by Jack Kintner
Lady B’s take it to Lakewood
Blaine’s volleyball team is a good one playing in a league of greats. Consistency and the self-confidence it takes to have it is the only thing that stands between them and an improvement on their 2-7 (1-7 league) record.
Last week the Lady B’s took Meridian to the last two points in the fifth game before bowing 17-15, losing the game and the match on the last serve. In the process coach Nikki Hallberg’s charges set some impressive marks. Seniors Krissie Hammer (9 kills, 3 aces) and Kara Stull (6 kills) patrolled a tight front line with as much finesse as power, keeping their team even with Meridian in the close match. Aizia Lawson whacked drive after drive across from the front corner with the same consistency she brings behind the plate during fast pitch season, and the mobile and heads-play of Jaclyn McDonald dug a number of possible Meridian points into effective returns from inches off the hardwood.
Junior Alisha Fisher was, as usual, all over the place despite straining an ACL that last year failed, costing her the rest of volleyball and track season, too. She retired later in the evening to ice her knee but shared honors with her sister Ariel: both girls won a game with an ace serve, Alisha in the first game and Ariel in the fourth. Junior Melissa Galbraith was the picture of consistency, setting a phenomenal 106 times out of 109 chances.
won the first game by six and lost the second by five,
but other than that the two teams were never more than
just a few points apart once up into double digits, usually
just one or two as the lead see-sawed back and forth.
Hallberg, a competitive volleyball player at Quincy high
school before her college basketball career at Central
Washington University, kept subbing people in and out
without the benefit of a Libero, a designated sub who
can lighten the load for other players who need to catch
their breath. Blaine doesn’t
have enough players to provide one, but it would be nice,
given the long and dramatic volleys these teams managed
There were some disappointing moments. A few long and successful volleys of impossible returns and high arching sets were followed with an embarrassing muff, or a ball that would drop in front of someone who could have easily gotten to it, or a sizzling kill shot at the back line that would miss by just inches, giving a point instead of getting one. But the gross miscues of earlier seasons are gone and it’s as much fun to watch as any sport Blaine offers.
They’re playing in a league that’s by far the toughest in the state – a sink-or-swim caldron that does not allow training wheels. If this Blaine team is at .99999, winning at this level of competition is the difference between that and 1. When they do the math on that one, you’ll want to be there.
Blaine handled a visiting team from Lakewood Tuesday night with a 3-0 shutout, 25-20, 25-16 and 25-17. The Lady B’s had outstanding performances from senior Krissie Hammer, who served for six straight points, Kara Stull with six kills and the reliable and consistent Melissa Galbraith with 14 assists.
The Borderites travel to Lynden Christian Thursday for a 7 p.m. match.
Borderites put brick wall in front of league’s leading rusher
For the second week in a row the Blaine Borderites won a football game with less time left in the game than it took you to read this sentence as they topped arch-rival Granite Falls 28-24 at the annual homecoming contest. This is a good team, and the stands were jammed.
Last week they stopped the league’s leading rusher at the goal line as time ran out for Mt. Baker. This week they engineered a 15-play, 95-yard drive in the last four minutes of play that culminated in a four-yard touchdown pass to Nick Jordan with just three seconds left.
The Borderites final play was a kick-off to a hapless and demoralized Granite Falls team that tried to lateral itself down the field, throwing the ball back and forth like a pair of stolen swim trunks at summer camp until finally giving up around midfield, the final siren sounding the death knell to a game they thought they had won well past 10 p.m.
This was one that Blaine almost let get away from them. A comfortable 21-9 third quarter lead melted away in the fourth on the strength of two Granite Falls touchdowns as Tiger Billy Villegas connected twice with his favorite receiver Sean Counely.
Blaine opened the scoring six and a half minutes into the first period when Blayne Brandenburger blasted through the impressively heavy Granite Falls defensive line for a one-yard plunge. Granite Falls answered by driving deep into Blaine’s red zone, helped by a personal foul call on Blaine at the end of a 40 yard Sean Counely reception, but they were stopped and settled for a fourth down field goal, Sean Nelson barely lifting a wobbling wounded duck over the cross bar. Things went back and forth in the second quarter, ending with a Blaine punt with just 32 seconds left. Blaine’s Adam Dykstra intercepted a pass on their first play from scrimmage and the half ended with Blaine in the lead 7-3.
Brandenburger got his second touchdown of the evening early in the third quarter after Rob Bleecker ran back the Granite Falls kick-off 40 yards to Blaine’s 46 yard line. Nine plays (and five first downs) later Blaine scored to make it 14-3. Granite Falls answered this time when, after three unsuccessful tries, Julian Gamache ran into the end zone from Blaine’s five yard line, making it 14-9. The kick failed.
The Granite Falls kicker blew it a second time, slipping on the ensuing kickoff and sending the ball very slowly toward Blaine. A Granite Falls player scooped it up and was tackled on the Blaine 49, but since he touched the ball before it had gone the required ten yards it was awarded to Blaine, something that had the Granite Falls coaches screaming loud enough to wake up God. And they weren’t through.
Just a few plays later Joey Paciorek lifted a perfect pass to Adam Dykstra for another Blaine touchdown, making it 21-10 in Blaine’s favor after another automatic Pat Mulholland kick. Granite Falls’ offense finally began to click as the fourth quarter opened, and in a little over three minutes they scored on a fourth and goal from Blaine’s 11 which, along with a two-point conversion, narrowed the Blaine lead to just four points at 21-17.
Blaine began the next offensive series well, Dykstra and Brandenburger combining for 31 yards until Paciorek missed a high snap just past midfield. Granite Falls recovered the ball on the Blaine 43. On the next play the Blaine defense chased Villegas as he ran the option around the right side to Blaine’s 40 yard line, then despite being a little long passed anyway to gain 23 yards to the Blaine 20, the infraction going unnoticed. Blaine sacked Villegas on the third play from scrimmage in the next series but on the fourth he connected with Counely to move into the lead 24-21.
It was still all Granite Falls as the kickoff rebounded off a Blaine player and was recovered on the five yard line with a little over four minutes left in the game, the goal line looking as far away as Lynden. But a determined band of Borderites were not going to let this one go, and they marched down the field with composure and skill. A third and eight pass was incomplete after a vicious hack by a Granite Falls defender, who was called for interference. Two first downs later Blaine faced a fourth and one near midfield.
Paciorek had been starting plays all night calling the number one, but this time after a time out his offense was told not to go until they heard him say “three.” He never got there because at the count of “one” the entire Granite Falls line hopped into the neutral zone like they were jumping rope, and the following offside penalty gave Blaine another first down.
Blayne Brandenburger then ran for nine yards and Paciorek for four and another first down. Paciorek then ran a pass play that showed just what kind of offensive talent this team is beginning to show.
A note of explanation: when looking for a receiver, a quarterback often goes through several choices in a certain order. If one’s covered, he’ll look for the next one and so on. Remember, too, that there’s not much time, so a second read is unusual and a third is unheard of. Most places, anyway.
Paciorek looked up and read one receiver, then two, then on the third read found wide receiver Jordan Villars all alone, and hit him for a 14-yard gain to the Granite Falls 24, Villars’ dad watching proudly from behind the end zone. Four plays later Blaine faced a first and goal on the Granite Falls nine with eight seconds left. A run to the left gained four yards and cost five seconds, setting up the final play of the drive, a first and goal at the four.
Homecoming Queen Katie Jordan held the royal breath as the play broke to Blaine’s left. Suddenly a hole opened up in the middle and Paciorek hit the Queen’s twin brother Nick in the numbers with the ball, winning the game with three seconds left on the clock. Granite Falls, after some last-second weirdness on the kickoff, was sent to their bus and a long quiet ride home.
Blaine, now at .500 with a 30-3 record, goes up against Lynden Christian Friday at home.