So fragile is the line between victory and defeat.
Everything had aligned correctly, if not easily, for the Borderites to qualify for the district playoffs. In the first game of the two-night double header at Civic Field, Thursday, October 28, Squalicum labored and struggled before defeating Mount Baker.
This meant that Blaine only had to defeat Sehome, which had not won a Northwest conference game and was a heavy underdog in the nightcap. The Borderites labored mightily against the pesky Mariners. After a Sehome interception with just over six minutes to go and tied at 21, Blaine steadily moved down field, helped by a 46-yard reception by Andrew Miller and a Mariner personal foul. With 55 seconds remaining, Matt Doll booted the go-ahead field goal from 24 yards away, finally cappturing the lead for the Borderites. Sehome converted two quick first downs but then threw three consecutive incompletions. It was fourth down and ten with 7.5 seconds to go for Sehome from the Blaine 49-yard line.
With 7.5 seconds left, the Borderites had rallied for a third consecutive week and were on the brink of a fourth consecutive postseason appearance. With 3.7 seconds left, those playoff aspirations were dashed on the Civic Field artificial turf as Sehome players were giddily celebrating Austin Rapp’s 49-yard touchdown to Ben Wilson, who strode untouched into the Blaine endzone to give the Mariners a heart-stopping 28-24 victory with virtually no time remaining. The pass, a crisp skinny post pattern, caught Wilson in stride as two Borderites made plays on the ball, sending the Mariner sidelines into tumult.
The deep pass that won the game was somewhat ironic in that Sehome had mashed the Blaine defense for 328 yards rushing throughout the game. Rapp got loose for 134 yards and Eric Ho rushed for 107 yards.
“Sehome’s record doesn’t show how good they really are,” head football coach Jay Dodd said in an email. “They had three really good players in their backfield that we had a difficult time stopping. We battled all night long and gave ourselves a chance to win at the end but let one get by us on the last play of the game.”
Throughout the game, Blaine seemed out of sync on both sides of the ball. On defense, the Borderites gave up six plays of 20 yards or more, three of which went for touchdowns, including Wilson’s score. Rapp opened the scoring with a 40-yard run out of the Mariner’s option formation with 6:55 in the first quarter. With the score tied, Ho ripped off a 62-yard run to take a 14-7 lead into the half. Mario Gobboto tied the game with 3:06 remaining in the third quarter on a 10-yard run. In the opening moments of the fourth quarter, Titi Lamositele rushed for consecutive carries of 25 and 16 yards, the latter a touchdown that gave Sehome a 21-14 lead.
Blaine retaliated two plays later when seniors Sean Allen and Miller connected for a 50-yard touchdown pass to tie the game for a third time with 10:28 to play, setting up the fourth quarter dramatics.
While the offense was able to keep pace with the Mariners, they were never as sharp as they have shown of late. Three punts and a turnover on downs in the second and third quarters were testimony to the Borderites’ struggles. Todd Bird never seemed to get on track, either running or receiving.
Bird did catch a ten-yard touchdown from Allen to open the scoring for Blaine, but only mustered 88 yards rushing and 50 receiving, far below the gawdy numbers that he has been putting up as the Borderites’ playmaker. Sean Allen was efficient on 12 for 22 passing for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Allen has established himself as the most prolific passer in Borderite history with 2,058 yards with one game remaining, shattering the record established a year ago by Jordon McCarty. His two touchdown passes give him 23 for the season.
The Borderites final game of the year will be a home game, a district cross-over game with Granite Falls Friday night.