By Oliver Lazenby
The Blaine High School varsity football team had high hopes last season, but they didn’t win many games. Although they were a strong team and many of those losses were close games, they finished with a 1-9 record.
This year’s team has a strong group of returning starters, including the entire defensive line. Between that and the fact that they’re in a new division – the Northwest Conference 2A Lake Division, which includes familiar teams including Bellingham and Sehome, as well as new teams like Cedarcrest and Mountlake Terrace – the Borderites should have little trouble improving on last season’s record.
The key for the team, according to head coach Jay Dodd, will be mental toughness.
“That will be the most important thing – just being mentally tough when things aren’t going our way,” he said.
The biggest unknown for this team is who will take the quarterback position. The Borderites have several possibilities, but sophomore Will McKinney will start the season.
“He’s very mature for a sophomore. He’s worked really hard in the weight room, he understands everything we’re trying to do, and he asks the right questions,” Dodd said. “I think everyone on the team respects Will a lot because they see how hard he works.”
McKinney spent his freshman season on the varsity bench learning from last year’s starting quarterback Cam Ellis.
McKinney should be sending a lot of passes to wide receiver Chase Abshere. Abshere caught for over 700 yards last season and could be among the top receivers in the county this year.
“He’s a three-year starter. He’s also a big kid and very quick,” Dodd said. “He can make something happen pretty quickly when we get the ball in his hands, so we’re excited to get him involved as much as possible.”
Dodd expects a healthy competition to develop among Borderite wide receivers, as about five others showed promise during the off-season.
That’s also true for Blaine’s running backs. Oscar Caridad’s speed made him one of Blaine’s top rushers and kick returners last season and he’s become a smarter player since then, Dodd said.
“He has a burst of speed and since last season he’s gotten better at understanding our plays, and being patient,” Dodd said. “Now he is able to read blocks and turn on that speed.”
Danyil Tkachov, who got some varsity playing time as a defensive end, will add some variety to Blaine’s running game along with returning all-conference second team linebacker Jacob Westfall.
The Borderites also have three potential varsity-level tight ends and could have a varied, unpredictable offense, Dodd said.
Blaine’s defensive line was a weak spot at times last year. This year, all seven on the line are back and they’re one year faster and stronger.
The Borderites’ season starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, August 31 at home against Surrey, BCs, Earl Marriot Secondary School. The team’s first in-conference game is on Friday, September 21, at Sehome High School.