SPORTS by Jack Kintner
Blaine wins first round at state tournament
The Borderites continued their climb into the stratosphere last weekend with a solid 49-25 first round state tournament win over a tough, physical and imposing Mark Morris Monarchs team that lost for just the third time this year. Blaine started well and played hard for 60 minutes, doing unto others what in recent seasons had so often been done unto them.
Blaine’s offense scored touchdowns on seven of their first nine possessions. Blaine’s defense stopped the Monarchs so effectively that the outcome was obvious just after halftime.
In a key match-up, Blaine’s Joel Garza handled their 300-pound collegiate prospect, 6’4” junior lineman Jake Welch, with all the aplomb of a Green Bay Packer despite giving away six inches in height and almost 100 pounds in weight. It’s not supposed to be that way but it was.
Playing under a blue sky on a warm late fall afternoon at the picturesque R.A. Long High School in Longview, the Borderite defense spent five minutes early in first quarter battling an extended Mark Morris drive.
But after a sack put the Monarchs back on their own 35 with a second and 11, their workhorse running back Braydon Poole got loose for 46 yards and a first down deep in Borderite territory.
Blaine’s bend-not-break defense ground them to a halt on a key third and five on the Blaine ten, though, and the Monarchs came away with just a field goal for an early 3-0 lead.
Though a traditional way for Blaine to begin, letting the other guys score first, the hole they dug was shallow and lasted less than 20 seconds.
A timely block from Trevor Chau on Blaine’s first play from scrimmage after the kick sprung Casey McCabe for 75 yards and the first of his three touchdowns, setting up the spectacle of a smaller team having a bigger team for lunch. The 100 or so Blaine fans that made the trip saw McCabe, at 5’8” and 195 solid pounds, easily shake off a tackle from the Monarch’s 6’1” 200 pound defensive back Colin Smith, and Chau, a willowy six footer weighing just 165, stopping cold the Monarch’s last man standing between McCabe and paydirt despite giving away 40 pounds and three inches in height.
That’s the way the afternoon went. Blaine wasn’t bigger or even much faster than Morris, but they sure were a lot better, gutting the Monarch’s tournament hopes like a butcher making lamb chops, playing the whole game without any turnovers while forcing four.
Morris again ran off a big gain on their next possession, getting successive first downs on the Blaine 39, 27 and 16 yard lines, but Blaine’s defense, led by Josh Jones and David Craig, once again resisted and the Monarchs again came away with just a field goal to still trail Blaine by one, 7-6, early in the second quarter.
Blaine then put together a four minute, 10-play drive during which McCabe went over 100 yards rushing (he’s got somewhere over 1,200 yards for the season), ultimately running it in from 15 yards out to put Blaine up 14-6.
After that, Morris got off three plays before D.J. Duncan intercepted and returned the ball to midfield. Gorze went after the middle of the Monarch line, using McCabe like a battering ram, before unloading a beautiful 50-yard strike to Chau to set up Blaine’s third score for a 21-6 advantage.
Yardage for a defensive pass interference penalty on the play was assessed on the ensuing kickoff, putting Blaine at mid-field, so they tried an on-side kick that was recovered by Miguel Alvarez, the Blaine sideline cheering and jumping around like they’d all just come down with St. Vitus’ Dance.
At that moment, Blaine football was back, the team not just winning but having a lot of fun doing it.
Morris took over on downs on their own 30, and despite a nice sack by Al Bohnson they scored their first touchdown on the drive with runs of 40 and 29 yards to make it 21-13 at the half and give Morris a slight ray of hope, which rhymes, as Morris was to soon find out, with nope.
Monarch blood flowed freely after the mid-game break. It’s a measure of this team’s maturity that they played like an experienced state tournament team should, and like Daniel having to cut off Goliath’s head after he killed him the Borderites knew they weren’t quite done with the day’s task.
Where in previous years they’d sometimes relax too much with the lead, jeopardizing the win, this time they finished with the finality and dispatch of a hangman in a Clint Eastwood western.
The Monarchs opened the third quarter with an on-side kick of their own that failed when Blaine lineman Brad Johnson smothered it on the Blaine 48.
Four plays later McCabe pounded his way in from the two and Blaine went back up to a 28-13 lead. Blaine kicked and Duncan forced the second turnover of the game two plays later, recovering a Monarch fumble on their 20.
Two plays after Gorze hit Jacob Rogers with a 20-yard TD pass and Blaine’s lead grew to 35-13. Less than three minutes of the second half had elapsed.
A second Monarch touchdown six long minutes later was answered in just two plays with an 81-yard Gorze to Chau connection that broke Morris’ back.
There was a little life left, but when Monarch quarterback Scott Kirkpatrick was faced with a desperation fourth and 12 on Blaine’s 29 their offense fell apart as Al Bohnson sacked him for a 10-yard loss and a Blaine first down.
The Borderites marched downfield fast with yet another Gorze to Chau special, then pounded on Morris like a drum a few times before Caleb Statham punched it in from the one.
A last Morris touchdown was meaningless as Blaine headed for the buses to savor their 49-25 victory on the long happy ride home.
Gorze ended up completing 8 of his 12 passes for a whopping 236 yards, to receivers Chau (185), Rogers (34) and Al Bohnson (17). Coupled with McCabe’s 184 yards, Statham’s 7 and Gorze’s 6, Blaine’s offense put out 436 yards with only three penalties and no turnovers.
“We intended to use both quarterbacks,” Dodd said later, “but things were working with Daniel and he was managing the game so well we just left him in for the whole game.”
With the win Blaine goes from being one of the “sweet 16,” the teams that began the state tournament, into the elite eight circle of winners that move on to the second round.
For Blaine, that means facing an opponent they’ve seen before, Lynden, on Friday, November 21 at 7 p.m. at Civic Stadium in Bellingham.
“It would be nice to have a sea of black and orange,” said head coach Jay Dodd, and he’s right. The team has been working hard to get this far for years and deserves our support.
Tickets ($8 for adults, $6 for students with an ASB card and seniors) are being pre-sold at the high school office from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. all week.
Blaine lost to the Lions 25-3 early last month in a driving rain, but that score means nothing now. Both teams have developed during the season, and Blaine no longer gets to fly under the radar as they have so successfully against South Whidbey in the district playoff and against Mark Morris this last weekend.
It will be a tougher game than they’ve had so far, but Lynden is beatable, given the momentum Blaine has generated.