While the renewal of the oldest rivalry in Whatcom County didn’t receive the notice of some of the other week-five matchups, it will be remembered long after this season has passed. The 102nd meeting between Blaine and Mount Baker was a frenetic affair that saw huge emotional swings, big players making big plays and even a touch of controversy over a missed pass interference call. However, the Borderites are hoping it becomes a memory soon forgotten.
Mount Baker fullback Jake Schleimer burst through the Blaine defense for his second long touchdown, this one from 45 yards and with 45 seconds remaining in the game, to climax a stunning, improbable 44-41 comeback Northwest Conference (NWC) victory over the Borderites on Friday, September 30, at Mount Baker High School.
“We had ’em,” Blaine head football coach Jay Dodd said after the painful loss. “We played our [tails] off tonight.”
Effort and intensity were never in short supply as the Borderites came out in dominating fashion, scoring on their first four possessions and opening leads of 21-0 and 34-7 in the first half. Blaine outgained Mount Baker 212 yards to 15 in the first quarter.
The offensive assault was led by NWC rushing leader Mario Gobbato, who picked up 294 yards on 38 carries to go over 1,000 yards for the season. He scored three times to raise his conference-leading touchdown total to 15.
Freshman quarterback Nathan Kramme had his best game as a starter as well. Kramme was cool and steady, completing 10 of 19 passes for 182 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a fumbled center snap. The interception seemed to be the result of a missed pass interference call against receiver Andrew Price. The 6-foot-7 Price was a bright spot in the matchup. Lost in the offense through the first four games of the season, the senior receiver caught eight passes for 173 yards and all three touchdown passes. Blaine accrued a staggering 500 yards of total offense on the game.
This was a game the Borderites should have and needed to win.
“We didn’t adjust very well,” Dodd said. “That’s on me. I take that responsibility.
Bottled up most of the first half, the Mountaineers got on the board when Levi Wigg got loose for a 40-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter, to close to 21-7. Blaine was still running on all offensive cylinders and opened the lead to 34-7 on Gobbato’s second touchdown and a 16-yard TD pass to Price.
With 1:25 left in the half and Blaine seemingly in control, Wigg took a sweep around right end and went 60 yards for a score to make it 34-14. Momentum swung completely on the next series, when Blaine had a punt blocked by Mount Baker’s Alec Postlewait. With only 11 seconds left in the half, Mountaineers quarterback Andrew Zender hit Zan Roman in stride on a crossing pattern for a 30-yard touchdown pass, closing the score to 34-21.
Mount Baker claimed its first lead of the game, 37-34, on a 30-yard field goal by Edgar Zavala with 6:48 left in the game. The Borderite offense, stymied in the second half, came off the deck to retaliate. Kramme found Price for a leaping 33-yard TD grab, bringing the score to 41-37 with 4:04 left to play before Schleimer’s heroics.
Blaine’s season-long Achilles’ heel was laid bare against the Mountaineers. The defense gave up eight plays of 20 yards or more, six of those for touchdowns. The Borderites have surrendered the second-most points in the NWC, behind only Lynden Christian.
Falling to 1-4 (1-3 in the NWC), the Borderites find themselves in must-win mode for the remainder of the season if they wish to entertain playoff aspirations. The schedule is forgiving, however, with Blaine’s next four opponents having a combined 6-14 win-loss record. Blaine hosts Burlington-Edison for Homecoming on Friday, October 7, at 7 p.m.