It was a clear and crisp fall evening that made you want to take a deep breath, and when you did, you knew you were in the country. Such was the case on Thursday, October 25.
Blaine was one game ahead of the Nooksack Valley Pioneers in the Northwest League 1A standings. If Blaine won, Nooksack would get second place and would lose any chance to advance to state.
You might think it was because of the above or the fact that it was on their home field advantage that Nooksack Valley won. This reporter believes it was because of two other reasons. One: The Pioneer defense was able to shut down Blaine’s talented tailback, Mario Gobbato. They held him to 72 yards, 180 yards under his season game average. Two: The Pioneers were twice as good as Blaine in completing third down plays for a first down. Nooksack Valley was 9 out of 15, while the Borderites were only 4 of 13.
The Blaine offense was held in check as Nooksack Valley’s defense stacked the line of scrimmage. They had their defensive end take three steps in and box, then stay home forcing the play and Gobbato to the inside. Next, Nooksack would chop down Gobbato’s lead blocker, either the blocking fullback or the pulling guard. This resulted in a big pile up in front of Gobbato, not allowing him to do his magic.
Before the start of the game Nooksack Valley’s head coach Robb Myhre gave the sad news to his son and sophomore quarterback Tanner Myhre that his grandfather had passed away. Playing with this burden of grief, Tanner was able to convert it into adrenaline. He had a great night running and passing for 436 yards.
The Blaine defense was stellar against the run. At the five-minute mark the Pioneers took to the air. Starting from their own 31, Myhre passed to seniors Joey Scheffer and Trey Handy, moving the ball out to the Borderites 44 yard line. Then, on a busted pass play, Myhre ran the 34 yards to the Blaine 10. On the next play Myhre passed to Handy and the Pioneers drew first blood at the 3:56 mark, up 7-0 over Blaine.
The Borderites got a drive of their own going. First, senior Brett Allen returned the kickoff out to the 36. After a Nooksack penalty and Borderites pass completion to senior Kyle Weaver, the ball was at the Nooksack Valley 37. Gobbato ran the ball to the 24. Blaine’s field general, sophomore quarterback Nate Kramme, ran a naked reverse around the left end down to the 13-yard line keeping the drive going. The horn sounded to end the first and the teams moved to the other end of the field.
On the first play of the second quarter, Kramme spiraled the ball to a leaping Allen in the back corner of the end zone for the score at the 11:53 mark. The two-point conversion failed. Blaine trailed by one, 7-6.
On the Pioneer’ next possession they returned the kick out to their 37-yard line. The Borderites got two big defensive plays. First, senior Palmer Sandel knocked down a Myhre pass. A few plays later Blaine senior Tyler Kelly put a big hit on Pioneer running back, senior Levi Schram. Schram had run around end for 15 yards and was heading for pay dirt until Kelly pancaked him at the 14-yard line. That tackle saved a touchdown on the play. Two incomplete passes made it third and ten with the Blaine defense digging in.
Myhre brought the Pioneer offense up to the line of scrimmage in a passing formation. He spread the Blaine defense by sending his tight ends and wide receivers out wide. With this formation and 10 yards needed to keep the drive going, every one was thinking pass. Myhre, taking the snap, dropped back into the pocket. Instead of passing, Myhre tucked the ball under his arm and ran it up the middle through several Borderite tackles.
The Blaine defenders made good hits but he would not go down. Something deep inside of him kept him going. Myhre had 18 carries for 141 yards on this inspired evening. This 14-yard, “I will not be denied” touchdown run by Myhre previewed the rest of the night. The score at the 9:03 mark was Pioneers 14, Blaine 6.
Blaine’s next possession started with Allen making a nifty kickoff return by reversing his field a couple times to gain more yards. The Borderites offense bogged down and senior James Fakkema boomed a punt down to the Nooksack 19.
Myhre, still amped up, ran 41 yards out to the Blaine 40. On first and 10, Blaine’s outside linebacker almost had an interception that would have stopped the Pioneer drive, but this was Nooksack’s night as Myhre ran and passed them downfield to the Blaine five. Tanner found senior wide receiver Joey Scheffer alone in the end zone for the touchdown reception. The extra point was good and with just 1:58 left in the half, the Pioneers had increased their lead to 21-6.
At this point some people went down the aisles early to get their halftime refreshments. What they missed was a great Blaine drive. It all started with defensive back Tyler Kelly returning the ball out to the 45 on a great return. On the next play Kramme showed his arm strength by launching a 40-yard missile to Brett Allen. Kramme was 14 completions on 23 attempts for 180 yards for the night. The ball was on the 15 with only three seconds left in the half. Kramme found Allen again in the end zone. Allen ran a great route – first he ran a fake slant toward the center of the field, then he saw the defensive back bite as he followed the slant, quickly changing his route to a fade to the outside. He was all alone as Kramme’s pass found him for the score, giving the Borderites momentum going into the locker room down by only eight at the half.
Nooksack Valley had first possession. Blaine senior Dwayne Ortega led the stop unit by breaking up a screen pass. The Pioneers punted. The Borderites were also unable to move the ball and punt. Both defenses were playing really well in the third period.
“I was proud of the way our defense stepped it up in the second half,” said head coach Jay Dodd. “They had to try some unconventional ways to move the ball on us. My hat is off to them as they are a good team and they are getting better.”
From their own 47-yard line, the Pioneers resorted to a trick play to get something going. Running back Scheffer threw a 23-yard pass to Curtis Handy. The Pioneers seemed to have the Blaine defense on their heels until Borderites defensive back Kelley stole the ball from the receiver for a drive-ending interception. Kelly’s turnover got the Borderites offense fired up. Kramme came out and threw a 50-yard bomb to junior Isaiah Jackson. From the 26-yard line, Kramme hit Jackson for 10 more yards. Jackson had five receptions for 78 yards for his night’s work. With the Pioneers keying on Jackson, Kramme found junior Cole Muder for another 10 yards, taking the ball to the 5-yard line as the third quarter ended.
Gobbato, who had been sick with the flu for three days, may not have had his best night rushing, but you can’t keep a thoroughbred out of the end zone. Smelling the promised land, he ran the remaining five yards on one try. This touchdown gave him 27 TDs for the season. Unfortunately the two-point conversion failed and the Borderites were down by one, 21-20.
The Borderites were back in the game. The Pioneers started from their own 29. Blaine gave them nothing on the first two plays. It was third and ten. Nooksack wanted to keep the ball away from the Borderites, who seemed to have momentum. The Pioneers resorted to what has worked for them, trick plays and Myhre. Myhre faked a handoff to the right side running back, then rolled out right looking to pass. On a delayed screen play, he pivoted to the left and dumped the ball off to senior Bret Rediger who was behind a wall of blockers allowing him to ramble 71 yards for a touchdown. At the 10:51 mark, the Borderites were down by seven, 27-20.
On Blaine’s next series, Gobbato had his longest (27 yards) run of the evening but the Borderites were unable to sustain the drive. Nooksack Valley took over and Myhre spiraled the ball to Scheffer on a wheel route for a 32-yard touchdown, making the score 34-20 with 3:27 left.
Blaine came right back as Muder galloped 51 yards right up the middle on a tackle trap play that worked to perfection. Even the two-point conversion was good. Now at the 2:41 mark, Blaine is only down by six, 34-28.
Blaine’s onside kickoff attempt was recovered by the Pioneers. Blaine needed to hold them to no first downs and use their time-outs to stop the clock. The Blaine defense held making it third and ten. Myhre was able to throw his last completion of the evening for 12 yards, and that was the ball game. Myhre completed 24 out of 42 attempts for the evening. “Their quarterback really hurt us this evening. He came up with clutch plays when he had to,” Dodd said.
The result of the Nooksack win was that three teams, Blaine, Meridian and Nooksack Valley were all tied for second place behind league-leading Mount Baker. The three tied teams played a Kansas-style mini-playoff Saturday, October 27, at Civic Field in Bellingham.