For Borderite fans it had to be like watching an iceberg move or waiting for the leaves to change color. Yet, inexorably, powerful 3A Ferndale managed to finally shake free of Blaine to post a 34-7 Northwest conference victory at Memorial Field on Friday, September 23.
Despite the loss, Blaine head football coach Jay Dodd saw reasons for optimism, particularly with the performance of his freshman quarterback Nathan Kramme, playing in his second start in place of injured Parker Wallace.
“I thought he was very improved tonight,” Dodd said. “For the most part the ball was in the right place, and he was more efficient.”
Kramme finished the night 7 of 14 for 49 yards and two interceptions, though one wasn’t necessarily his fault as tight end Andrew Price deflected a catchable ball into the waiting arms of Ferndale’s Alex Conley.
Kramme’s numbers could have been doubled if not for a phantom offensive pass interference call on the previous play. Throwing deep down the right sideline, Kramme hit Price for a big gain in the Ferndale red zone, but the 6-foot-7 tight end was called for pushing off. Photographers reviewing the play could not find the penalty.
Ferndale converted the second pick into a touchdown and a 14-point lead. Blaine’s opportunities were numerous in the first quarter as the Borderites were unable to cash in on two Golden Eagle turnovers.
Blaine was sparked in the first quarter by a good kickoff return by speedster Isaiah Jackson, who brought the ball out to the Blaine 46-yard line. Going back to their bread and butter, the Borderites gave the rock to conference rushing leader Mario Gobbato. After a pass to Price, Gobbato ran four consecutive times, the last a 20-yard touchdown burst that made the score 14-7. He finished the night with 156 yards on 27 carries, mostly in the second and third quarter.
Ferndale retaliated in short order. A 38-yard kickoff return by Kyle Prather set the Golden Eagles up for Prather’s second touchdown of the night, two plays later from 30 yards out.
The second and third quarters saw Blaine control the ball but unable to cash in. Three times the Borderites took long drives of seven, six and 11 plays, only to be unable to convert, turning the ball over on downs in each case.
“We just need to get it done in big situations,” Gobbato said.
While the offense can only lament missed opportunities, Blaine’s normally stout interior rush defense was gashed by Ferndale to the tune of 453 yards and five touchdowns. Undermanned due to the loss of four defensive linemen, including James Fakkema, who was recovering from a concussion, the Borderites surrendered 11 rushes of 20 yards or more.
“The good news is we’re going to be pretty healthy next week,” Dodd said.
Blaine’s record fell to 1-3 during the murderer’s row of their schedule, which included two 3A powers and the No. 1-ranked team in 2A. Suddenly, next week’s game against Mount Baker doesn’t seem like much of a respite. The Mountaineers traveled to Burlington-Edison and stomped the Tigers in a stunning upset, 42-7.
The renewal of Whatcom County’s oldest football rivalry will showcase the conference’s two best rushers in Gobbato and the Mountaineers’ Levi Wigg, who ran wild over Blaine last year. The game is at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 30, at Mount Baker High School.