By Ian Ferguson
While strong winds wreaked havoc throughout the northwest, the Blaine football team got its first gridiron action of the season during the Blaine Jamboree.
The Borderites took on the Bellingham Red Raiders and the Lynden Christian Lyncs in half-field scrimmages on August 29. All varsity and JV players ran plays in a game-like scenario, despite the strong winds.
“It was blowing pretty good, but everybody got a lot of reps and the coaches got to see what they could do,” said head coach Jay Dodd.
The team has been practicing since August 19. Before that, many players spent the summer building their fitness at the school gym, and the quarterbacks met with receivers to run throwing drills. In June, the team participated in multiple scrimmages in Bellingham and Seattle.
“Everybody is working hard and taking everything in,” Dodd said. “It’s a great group of kids. They’re fun to be around.”
The team is a healthy mix of strong veteran players and younger players hungry to make their mark, Dodd said. At this early stage, coaches are figuring out who will fill the shoes of last year’s extremely talented senior class. Nathan Kramme was a four-year starting quarterback and charismatic team leader. Jon Fakkema and Adam McShane led a strong offensive line, while Kaden Foster and Rudy Nolasco were both formidable linebackers. Cody Gobbato played a key role as a heads-up wide receiver and defensive back.
The team lost four of five offensive linemen who graduated last year. Replacing them is the first priority, Dodd said.
“That’s where it’s going to start for us,” Dodd said. “Right now there are seven or eight guys fighting for those positions and doing really well.”
Blaine went 2–5 in 2A Northwest Conference games last season, and 4–5 overall. The year before, the Borderites went to the district playoffs with a 3–2 conference record in the regular season.
Juniors Jalen Kortlever and Marcus Potts will split quarterback duties. Both have extensive varsity experience.
“We’re lucky to be in this situation with two strong quarterbacks,” Dodd said.
In addition to two quarterbacks calling plays and leading the offense, leadership will also come from four senior captains. Armando Moser, a returning offensive and defensive lineman, and Josh Fakkema, a returning tight end and linebacker, are two captains Dodd called the “meat-and-potatoes of the team.”
“They’re both two-way starters,” Dodd said. “They bring strong leadership and a lot of heart and soul.”
Riley Fritsch and Anthony Ball are also captains.
“We have a tremendous running back in Riley Fritsch and Anthony Ball led the team in receiving last year,” Dodd said. “They are both also big time leaders and we’ll be looking to get them in on defense.”
Gunnar Arnason, a tight end and outside linebacker, is the fifth captain.
“Gunnar [Arnason] is out right now with an injury but he’s at practice helping out and being a tremendous leader for us. He knows what it takes to win, and he’s spreading that information among the new players,” Dodd said.
The Borderites’ first regular season game is at home against New Westminster this Friday, September 4. New Westminster has the largest high school football team in British Columbia. Dodd said New Westminster runs a similar offense to Ferndale, so the team is treating the non-conference game as a chance to prepare for the game against 3A Ferndale on September 18.
“The kids are working hard to prepare for their first game, and we’re trying out players at different positions. There will be a lot of learning curves, and we’re starting that process. The kids are doing a great job,” Dodd said.
The first home game against New Westminster on Friday, September 4, begins at 4 p.m.