Domo arigato, Mario Gobbato. That was the collective sentiment of the fans and his teammates after the junior tailback helped to shake off the doldrums of a horrific first quarter, as Blaine came from behind for a 41-23 Northwest conference (NWC) victory over Squalicum in the Borderites’ home opener Friday, September 9.
It was the Storm defense that found itself caught in a maelstrom in the second half.
Gobbato, following a second consecutive crushing performance by the Blaine offensive line, rushed for 300 yards on 26 carries and a staggering six touchdowns.
“It’s a credit to our offensive line,” Blaine head football coach Jay Dodd said to his charges immediately after the game.
Gobbato rushed for 251 yards in the second half as the bigger, more physical Borderite line, led by Jessie Antzak imposed its will on Squalicum, wearing down the Storm defenders, caving edges and turning short carries by Gobbato into long forays into the secondary.
Midway through the first quarter it looked that there might be a completely opposite result.
Squalicum took the opening kick-off and engineered a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped by a Clark Hazlett 50 yard touchdown pass to tight end Lucas Potes for a 7-0 lead.
On the Borderites’ first drive, Tyler Chau fumbled, and Hazlett made them pay with an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Landon Tripp. Hazlett started the game 4-of-5 for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Blaine went three and out on its next possession, however, punter Eddie Martinez lost the snap in a blinding low sunset, and Squalicum again had the ball deep in Blaine territory with a chance to bury the Borderites.
The pivotal play of the game was Chau’s opportunity for redemption, however, when he picked off a Hazlett pass at the 3-yard line. The turnover seemed to take the wind out the Storm.
The Borderites rallied and engineered a drive later in the quarter with Gobbato getting his first score from a yard out. He saved his showcase run for the second half.
On the third play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Gobbato took a play between tackles and seemed to be spun down after an 8-yard gain, but had caught himself with his hand. The Storm defense seemed to let up though no whistle had blown, so Gobbato zipped away, eluding the secondary and breaking three more tackles on his way to a 55-yard touchdown jaunt. The score was a backbreaker for Squalicum, whose defense seemed impotent from that point on. On his very next carry, after a Storm turnover, Gobbato scored from 26 yards out.
While the offense continued its success from the week before, the defense rebounded from a lackluster game against Hazen. The Borderites intercepted Hazlett four times, two by Chau, had five tackles for loss, including two sacks, and, up until a 56-yard touchdown in mop-up time against the reserves, held the Squalicum run game to under two yards a carry.
While the victory allows Borderite nation to heave a collective sigh, there are still flies in the ointment for Blaine before they face Lynden on Friday night. Blaine still had three fumbles, losing two. Starting quarterback Parker Wallace was only 1 for 6 in the game and had three balls dropped. Wallace also suffered a sprained knee. How soon he can return remains to be seen. If he can’t go, Dodd will be turning to athletic but inexperienced Nathan Kramme, who guided the Borderites’ through the rest of the game.
The victory raised Blaine’s record to 1-1 (1-0 in the NWC and 1-0 in 2A).
Lynden, 45-7 victors of Bellingham, visits Blaine Friday, September 16 at 7 p.m.