Balanced attack leads to win in season opener

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By Ian Ferguson

The Borderite football team is full of fast learners this year.

Blaine athletes hit their marks in the season opener against the New Westminster Hyacks from British Columbia September 4, and even young players showed a good understanding of the game as the Borderites rolled to a 55–20 win at home. Head coach Jay Dodd attributed the win to a balanced offense and effective defense.

“It was a good night and a good way to start the season,” Dodd said. “For the first game, we’re doing a good job of understanding our responsibilities.”

Jalen Kortlever played his first varsity start as a quarterback for the Borderites, completing eight passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Anthony Ball caught two touchdown passes in the second quarter, and Layton Hagee caught one in the fourth.

“Jalen did a great job in his first varsity start,” Dodd said. “We’re finding that he has a great group of guys to throw to, and having multiple options means he can choose the open man instead of always leaning on the strongest target.”

The solid passing game was balanced by Riley Fritsch’s strong running performance. Fritsch is a second-year starter who led the team in offensive production last year. Against New Westminster, he ran for 221 yards and four touchdowns, scoring two in the first quarter and two in the third. Kicker Kyle Sentkowski scored seven points for Blaine in point-after-touchdown attempts.

“We’re looking to have a 50-50 balanced attack this year,” Dodd said. “All our skills players are highly capable, so we’re able to call plays based on what the defense is showing us.”

Blaine’s offensive line played surprisingly well, given that four of the five starting linemen had never started in a varsity game before. Dodd said those players are adapting nicely.

“They knew what they needed to do, and they executed well,” Dodd said.2015-9-4-NWM-HS-at-Blaine-VFB-JSK-103

The Hyacks didn’t lie down. The largest high school football team in British Columbia has a strong quarterback in Jamie Shiho, who threw for 178 yards and one touchdown, and also scored a 40-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak in the second quarter. The Hyacks’ third and final touchdown came on a 95-yard kickoff return by David Penalver in the third quarter.

Dodd said he was very happy with his team’s defense.

“The defense did a great job of stopping their basic run game and breaking up passes,” Dodd said.

Shiho completed 12 of 21 passing attempts. The Blaine defense forced two interceptions, one of which Anthony Ball returned for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Shaq Woods, one of the Borderites’ new offensive linemen, also had an impact on defense. The 6’6″, 300-plus-pound sophomore has quickness to match his size, and is already excelling in his role.

“Not only is he a big guy, he’s a great athlete,” Dodd said. “He can stop the run at the line, but he can also chase things down and pursue the ball.”

Although he was pleased with how players are learning their roles, Dodd said there is room for improvement.

“We’re going to continue to learn and improve our fundamentals and skills. As we get into league play, we’ll be able to start analyzing matchups and moving players around to maximize our advantage,” Dodd said.

The team is preparing for their next game against Granite Falls, a 2A team in the Cascade Conference. The Borderites play in the Northwest Conference, but will likely face Cascade teams later in the season, so Dodd said Friday’s game will be a good chance to size up the other conference.

“We’re excited to face them to get a feel for that conference,” Dodd said. “We’re trying to prepare for their spread offense.”

If last Friday’s performance is an indication, Blaine stands to make waves in 2A this year, despite being the smallest school in the division.

“We’re just going to keep plugging away and getting better,” Dodd said.

The home game against Granite Falls on Friday, September 11 begins at 7 p.m.

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