by Jack Kintner
Blaine players, coaches win semi-pro championship
The Whatcom Raiders, a semi-pro football team that operates out of Bellingham and that has five former Blaine high school players on its roster as well as two coaches from Blaine, capped its first year of competition by winning the regular season league championship as well as the Cascade Football League’s (CFL) playoff title game last Saturday in Mount Vernon.
The team of mostly Whatcom County ex-high school and college players, some of whom are in their 30s, beat the Olympic Peninsula Eagles 24-14 to finish with a 7-2 record and take the first championship in the league’s inaugural season.
Blaine’s Dan DeLong is the Raider starting quarterback, joined by running back Sean Hicks, corner back and kick returner Tygr Cain, safety Sean McCall and center Nick Murphy. Assistant Coach Lawrence “Fuzz” Perrin and defensive coordinator Orlando “Mac” McCarty both live in Blaine as well.
The Raiders scored first by holding the Eagles to three and out after the opening kickoff. They blocked the Eagle punt and Dennis Gurney ran it in on the next play. Two exchanges later the Raiders capped a long drive with a 19-yard touchdown, again from Gurney. DeLong hit a favorite target, lanky and talented wide receiver Toby Seim, in the second quarter with a picture-perfect 69-yard pass to go up 21-0 with just under two minutes left in the half.
“Then we just went to sleep,” said DeLong, as the Eagles finally mounted a successful touchdown drive of their own in the third quarter on the back of former Sequim high school standout Brian Savage. A two-point conversion attempt failed, but with DeLong’s passes bouncing off the chests of his wide receivers and the Eagle running game now untracked it was possible for the Eagles to catch the Raiders, whose only second half score was a late field goal that the Eagles answered with a second touchdown for the final 24-14 score.
Following the game, league officials named DeLong the game MVP and Raider head coach Brian Young Coach of the Year.. Blaine ’07 grad Tygr Cain was also an offensive bright spot with second half punt returns of 28 and 30 yards. Cain said playing semi-pro “is a lot of fun, and it’s great playing with Dan [DeLong], he’s the heart and soul of this team.”
One of the Raiders’ two losses came at the hands of the Eagles earlier in the season, 20-14, and the other in the season opener with the Snohomish County Thunder. DeLong missed both games due to work commitments, but with him back in the lineup they beat Snohomish 46-6 and dismantled the Eagles 56-0. Delong, 32, played for Blaine until graduating in 1993.
He went to UBC where he won a Canadian national football championship in 1997. He got as far as an invitation to a BC Lions training camp but then returned to Blaine where he’s been assistant football coach for seven years.
“He’s one guy I went after right away,” said Young, “because at this level you need two things, a quarterback who knows the game well and a good offensive line to protect him. We only practice one day a week so the quarterback has to know going in what to do, and Dan does.”
With the victory the Raiders secured an invitation for post-season play in the Far West Association playoffs, where they’ll meet a team from the Northwest League, most likely at Civic Field in Bellingham on September 21.
“We’ve come a long ways from February, when we started with six guys coming out and playing in the rain,” Young said. “We take this seriously.”
Slivers from the bench...
Blaine 3-1 in final series
After dropping the front end of a double header on the road against Granite Falls 4-3 a week ago last Wednesday, Blaine’s Sport Unlimited team bounced back to take the nightcap in a 6-0 shut-out and both ends of a double header at home the next night 10-0 and 8-3.
It’s the tradition in Blaine baseball to close the season with this mid-summer home and home four game series with Granite Falls. This year the team was sponsored by Kristin Clausen’s Sports Unlimited, and consisted of prospects for next year’s program.
The games are usually faster, Clausen said, because hitting is not as easy and the balls don’t travel as far. “Daniel Gorze’s double [in Thursday’s first game] hit the base of the outfield fence, but with an aluminum bat it would have gone out of the park,” Clausen said.
In Thursday’s first game left-handed sophomore ace Kyle Olason pitched six innings of shut-out ball, including 12 strike-outs, before the game was called by a mercy rule when Blaine went up by ten runs. Besides his double Gorze also had two more hits to go 3 for 5. Greg Grasher was 3 for 5 and Todd Bird went 2 for 3.
Gorze pitched the second game, scattering four hits as Grasher, Oalson and Ben Buehler combined for seven hits to take the second game 8-3. The team re-assembles next March to begin practice for the 2008 campaign.
race starts in Blaine on Saturday
The Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage is a 187-mile road race from Blaine to Langley, on Whidbey Island, run by twelve-man teams that will be leaving Blaine at one-hour intervals all day Saturday. Each runner takes successive three to eight mile legs, and the whole race will last from 20 to 30 hours.
Departing runners are scheduled to leave from Marine Park on the hour and continue down Peace Portal Drive through Birch Bay and then south to Ferndale.
For more info, go to www.ragnarrelay.com.