Borderites rally to keep playoff hopes alive

Published on Thu, Oct 28, 2010 by By Jerry Huls

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The aftermath of Blaine’s game with ninth ranked Anacortes left the playoff outlook as clear as mud with one week remaining. What is clear though is that with 9:24 left in the second quarter, the Borderites were staring at the real possibility of watching the playoffs from the outside looking in.

For the second week in a row, Blaine mounted their hopes on the broad shoulders of Todd Bird to overcome a 21-6 deficit and stun the ninth ranked Seahawks 33-29 Friday, October 15.

Bird took a more unconventional route, almost exclusively on the ground, carrying 35 times for 201 yards including two touchdowns to keep the Borderites' complicated playoff scenario alive. With Mount Baker, Bellingham and Blaine all sitting with two classification wins, Thursday night's double header at Civic Field will loom large toward sorting it out.

For a week however, Blaine can look back fondly on another improbable thrilling win that continues to show the growth of the team.

While offensive prowess was once again the point of the day, interior defense was notably praise worthy. With the exception of a first quarter lapse when the Seahawk's Preston Madden got loose for a 58 yard run, Blaine utterly stuffed the Seahawks rushing game, holding them to only 95 yards. This was never more notable than with a little more than three minutes to play and Blaine nursing a four point lead, defensive tackle James Fakkema broke through the Anacortes line for the trifecta; sacking Seahawk's quarterback Cody Culp, forcing a fumble and then recovering it.

“I just got off the ball and hit him,” Fakkema said. “When I rolled off, I just saw it and got the ball.”

“James is an outstanding defensive lineman,” said head football coach Jay Dodd in an email. “He’s got a great motor, and he’s so strong and explosive for only being a sophomore.”

The turnover turned out to be decisive as the Blaine offense was able to salt away most of the clock leaving Anacortes only 57 seconds to work with. Even then there was a moment of drama after Culp connected on a 38 yard pass play, but two incompletions and a final sack of Culp ended the game. 

Blaine made the game more difficult than necessary early with two crippling turnovers. Blaine opened the scoring on their first drive with Bird rushing in from 29 yards out. 

The missed extra point left the score 6-0. The Seahawks answered with Madden's touchdown, four plays later. With the Borderites mounting a retaliating drive, quarterback Sean Allen threw an interception to Anacortes' linebacker Trevor Moore who returned it 61 yards to the Blaine 16 yard line. Culp took advantage throwing the first of his three touchdown passes, this one to Mark Medalia to take a 14-6 lead.

On the ensuing play from scrimmage, tailback Mario Gobboto fumbled deep in Blaine territory leading to Culp's  11 yard touchdown pass to Andrew Bolton, which left Blaine in a fifteen point deficit.

Blaine seemed to take its collective breath on the next series and mounted a grinding, workmanlike, 17 play, 74 yard drive, overcoming an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. With 17 seconds in the first half, Allen hit tight end Andrew Price with a 10 yard touchdown. A second failed conversion left the score 21-12 at halftime.

Allen took charge on the opening drive of the second half launching a 50 yard scoring bomb to Andrew Miller. A third failed conversion made the score 21-18. With the defense getting a three and out on the next possession and aided by a 7 yard shanked punt, Blaine set up shop for their next drive with a short field.

Again, Allen found Andrew Price for his second touchdown reception of the game, an 8 yarder that put the Borderites in the lead again. Price caught the two point conversion making it 26-21.

Anacortes regained the lead on the very next series with Culp hitting Jason Kirkpatrick with a 24 yard touchdown pass and then converting a two pointer themselves to take a 29-26 lead. 

With just under 5 minutes to play, Blaine mounted its game winning drive almost exclusively on Bird's rushes, taking the lead with 3:27 left to play on his second touchdown from two yards out, setting up Fakkema’s exploits.

“This was pretty big for us on Senior Night," said Bird. “It gives us lots of momentum going into Thursday night.”

Indeed, Thursday night's festivities at Civic field may spell out the playoff opportunities of three schools. The early game features Mount Baker visiting Squalicum, which has secured the number 3 seed in the Northwest conference. In the nightcap, Blaine will challenge winless Sehome in a game where they will be heavily favored, much as they were when they last visited Civic Field to play Squalicum, which saddled the Borderites with a 14-7 loss.  Wins by Squalicum and Blaine will mean that the Borderites will win the fourth seed and would host a play-in game against the number 4 seed in the Cascade conference Tuesday.

Any other scenario becomes more problematic for Blaine.  If the very capable Mountaineers beat slightly favored Squalicum, then Blaine will need Bellingham to upset Burlington to force a mini playoff on Saturday night between Blaine, Bellingham and Mount Baker at Civic Field. If Mount Baker and Burlington both win this weekend, Blaine will be eliminated from playoff consideration.

Photo by Jeremy Schwartz

Correction

In last week's game story, Todd Bird was identified as kicking off during an onside kick.  Blaine's kickoff specialist is Matt Doll.