 10, Lynden Christian 0
Week 5: Meridian 56, Blaine 6
Week 6: Meridian 58, Sultan 6
Week 7: Meridian 41, Mount Baker 28
Week 8: Meridian 34, Lakewood 6
Week 9: Meridian 37, Granite Falls 2
State Playoffs: 1st Round: Meridian 13, Port Townsend 6
State Quarterfinals: Eatonville 17, Meridian 14
The 1997 Trojans knew going into the season that they had to replace some major stars. Jeb Kratzig, Brian Williams, Steve Bernardy and Trevor Corzine just to name a few. The ’96 team was only one point away from making it to the state championship game, after tearing through the Whatcom County League undefeated. There were big changes in 1997. The Whatcom County League was gone, and the North Cascades Conference was born. There was also a re-classification that season, and the Trojans were now a part of the 2A ranks for the first time in school history.
Replacing Kratzig under center was senior Wade Koning. He was a big part of the offense his junior year, while playing tight end. He knew the offense well, and he knew who to go to with the ball. He completed 100 passes for 1744 yards and 15 touchdowns, and he was named All-Conference 1st Team. He was also second on the team in rushing with 249 yards (3.4 average) and nine touchdowns. He was backed up by sophomore Jeff Bennum, who completed 5-of-8 passes for 78 yards.
Throughout the 90’s, Meridian would focus on two-back sets, and a running quarterback. Spreading the ball around during the running game would always keep opposing defenses on their toes. However, in 1997, the Trojans relied heavily on Craig Jensen to carry the load. He ran for 1042 yards (6.1) and 15 touchdowns, and he was named All-Conference 2nd Team. Sophomore Chase Schmidtz ran for 171 yards (4.8) and two touchdowns, and Bennum (the quarterback of the near future) got some time at running back, and he gained 172 yards (6.6) and a score.
When Koning looked to pass, he often looked for Dominic Chambers. The 5-foot-10 senior was named All-State as a junior, and had perhaps a better season in 1997. He caught 54 passes for 1063 yards (19.7) and 10 touchdowns. All of those numbers broke single-season school records. He also became the first player in school history to catch over 100 career passes, and the second player in Whatcom County history to do so. He was named All-Conference 1st Team for the second season in a row.
Juniors Josh Macomber, Bear Cochran and Josh Randall were terrific compliments to Chambers on the outside. Macomber made big plays, catching 15 passes for 325 yards (21.7) and three touchdowns, while Cochran and Randall combined for 15 more catches and a score. Macomber was named All-Conference 2nd Team and Randall was named Honorable Mention. Senior tight end Aaron Claeys caught nine passes for 98 yards (10.9), and he was named All-Conference 2nd Team.
The offensive line was tremendous from tackle to tackle. The tackles were seniors Cory DePoppe and Ben Bender. DePoppe was smaller, but very athletic, while Bender was one of the strongest players in the entire county at 260 pounds. Both were named All-Conference 1st Team. Senior Kirk Grotzke (what a great name for an o-lineman!) and junior Trevor Bosman were the guards. Grotzke was named All-Conference 2nd Team while Bosman was an Honorable Mention selection. The Trojans also had the best center in the conference with senior Kyle Hathaway, who was named All-Conference 1st Team. This group led the way for Meridian’s balanced attack.
The defense shut out three opponents, and held five other teams to six points or less! The defensive line was led by it’s defensive ends, Hathaway and senior Sean Rowland. Both were named All-Conference 1st Team. Sophomore Cale Mabbott was a load in the interior of the defensive line, and he was named All-Conference Honorable Mention.
The middle of the field was patrolled by the “Aarons”, Clayes and Hayes. Claeys was named All-Conference 1st Team, and he intercepted three passes. Hayes, the junior, was small in stature but he made huge plays all season, and was named All-Conference 2nd Team. Koning and Jensen were the outside linebackers. Koning was named All-Conference 1st Team, and he intercepted three passes, returning them for a total of 90 yards and two touchdowns. Jensen was named All-Conference 2nd Team and he also had a pick, which he returned for 20 yards.
The secondary was led by Chambers. He intercepted a team-high six passes, returning one of them for a touchdown. He was also named All-Conference 1st Team. Cochran and Macomber joined Chambers, and they were named All-Conference 2nd Team and All-Conference Honorable Mention, respectively. They each intercepted a pass. Bennum and Randall also contributed in the defensive backfield, and they also each intercepted a pass.
Randall had an immensely powerful left leg, and he connected on 50 extra points and a team-record nine field goals. He also consistently put kickoffs into the end zone, and he was named All-Conference 1st Team. Cochran served as the team’s punter, and he averaged 34.6 yards per punt on his way to being named All-Conference Honorable Mention. Jensen returned kickoffs, averaging 17.5 yards per return, while Chambers returned punts, with over 200 yards and a touchdown.