By Oliver Lazenby
After last year’s playoff run from a team that sent six seniors into college football, Blaine High School’s 2017 football team has something to prove.
Though head coach Jay Dodd is working to fill some holes, he said that with its talented quarterback hungry for varsity play, speedy wide receivers and defensive backs, and solid offense and defense lines, this is one of the better teams he’s seen in his 11 years as head coach.
“I think everybody will kind of doubt this team because we lost so many guys, but what I see in practice everyday is very positive,” Dodd said. “We’re excited about our whole team.”
Last year’s Borderites finished with a 6-3 record, and lost its first playoff game to Liberty High School, which went on to the state championships. They were exceptionally well rounded, with a running back, quarterback, wide receiver and placekicker who all finished at or near the top of the 2A Northwest conference statistically.
Though this year’s team may not have as much depth, it has more than 20 seniors and some strong returning players with varsity experience. Team captains are Porter Schmidt, an all-conference player last year; Cruz Rodriguez, a returning two-way starter; River Markusen, a defensive linemen and returning varsity player; and new quarterback Cam Ellis.
Ellis didn’t see much varsity action last year, but he knows the Borderites offense as well as anyone, Dodd said. Ellis, a former elementary school ball boy for the Borderites, has played quarterback his whole life.
“He’s just been waiting for his senior year and to be honest with you, on some teams he probably would have started as a junior. He was just stuck behind a really talented quarterback in Jalen Kortlever,” Dodd said. “He was a part of every play call last year and he knows the offense probably better than I do.”
Dodd also praised the team’s speed, saying it has the fastest group of wide receivers and defensive backs he’s seen.
One of the biggest holes to fill is the one left by Kyle Sentkowski, the Borderites punter and kicker for the last three years. Sentkowski scored more than 50 points for the Borderites in 2016 and routinely impressed opponents with long kickoffs.
Though kickers spend little time on the field, their job is crucial. A short kickoff can put the defense in a bind.
“Last year Kyle obviously really helped out our defense because whenever he would punt, the opposing offense usually had 70 or 80 yards to go for a touchdown,” Dodd said. “That might change. All the sudden they could be looking at 50 or 60 yards and that’s a big deal.”
As of Monday, August 28, Dodd was still trying out a few different kickers.
The Borderites start the season with two nonconference games, but they promise to be exciting.
The first is at Nooksack Valley at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 1 and then Blaine plays at home at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 8 against Meridian. In both games, the Borderites play quarterbacks who have already committed to Division 1 colleges.
“Our defense is excited about that,” Dodd said. “It’s going to be fun right off the bat.”