It was typical Pacific Northwest football weather: windy and rainy, but even that did not dampen the spirits of Blaine and Meridian, two 1A conference undefeated foes.
Both teams were poised to win on Friday, October 12. The Meridian Trojans, always a football powerhouse, has many state championship banners hanging in their gym. But, on the other end of the field were the Blaine Borderites, the new kids who are out to prove that they are force to be reckoned with.
The Borderites only have one loss this year to top 10, 2A Lakewood.
Friday’s exciting game showcased two opposite styles of play – Blaine used its high-powered running attack while the Trojans used a wide open passing game.
The first six minutes saw playing defense worthy of the undefeated Trojan and Borderite teams.
After trading possessions several times, Blaine took advantage by recovering a Meridian fumble at the 6:01 mark. Starting at his own 34, senior Borderite Mario Gobbato completed runs of 10 and 11 yards, following the blocks of the lead back, junior Cole Muder.
Then on a countertrap running play, Gobbato went opposite of his lead blocker, completely surprising the Trojan defense. His resulting 44-yard run electrified the crowd and offered a prelude of what was still to come. Gobbato finished the job on the next play, going in for the score from three yards out. Score: Blaine 6, Meridian 0.
Meridian’s passing game struggled due to the inclement weather. Blaine took over again a minute later on its own 31-yard line. Gobbato made his way through the Trojan secondary for a 50-yard run well worth the price of admission. With the Trojans keying on Gobbato, Muder showed his running ability by taking it around the left end for the remaining 21 yards and the score, surprising the Trojan defense with Gobbato’s convincing fake. Gobbato then carried it in for the two-point conversion, giving Blaine a 14-0 lead at the 4:41 mark.
Meridian came right back with senior quarterback Max McGuinn passing 50 yards to the speedster Relijah McMillan. This brought the Trojans to within seven at the 4-minute mark.
Meridian’s passing game improved against the elements, and facing fourth down with four yards to go, the Trojans decided to go for it. But the gamble failed – Blaine’s unrelenting secondary put a stop to it. The Borderites stopped the Trojans on all 10 of their crucial third-down plays for the game.
Blaine, with a short field gift, smelled blood, and Gobbato kicked it into high gear, running 34 yards through the stunned Trojan secondary to score, making it 22-7 at the end of the first quarter.
“It was a big play for us, and I am really proud of how well our defense played on crucial downs when we needed a stand,” head coach Jay Dodd said. “I am as equally happy about the way our offense took advantage of what the defense presented them.”
The first quarter was about offense, and the second displayed good defense. Meridian drove hard to get back into the game, trying a variety of offensive formations in an attempt to confuse the Borderites. They took the ball from their own 15 out past midfield, and at the Borderite 45-yard line, Trojan quarterback McGuinn spiraled the ball to senior Drake Vanderyacht. The Trojan receiver did everything right – ran a good route, made a clean cut, squared his shoulders to the incoming pass, and used his hands, not his body to cradle the ball. But exactly at the moment the ball reached his fingers, Borderites defender Muder knocked the ball away. It was the kind of play you spend several hundred dollars to watch in a professional game on Sunday.
“They were throwing it into the open space below our zone coverage,” Muder said. “I just decided to jump the route. I came full speed and without touching the receiver, I put my hands between his arms and slapped the ball away.”
A second Meridian drive was stopped by senior outside linebacker Dwayne Ortega’s fumble recovery. These two defensive gems of plays kept the score 22-7 at the half.
The Borderites had first possession. Two running plays by Gobbato for four yards each put him over 200 yards on the evening.
Kramme led the Borderites downfield, spinning the ball 35 yards to Brett Allen, who caught it and ran to the Trojan 3-yard line. Gobbato carried the next three yards for the score, and his third touchdown of the night. At the 9:10 mark, Blaine was up by three scores, 28-7.
“I have played quarterback in the Blaine youth football system since I was in the second grade,” said Kramme. “I want to go on to play football in college and study psychology. It will help me understand some of the personalities in the huddle.”
The Trojans came fighting back. On the ensuing kick off, run specialist McMillan showed his track speed, returning it 80 yards all the way for a touchdown. The entertained crowd saw the third quarter end with Blaine up 28-14.
Trojan quarterback McGuinn seemed to be getting comfortable throwing in the rain, and hit his stable of receivers frequently. Moving the ball downfield he hit Vanderyacht, Chambers and finally Letrez Jones for a score. The Borderites’ defense came up big, stopping the conversion to keep it a two-score game, 28-20.
The Borderites were not done yet. Gobbato took the ball from his own 43-yard line, running off tackle, bouncing to the outside and racing 35 yards to the Meridian 22. Two more running plays and he had his fourth touchdown for the evening, extending Blaine’s lead to 34-20.
With the clock winding down, Blaine seemed to have an insurmountable lead even after a Trojan touchdown made it 34-27.
The Borderites had possession and only had to run out the clock. But Blaine’s offense, which had 392 yards for the night, could not muster up 10 yards for a first down and had to punt. Meridian took over at their own 38-yard line with 1:38 left. The Trojans ate up huge chunks of real estate by passing to their running backs coming out of the backfield on crossing routes. They got all the way to the 4-yard line with 10 seconds left. An incompletion made it second and goal with four seconds left and the final play coming up.
“We were in a basic six-man rushing defense. They had four receivers going out, so I knew it would be our six rushers going man-on-man against their six guys trying to protect the quarterback,” Dodd said.
Dodd was right, and it worked. The Trojans did not know which six Borderites would be rushing, and it worked out well for Blaine.
“When the ball was snapped, I did not notice any resistance, and I gave the hit my full effort,” Fakkema said. “I hit the quarterback in the midsection, the ball popped out, and I hung on for the fumble recovery.” It was a straight bull rush by Fakkema that stopped the drive and won the game for the Borderites.
This set up a big match-up with rival Mount Baker at 7 p.m. Friday, October 19, for the conference lead. Both teams are undefeated in conference, and this could determine who goes to state. It is also senior night and should be a real barnburner.