Featuring a strong running performance by senior back Cole Muder and a pivotal strip in the fourth quarter by senior Andrey Baydak, Blaine’s win in the Tri-District playoffs against Port Townsend will send the Borderites to state for the first time since 2009. The Borderites beat the Redskins 35–21 at Civic Field in Bellingham on November 8.
The win was an all-around team effort, coach Jay Dodd said, but Blaine’s offense in particular made big strides following two games in which the running game was held in check. Muder carried the ball 26 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns. His performance at Civic Field makes Muder the eighth most productive ball carrier in the state. In 10 games, he’s carried 232 times for 1,275 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 127.5 yards per game.
In addition to Muder’s stellar performance, the Borderites were able to spread the wealth against Port Townsend. Receiver
Cody Gobbato, quarterback Marcus Potts and defensive end Baydak each scored a touchdown. Kicker Peter Benne scored three extra point attempts and receiver Josiah Westbrook caught a pass from Potts on a two-point conversion.
It was the Blaine defense that started the game off right for the Borderites, when Westbrook intercepted the Port Townsend quarterback on his first play of the game. The Blaine offense executed four running plays in a row, and Muder went on to score on a seven-yard run. Port Townsend answered with a touchdown and a failed two-point conversion, but then Blaine scored again on a 34-yard run by Muder.
The second quarter was a stalemate, as neither team scored after alternating possessions for 12 minutes. At the start of the second half, Blaine received the kickoff but turned over the ball on a fumble. That play could have shifted momentum away from the Borderites in the second half, but the Borderite defense held strong.
“Our D did a great job holding them,” said head coach Jay Dodd. “On fourth down, Josh Fakkema had a great read on the receiver. He made a big stop on a screen pass and brought the momentum back to our side. It was a huge, huge play.”
In the third quarter, Blaine marched to the Port Townsend 14-yard line on a couple of big receptions by Jordan Antonson. Gobbato sprinted straight down the middle and caught a pass from Potts amid coverage in the end zone. The extra point gave Blaine a comfortable 20–6 lead, but in their final possession of the third quarter, Port Townsend drove deep into Blaine territory and quarterback Jacob King scored on a one-yard scramble, cutting Blaine’s lead in half.
Blaine’s next possession was fruitless, and Port Townsend took over on their 36-yard line with hopes of tying the game.
That’s when Baydak turned the tide with the precision of a pickpocket.
Port Townsend handed off to a running back who ran to the outside. Baydak took a bead on the runner, colliding briefly head on before stripping the ball in stride and running away with it. He scored a 43-yard touchdown on the play, putting Blaine ahead by two touchdowns again.
“It wasn’t even a fumble – he just took it from him,” Dodd said. “It was a great defensive play. Baydak causes fumbles every game. He has a knack for stripping the ball.”
Port Townsend answered by scoring on a 35-yard run in their next possession and with the clock winding down in the fourth quarter, Blaine assembled a long scoring drive. Westbrook made a one-handed catch for a 37-yard gain, eventually setting Potts up for a one-yard touchdown scramble with just under two minutes left to play.
“That was the game-clinching drive,” Dodd said. “Westbrook made an outstanding catch, tip-toeing on the sideline and Potts put up a remarkable pass that came down right in Westbrook’s hands. It was amazing.”
In their final possession of the game, the Redskins threw an interception caught by Anthony Ball, sealing the win for the Borderites.
Potts finished the game with 136 yards passing, completing eight of 12 attempts, and 12 yards rushing with one touchdown. Westbrook made three receptions and one interception for 87 yards, and Jordan Antonson caught two passes for 28 yards.
Dodd said it felt good to win the Tri-District matchup and move on to state for the first time in four years.
“We took a three-year absence from state, so it felt good. Getting to state has been a goal of ours since the start of the season, but our bigger goal is to keep moving on and keep playing football. It’s about staying hungry and not being satisfied. We want to be the last ones standing,” Dodd said.
With the win, Blaine will face La Center at Ridgefield Stadium in the first round of state playoffs on Saturday, November 16. Kickoff is at 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for kids under 12, senior citizens and middle school and high school students with an Associated Student Body card.
Ridgefield is a four-hour drive from Blaine, but Dodd said the road trip shouldn’t have a negative impact on Blaine’s performance.
“We’ve done road trips before, so it’s nothing new. We’ll feed the kids breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I think we have a good plan to keep kids rested and ready to play. We’ll be spending the whole day together, resting up, eating well and talking about the game. If anything, it will help us stay focused,” Dodd said.
La Center is the Southwest District’s number one seed, and the Wildcats are undefeated this season, with a 10–0 record.
“They have a lot of good players, and a lot of good seniors. We’ll have our hands full, but we don’t want to be intimidated by their record,” Dodd said. “They’re a very good football team, but we have a good game plan and the bottom line is, it’s two high school teams facing off and anything can happen.”
Last year, La Center was knocked out of the second round of state playoffs by Mount Baker.