SEATTLE — From the moment they walked off the bus it was a special experience for players on the Glacier Peak High School football team.
The Grizzlies were one of 16 teams chosen to play in the eight high school football games being held Friday and Saturday at Lumen Field, the home of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.
And although it wasn’t a sellout crowd of 72,000 on Sunday, Saturday’s mid-afternoon clash with Ferndale was still a moment the players will surely remember for years to come.
“The experience is crazy,” Grizzlies quarterback River Lien said. “Just rolling up on the bus and getting off the bus with everyone, it feels almost surreal just walking into the stadium. It was just such a cool experience to get to play out here.”
“It’s so cool,” senior running back/linebacker Roman Foster added. “Just the stadium’s atmosphere, even if it’s not full of fans, it’s still crazy.”
It wasn’t just the starters who got to experience playing on the same turf as the likes of Seattle stars DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett either. GP coach Shane Keck said the team tried to make sure every player who made the trip got to get in for at least one snap.
“That was really important to us,” Keck said. “Just real happy about the whole thing.”
GP didn’t just leave with just a unique experience Saturday. The Grizzlies also left with win.
Lien and Trey Leckner connected for five touchdowns and GP’s defense delivered a stout performance in a 42-14 thumping of Ferndale.
“It’s a huge moment for all of us,” Leckner said, “and we all came out here and played hard and executed really well.”
The Leckner-to-Lien connection was firing on all cylinders in the first half. The pair linked up on five passes. All five went for touchdowns, with three of those going for at least 59 yards.
The first came on a second-and-goal from the Golden Eagles’ 5-yard line. Lien took a shotgun snap, rolled right and found his 6-foot-2, 230-pound target in the back of the end zone for a 7-0 lead at the 4:16 mark of the first.
GP (3-0) quickly forced a three-and-out after and Lien found Leckner streaking down the right sideline for a 69-yard catch-and-run and a 14-0 lead late in the first.
Ferndale (1-2) cut the lead in half on the ensuing drive. Quarterback Bishop Ootsey lobbed a deep ball down the middle of the field for wide-open teammate Zach Nielsen that resulted in a 51-yard score.
Lien and Leckner responded again. This time with a 63-yard TD on third-and-long.
“Ferndale is so good in the box and we really kind of struggled to run the ball a little bit, which we kind of feel like is our bread and butter,” Keck said. “I think that our versatility kind of showed. It’s hard to defend us because of Trey’s ability to be in the backfield and get out in the passing game. That was kind of part of our game plan to spread them out and try and take those matchups.”
The GP defense held Ferndale to its third three-and-out of the half on the next drive, and the Grizzlies marched straight down the field for a 10-play, 71-yard drive capped by a 13-yard scoring strike from Lien to Leckner.
The duo wan’t done quite yet.
After a Golden Eagles 1-yard TD run by Isaiah Carlson, Leckner found a seam up the middle of the defense and Lien delivered a well-placed ball that allowed Leckner to catch in stride, shake a couple tacklers and sprint into the end zone for a 35-14 lead with 42 seconds left in the first half.
“We’ve been training all summer,” Lien said of the pair’s chemistry. “It’s just something that really happened with time and we really developed. It’s something that’s really important to us.”
Leckner finished with five receptions, 210 yards and five TDs — all coming in the first half.
“Our coaches set us up really well with the game plan, our line had good pass (protection) and River made great throws,” Leckner said.
While Leckner and Lien were churning out yards and points, the Grizzlies’ defense racked up stops.
GP kept Ferndale to just 1 of 5 on converting third downs in the first half and forced a turnover. In the second half, the Grizzlies held the Golden Eagles to 0 0f 4 on third downs and allowed just 15 total yards on 15 offensive plays.
“I thought our defensive staff, (coordinator Steve) Hannan and the rest of the staff, did a really good job, and the kids bought into the plan,” Keck said. “Obviously, we let a couple big ones go over our head, but other than that I thought defensively we played real tough.”
GP extended it lead to 42-14 on a 14-yard TD pass from Lien to senior running back Ryan King late in the third quarter.
Lien completed 13 of 21 passes for 316 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. He added a team-best 81 yards on six carries, including a 58-yard run on the first offensive play of the game.
Leckner, a Washington State University commit, paced GP with his 210 receiving yards. Oregon State-bound senior tight end Cooper Jensen added 68 yards on four catches.
Talan Bungard led Ferndale with 49 yards on seven carries. Ootsey completed 4 of 9 passes for 84 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The Grizzles, ranked second in Class 4A in the first Associated Press state high school football poll, are 3-0 for the fifth straight season.
Next week they travel to California to take on Rocklin High School.
“We’re really excited,” Leckner said of the 3-0 start, which included an impressive road win over 4A power Camas last week. “I think this (California) game is going to be huge. We need to go down there and get a win to keep it rolling, and then after that we just need to keep practicing well and improving.”
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