The boys are back! The boys are back!
“At halftime I told them to get back out there and hold ’em on defense,” said Blaine head football coach Dave Fakkema, “and to score, to win this thing.” And they did just that in a memorable game that marks the return of competitive Whatcom County League football to Borderite Stadium.
Despite getting scored on twice in the closing seconds of the first half, Blaine rose up in the second half to shut down Mt. Baker’s vaunted rushing offense and beat the eighth-ranked Mounties 21-20.
Pete Galbraith, a six-foot, two-inch, 205-pound star running back for the Mounties, had amassed a league best 426 yards rushing out of Baker’s single wing offensive set, averaging 5.6 yards per carry over four games. He maintained this against Blaine’s bend-don’t-break defense, getting 70 yards in 14 carries, but when it counted he got stopped like a bowling ball hitting a bank vault.
It all came down to the final seconds. Blaine had scored its third touchdown when Joey Paciorek sprang loose on a 55-yard scamper through the entire well-blocked Baker team and up the left side, handing the ball to the ref as he circled through the end zone like he’s been there before. Paciorek’s usually not a celebrating kind of guy, and the five stitches in his thumb courtesy of trainer Dan Persse to repair a second quarter injury might have been giving him a little twinge now and then as well.
Blaine kicked to Mt. Baker after the score with 7:55 left for them to do something about Blaine’s one-point lead. Predictably, the Mountaineers began slowly plodding down the field, getting just enough yardage every third or fourth play to keep possession. When they got within striking distance Mt. Baker managed a couple of offensive spurts that were terminated by game-saving and textbook perfect open field tackles.
Then Mt. Baker got close. First, second and third and goal, three times the Mounties went straight at Blaine’s end zone like a determined medieval army, not capable of thinking they’d lose.
They were so confident that they never attempted a field goal even when just feet from the goal line. Though it would have been an easy way for them to have taken the lead, perhaps because the Mountie kicker had badly “Seahawked.” The Seahawks lost by a missed field goal Sunday a field goal attempt in the first half, they never even tried.
jut three seconds left, Mt. Baker lined up in their normal
formation inside the Blaine two yard line for one last
lunge. The Mountie quarterback got the snap and thudded
it solidly into Galbraith’s gut, feeling sure that
he’d get the distance. Galbraith is more
than two yards tall, so he’d score if
all he did was fall forward.
But Blaine sophomore Bryan Chau, with NASA-perfect timing, ran straight into Galbraith a half yard behind the line of scrimmage and stopped him like a tree trunk stops a Volkswagen, with a certain and abrupt finality, waking up all the pigeons fluttering around the freeway bridge and making people in Lynden look outside for rain, having heard the thunder.
For a second the two stood suspended in time, the crowd agape, the white jerseyed running back sticking to Chau’s enormous dark-jerseyed chest like Wiley Coyote after slamming into a wall, hope running out for Mt. Baker like blood from a shot duck.
Senior linebacker Ryan Henley, who’s still smiling about it, slammed into Galbraith around Chau’s right side, dealing a second mortal blow to Mt. Baker’s last chance before they all toppled sideways like a stack of Legoes as the ref began blowing the play, and Mt. Baker’s chance at a victory, dead. Dead, dead, dead.
It was close enough that Mt. Baker initially began celebrating a last second victory, and until this year that probably would have happened, but not now. Time ran out on Mt. Baker as Blaine ran off the field like kids chasing the ice cream wagon, celebrating the end of a drought that’s lasted years, through very tough seasons of 72-0 drubbings and getting scored on by a dwarf.
No more. This team’s problems now are those of a winner – avoiding over-confidence, remembering to win each play and each game, and, like Paciorek, not celebrating too much. They’ve been here before and are now back.
The boys next meet Granite Falls Friday night at 7:30 in the annual homecoming game. Come early to find a seat.
And in Deming, the chief topic of conversation is about Bryan Chau, who’s still growing, something that ought to have Mt. Baker practicing field goals.