Blaine's Sheldon Hicks, bottom, sends Bellingham's Dominic Franklin flying during Saturday’s game in Bellingham. Photo courtesy of Andy Bronson - The Bellingham Herald
Borderites fans can breathe a sigh of relief – the losing streak is over. Blaine dished out a 61-34 bruising on the Bellingham Red Raiders at Civic Field on Saturday, October 15, snapping a four-game winless streak and preserving their hopes for a postseason berth.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Blaine head coach Jay Dodd said. “We’ve lost a few real close ones.”
Northwest Conference-leading rusher Mario Gobbato ran away with a season-high 320 rushing yards and seven touchdowns for the night, further striking fear into the hearts of defensive coordinators everywhere.
“Our running game obviously worked,” Dodd said. “They were doing everything they could to stop the run, but we wanted to continue to try and do it anyway. We thought we had a better line.”
Despite Gobbato’s workhorse performance, Bellingham refused to fall under the tracks for most of Saturday’s matchup. Down 13-0 early in the second quarter, Bellingham quarterback Justin Pruett connected with wide receiver Oliver Dougherty for a 63-yard touchdown, pulling the Red Raiders to within six. After a successful squib kick turnover, Pruett found wide receiver Kyle Redmond for another touchdown reception on the very next play, hoisting Bellingham on top at 14-13.
“They were running routes at us that we hadn’t been working on in practice, including a couple that we hadn’t seen before,” Dodd said.
Things continued to spiral out of control for Blaine as Bellingham launched a second successful onside kick, recovering the ball at the Blaine 48-yard line.
This drive, however, would be halted by Blaine defensive back Brett Allen, who intercepted a deflected pass from Pruett and ran 59 yards all the way home to retake the lead for Blaine at 19-14.
Less than a minute later, Pruett answered with a 66-yard touchdown completion to Dougherty, once again reversing the lead to 20-19.
Not to be outdone, Blaine would answer with a 59-yard rushing drive split between Gobbato, running back Tyler Chau and wide receiver Isaiah Jackson. Ultimately, Gobbato would cross the goal line on a 5-yard carry that repositioned the Borderites on top at 26-20 – a score that held for more than 17 minutes until Gobbato once again found the end zone on a 29-yard carry early in the fourth quarter, expanding Blaine’s lead at 33-20.
Despite several Bellingham touchdowns later in the quarter, the Red Raiders simply couldn’t keep up with the Borderites, who posted five fourth-quarter touchdowns to run away with the victory, 61-34.
Blaine quarterback Nathan Kramme had a solid night, going 5-10 with 120 passing yards and no interceptions. Pruett’s impressive 304 passing yards were marred by his three interceptions, all of which set up Borderite touchdowns.
“Our defense picked us up when we needed them to,” Dodd said. “They gave us some big turnovers.”
The Borderites are now 2-5 overall and 2-3 in conference play. Saturday’s big win should provide some much-needed momentum heading into next week’s game at Anacortes, which sits one win ahead of Blaine in conference standings at 3-2.
“There is still a lot to get better at on defense. There are still missed opportunities on offense as well,” Dodd said. “We had a lot of yards running, but there were some missed opportunities. Missed blocks, missed assignments … what kept [Bellingham] in the first half was a couple of onside kicks that we weren’t prepared for. We definitely need to improve on things like that.”
Next week’s matchup is Friday, October 21 at 7 p.m. at Anacortes High School.