The ninth-ranked Borderites outplayed the third-ranked Lynden Lions for most of the game last Friday, leading for over half the game 14-7 before allowing 21 unanswered points in under three minutes late in the fourth quarter to lose 28-14.
Blaine, now 3-1 in conference and 3-2 overall, played well but for a few costly miscues, giving as good as they got. Lynden’s coach, Blaine high school alum Curt Kramme, said as much in a post-game quote, “They can play with us,” he said, “they played tough,” as if to not only honor a worthy opponent but welcome Blaine into the ranks of elite Northwest Conference teams. The Borderites are beginning an era of dominant football that will last for years. The game was huge. A nearly full moon hung like a pearl overhead as the stands filled early with partisans who soon would be screaming for blood like a coliseum full of Romans. It would have been unthinkable just a few years ago: Blaine up against the defending state champs with a legitimate chance to win.
From the start the teams were scrapping like junkyard dogs, the game having a timeless, every play counts kind of quality and dedicated extra-effort hitting you’d expect from a college game. Blaine had a lot to cheer about – offensive lineman Brandon Heggem coming up from his stance through their offensive line like it was smoke to let the granite-bodied Shaffer Hicks through to sack the Lion’s rocket-armed quarterback Jordan Hastings, Trevor Chau soaring into the sky like a nighthawk to defend passes, David Craig emerging as a serious offensive threat in the second half, promising junior wide receiver Todd Bird making his presence known.
The best of several good moments came a couple of minutes into the second quarter when Caleb Statham got loose off tackle in the Lion’s secondary, running past Lynden’s tiny (5’7” 155 pound) but talented defensive back and WSU recruit Blair Bomber like he was painted on the grass for a 99-yard touchdown run. Bomber gave chase but never had a chance despite a theatrical last-minute leap that got him only arms full of air and a face full of weeds. Perhaps WSU might be interested in Statham since he’s bigger and, we now know, faster than Bomber, who’s already been signed to play there next year.
Lynden opened the scoring by grinding out a first quarter touchdown like they were paving a road, slow and steady, machine-like and thorough. The two teams butted heads like Montana Bighorns until Blaine, their backs against their own goal, tied it with Statham’s electrifying run just before the half.
Blaine went up 14-7 in the third on some good ground work ending in the ball being placed on the one inch line by a well-meaning but near-sighted ref who didn’t think the previous effort, a nice little 12-yard scamper by Todd Bird, got into the end zone. That set up a highlight reel play, Blaine at the goal line, maybe a blade or two of grass outside the end zone, as determined to score as Lynden was to make a goal-line stand.
The opposing lines squared off against each other like medieval armies, a do-or-die moment. On the ensuing play for the touchdown the teams collided with collegiate fury, the execution of the backfields slick as card sharks dealing blackjack, the building pyramid of struggling linemen battering each other in the center of it all with nearly geological force, helmets smacking like bowling balls dropped off the roof.
McCarty handed the ball to Laolagi like a hot loaf of bread, who dove up and over the tangle of bodies like a Percheron going over a hedge, and when the numbers flashed on the stadium scoreboard the Blaine side of the crowd went nuts. Another Blaine touchdown on an interception was called back due to a clipping penalty, but we still had the lead and kept it for over half the game.
But with another long drive, slow and inexorable like furrowing a cornfield with a 12-bottom gang plow, Lynden tied the score with 4:50 left in the fourth quarter. Two minutes later Bomber intercepted McCarty on the Blaine 33 and Lynden scored to go up 21-14. Another minute after that Brett Bajema intercepted another Blaine pass and went 80 yards on the next play for his third touchdown, the last of the game, making it 28-14 Lynden.
Blaine’s new to this level of play and found out the hard way what it takes to be a champion. But the lesson is not lost on these guys, and they may get another shot at Lynden in the post-season. These are the two best double-A teams in the conference right now.
Blaine’s next game (7 p.m. on Friday night October 9) is at home against inconsistent Squalicum, early season favorites who lost badly to Ferndale last week in a laugher, 41-7. It’s homecoming, the weather will be great, the football and the pageantry combining for another memorable gridiron experience. Be there.