by Ian Ferguson
In their third home game of the season, the Blaine football team set the tone early for what would prove to be a hard-fought game against local rival Ferndale.
The 3A Golden Eagles, however, were able to sustain the grind for longer than the Borderites, capitalizing on mistakes to score three unanswered touchdowns in the second half and come away with a 33–14 win September 19.
The first half of the game was nothing short of great football from both teams. Ferndale received the opening kickoff, and Blaine’s defense stunned the Golden Eagles by forcing three quick downs and a punt. The Borderites marched to the end zone with nine plays – four runs to running back Riley Fritsch, three runs to Kier Munzanreder (a former Golden Eagle), a pass to Cody Gobbato and an 8-yard touchdown pass to Josh Fakkema.
Ferndale answered right away, stringing together seven running plays in two minutes. A facemask penalty on Blaine gave the Golden Eagles 15 extra yards, and they scored on a 4-yard run with four minutes left in the first quarter.
Ferndale pulled ahead briefly in the second quarter, capitalizing on a turnover-on-downs and scoring after several bruising running plays. Blaine defenders hit early and often, but struggled to take down the ball carriers. Ben Broselle scored on a 6-yard run.
Blaine’s ensuing drive put quarterback Nate Kramme’s arm to work, adding variety to what had been a run-dominated game. A 36-yard pass to Anthony Ball and a 9-yard pass to Marcus Potts set the Borderites up in Ferndale territory. Kramme gained 6 yards on a QB keep, setting up a fourth-and-one. Fritsch carried through to keep the drive alive, and went on to score on a 2-yard run with under two minutes to go in the first half.
With the game tied at 14 points, Ferndale made a strong bid to regain the lead before the half. A runner broke free and gained 34 yards, but the halftime bell cut the drive short.
“We played OK in the first half,” Blaine coach Jay Dodd said. “There were some things we could have done better, but we felt good going into halftime.”
The Golden Eagles executed a successful onside kick to start the second half, but the officials called for a replay because of an inadvertent whistle. Blaine’s Gobbato returned the second kickoff attempt to the 31-yard line. Ferndale then cranked up the heat on defense, forcing three downs and a botched punt to take over on Blaine’s 20-yard line. They scored on five short runs but missed the extra point attempt.
Blaine’s offense appeared shaken on the next drive, with a false start, an incomplete pass and another botched punt.
“We had a couple breakdowns on the offensive line, and our offense overall just wasn’t very efficient,” Dodd said. “We made some mistakes – some holding penalties, some mistakes on special teams – and we gave them good field position. We basically spotted them two touchdowns,” Dodd said.
Blaine’s best chance on offense in the second half came in the fourth quarter, when Blaine took over with good field position, and runs from Fritsch and Munzanreder brought the Borderites to the Ferndale 30-yard line. Two dropped passes in a row, however, forced a punt.
Ferndale had good pass coverage in the backfield, and Kramme was able to complete only one of seven downfield pass attempts.
“They were kind of daring us to run vertical routes with their man-to-man press coverage, and we struggled to beat defenders,” Dodd said. “We’re working on how to defeat press coverage and how to get open.”
Although the Golden Eagles scored three times in the second half, Blaine’s defense had a few bright moments. The Borderites forced two three-and-outs and two turnovers-on-downs, a tough feat against a larger school with a strong run offense.
“Our two inside linebackers, Rudy Nolasco and Kayden Foster, did a great job reading their guards and making stops. They improved their pad position and tackled low,” Dodd said.
Defensive tackle Jon Fakkema said it helped knowing what Ferndale typically does on fourth down conversion attempts.
“We knew they were going to do one of two plays on fourth down,” Fakkema said.
Overall, Fakkema said his thoughts on the game were not good.
“We need to work on our vertical offense,” he said.
In the fourth quarter, sophomore Borderite Layton Hagee went down with a hurt lower back on a 15-yard run by the Golden Eagles. Emergency medical technicians carried Hagee off the field on a stretcher to an ambulance.
“Since it was his back, personnel took precautions and followed protocol in case there was a spinal injury. A doctor checked him out and it seems to be a muscular injury. He’s doing much better; he’s walking around and he watched film with us the other day,” Dodd said.
After a 45-minute pause in the action, play resumed and both teams had offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties before Ferndale put their final touchdown on the scoreboard. The final score was 33–14.
“It was a game that we could have played much better,” Dodd said. “We got behind in the sticks, and we’re a team that needs consistent yardage on first and second downs. We made mistakes that we can’t afford to make. It was a big learning experience and hopefully we can improve on those shortcomings.”
Fritsch ended the game with 97 yards rushing, and Munzanreder ran for 28 yards. Kramme threw for 101 yards in the game, although his completion percentage (9-21) was lower than usual.
Blaine will travel to Sehome this Friday, September 26. “Sehome went to state in 2A last year. They have a very good running back, Taylor Rapp, who is electric, fast, shifty, and they can throw the ball. We’ll have our work cut out for us,” Dodd said.
The game begins at 7 p.m. at Civic Stadium.