There are two types of discipline in football: the discipline to execute plays and the discipline to follow the rules. After three games in which they struggled to execute, the Borderite defense showed discipline in a 45–8 blowout win against Bellingham September 27, but with 14 penalties in the game, Blaine has another hole to patch before conference play begins this week.
Penalties cost Blaine 106 yards in the home game, but against the 0–4 Red Raiders, Blaine proved unstoppable.
Senior captain Cole Muder followed his blocks and found room to run all night, rushing for 177 yards in the first half alone. He finished the game with 214 yards and three touchdowns, despite only carrying the ball three times in the second half.
“Cole [Muder] can give that kind of production all the time,” said head coach Jay Dodd. “He’d be the first to tell you his
offensive line did a great job making holes, and he did a great job following his blocks and making the safety miss.”
Muder scored the first touchdown after the Borderites recovered a Bellingham fumble on the 16-yard line. Blaine’s next points were scored when Peter Benne sent a 39-yard field goal attempt through the uprights. That field goal was forced after Blaine committed back-to-back false start penalties.
“There were some penalties when our front line moved, and that’s just not being smart,” Dodd said. “We need to keep working on our discipline.”
Most of Blaine’s penalties came in the form of illegal blocks or holding calls.
“During kickoff returns or long runs, blockers are blocking laterally for a long period,” Dodd said. “Avoiding penalties is a matter of knowing where and when to use your hands, and when to leave your blocks. It’s a pretty simple fix, and it’s something we’ll be working on in practice.”
On offense, Blaine shared the wealth between Muder, quarterback Nathan Kramme (161 yards passing, 66 yards rushing, one TD), running back Rudy Nolasco (69 yards rushing, 46 yards receiving), wide receiver Josiah Westbrook (86 yards receiving) and freshman running back Riley Fritsch (38 yards rushing, one TD). Jordan Antonson, Josh Fakkema and Matt Craig contributed 20, nine and six yards respectively.
The big surprise for spectators was Blaine’s defense, which shut out Bellingham until the final minutes of the game. Bellingham converted only eight first downs and was held to only 158 yards of total offense. Bellingham scored with 3:28 left to play when wide receiver Kailen Hayes caught a 55-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Eric Thompson. A successful two-point conversion brought the final score to 45–8, but the late score didn’t cast a shadow on Blaine’s dominant defensive performance.
“It’s good to see the defense looking strong in time for conference play,” said Blaine athletic director Wayne Vezzetti. Principal Scott Ellis agreed.
“They’ve been working hard, and it shows,” he said.
Muder attributed Blaine’s solid defensive play to practice and discipline.
“We’ve been working a lot on discipline,” he said. “We got better reads tonight and linebackers filled their slots. We also started off the game a lot stronger than we have been.”
Linebacker Joe Leeking caught an interception in the third quarter and returned it 30 yards for a Blaine touchdown.
Many players saw time on defense in the Lakewood game September 20, but the defensive lineup against Bellingham was locked down. Dodd said practice and game-time experience have led to drastic improvement.
“Players are understanding their role and improving on an individual basis,” Dodd said. “In the first three weeks we weren’t consistent with gap control, but now those players are filling their gaps and tackling correctly. We’re executing the fundamentals of defense much better.”
Backups have stepped up in a big way for the offensive line. Two leaders of the o-line are out with minor injuries: Tanner Anthony (shoulder) and Mike Antczak (knee). Both were rested against Bellingham as a precautionary measure, but both are expected to play in Friday’s game against Lynden Christian.
In the meantime, Blaine’s offensive line has gained some depth.
“Three offensive linemen saw their first varsity action and performed very well,” Dodd said. “Coming into the season we didn’t think our offensive line was going to be very deep, but due to these unforeseen circumstances we’ve had other players filling these roles and when the injured players get back, we’ll have plenty of depth.”
Due to an injury to backup quarterback Marcus Potts, third-string quarterback Kevin Sells saw playing time at the end of the Bellingham game.
“He did a great job,” Dodd said. “He doesn’t get to see a whole lot of snaps, but he has a big impact on the team.”
The Borderites are scheduled to play their first 1A Northwest Conference game this Friday, October 4, at Lynden Christian. The Lynx are 2–2 in non-conference play, and look pretty good on film according to Dodd.
“They can run and pass. They have good linemen on both sides of the ball. It should be a great game,” he said. “We’ve been zeroing in on conference play, and even though we’re 3–1, we’ve played some tough teams and everyone is 0–0 at this point. We have five games to see who makes it to the post season, and we’re excited to put our best foot forward.”