by Ian Ferguson
The Blaine football team stepped up its offense on the ground and in the air to earn an important win against the Anacortes Seahawks Friday night.
The Borderites won 31–19 in the October 10 Northwest Conference (NWC) matchup at Anacortes. Riley Fritsch led the Borderites in offensive production, with 241 rushing yards and two touchdowns over 40 carries. That level of production was surprising to some, as Fritsch had suffered a minor knee injury in practice earlier in the week.
Two other go-to runners for Blaine, Kier Munzanreder and Rudy Nolasco, were also recovering from minor injuries, so Blaine looked to its wide receivers to step into rushing roles early in the game.
Sophomore wide receiver Layton Hagee saw time at tailback and didn’t disappoint, carrying for 17 yards over six plays. Senior wide receiver Steven Crafts also carried for Blaine, gaining 12 yards over three carries.
Fristch, however, was itching to do what he does best: dodge tackles and find room to run.
“His knee checked out, so he went in and had a fantastic game,” Dodd said.
Picking up where the wide-receivers-turned-tailbacks left off, Fritsch extended Blaine’s first series all the way to the end zone, scoring on a two-yard run. Kyle Sentkowski scored the extra point, and the first quarter ended with Blaine ahead 7–0.
In the second quarter, Sentkowski scored a 33-yard field goal late in the quarter, but Anacortes put together a lightning-fast drive with a minute to go in the half, and scored on a 26-yard pass.
Despite giving up the touchdown, the Borderites were feeling good at halftime. “We felt like we were controlling the game and controlling the line of scrimmage,” Dodd said.
That confidence was evident in the third quarter, as Blaine put together an unstoppable drive on their opening series. Fritsch rushed repeatedly, bringing his team to the Anacortes 35-yard line over seven carries. A penalty and a stuffed run brought a third and long, but Fritsch found a big hole and ran the ball 31 yards for a touchdown.
On the next drive, Fritsch again accounted for most of Blaine’s forward progress. With the Seahawks beginning to expect runs every play, Blaine quarterback Nathan Kramme began using the play-action fake to great effect. Following repeated runs to Fritsch, Kramme faked a handoff to draw in the defense, and then hit Anthony Ball in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown.
Kramme had a stellar night, completing nine of 13 pass attempts for 112 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown came early in the fourth quarter when he hit Josh Fakkema with a 2-yard touchdown pass.
“Nate [Kramme] did a great job going through his full progression,” Dodd said. “It was just amazing how he saw the field, read the defense, found his receiver and hit his target. He was very efficient all night. I thought he had one of his best nights as a Borderite, and he’s had a lot of them.”
Dodd said it was gratifying to see things clicking for his team on offense, especially coming off of the Sedro-Woolley game in which runners couldn’t make gains and Kramme and his receivers couldn’t seem to connect.
“We went back to basics with our receivers and with Nathan, and we worked a lot in practice to make sure we were running our routes correctly and connecting,” he said.
Another encouraging aspect of the passing game for the Borderites was the involvement of tight ends Gunnar Arnason and Fakkema. Arnason caught two passes for 27 yards, and Fakkema caught two for 21 yards and a touchdown.
“It was good to get our tight ends involved. When we can let our tight ends go out and catch for us, it does a lot to open up our offense,” Dodd said. “They are both great blockers with good hands.”
Success in the running game was a combination of rushing skill and control at the line of scrimmage.
“Layton [Hagee] and Steven [Crafts] did a great job filling in at tailback. Riley [Fritsch] did a great job of finding space and making people miss. Our offensive line was doing such a good job, we chose to run it a lot,” Dodd said.
Blaine’s offensive line was able to create gaps for runners and protect Kramme, giving him time to pass or hand off. Dodd said Blaine’s dominance on the line was a factor on both sides of the ball.
“Our front line on defense did a great job of getting off blocks and stopping their run. A lot of it had to do with our size and strength relative to Anacortes,” Dodd said.
With the win, Blaine improves to 4–2 overall and 2–2 in the NWC. Anacortes is 1–5 overall and 0–4 in the conference.
In terms of their post-season outlook, the win against Anacortes was important for the Borderites, but their next game will be a much more challenging test. Burlington-Edison is 3–3 overall and 1–3 in the conference. The Tigers have had a challenging schedule and they must win their next game if they want to make the post-season.
“They just played an outstanding game against Lynden,” Dodd said. “They have a very good quarterback who is quick and has a good arm, and they have a solid defense. That’s what they hang their hat on. It will be a tight game that will come down to the fourth quarter, and we’re going to have to come with our best game.”
Blaine will look to continue its strong presence at the line of scrimmage on both defense and offense, and steadily improve in every position, Dodd said.
“We’re still trying to improve in so many things. Defensively, we can still do a better job tackling. It’s gotten better, but there’s room for improvement. We’re looking to add new weapons on offense to exploit our opponents’ weaknesses, and improve our technique in all aspects of the game. We want to put everyone in the best position to be successful,” Dodd said.
The Borderites will travel to Burlington-Edison on Friday, October 17. The NWC game begins at 7 p.m.