By Oliver Lazenby
With Meridian two yards from scoring the winning touchdown, the Borderites knew exactly what to expect during the final seconds of Friday’s game.
On a previous possession, Meridian’s Simon Burkett ran the ball in from one yard, and Blaine expected a repeat attempt from the Division-1-college-bound quarterback.
After the snap, Blaine’s defensive line pressured Burkett, but as the clock ran out Burkett dove into the corner of the end zone to give Meridian (2–0) a 50–44 win.
“We just wanted to defend against that,” Blaine head coach Jay Dodd said. “Our guy Josh Soto did a good job – he was right there. That was just a good player making a good play.”
For Dodd, the silver lining in the September 8 loss – the second game of the season – was his team’s improvement over its first game, a 45–6 blowout against Nooksack Valley.
Everything worked a little better: offense, defense and special teams, Dodd said.
“I’m really proud of where we came in seven days,” Dodd said.
After getting off to a 12–0 lead thanks to touchdowns by Jacob Westfall and Oscar Caridad, the two teams settled into a high-scoring back and forth, with Blaine always on top. One minute into the fourth quarter, Blaine led 44–30.
Blaine’s new starting quarterback Cam Ellis matched Burkett’s performance. Ellis went 22 for 39, passing for a total of 387 yards and breaking a school record from 1996, according to whatcomcountyfootball.com.
Those passes went to four different receivers: Chase Abshere, Dalton Mouw, Cruz Rodriguez and Alex Mercado, with Mouw receiving for a total of 173 yards and Abshere for 120.
“The pass game is open to everybody,” Ellis said. “I know they all can make a play when they need to and I trust them when I put that ball up.”
Mouw had a big game on both offense and defense. As a defensive back, he chased down Meridian’s Bryce Vandenhaak and pushed him out of bounds of the two-yard line after a 73-yard reception. Prior to Friday, Mouw had just a few catches in his football career.
“He caught a lot of passes tonight and played with a lot of confidence,” Dodd said.
Even with the team’s offense and defense coming together, Blaine still needs to learn how to prepare for games and how to win, Dodd said. The Borderites lost the game in the fourth quarter, when Burkett threw a touchdown pass to Tony Schleimer and then snuck two more touchdowns in himself, running for a total of 70 yards in the fourth quarter.
Both teams scored seven touchdowns and favored two-point conversion attempts to extra-point kicks, but Meridian followed-through on more of its conversions.
Blaine is training new punters and kickers, and many of its special teams players are new to the sport, Dodd said.
“I think we’ll keep improving special teams and hopefully that will be a strength come October,” he said.
Blaine’s next game – and first conference game – is 7 p.m. on Friday, September 15, at Sedro-Woolley (1–1). The Borderites play at home on Friday, September 29 against Anacortes.