Sports -- November 26, 2008

Published on Wed, Nov 26, 2008
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SPORTS by Jack Kintner

Lynden rains on Borderite parade in 21-7 game

The dream for Blaine’s valiant, stubborn and hard-working football team finally ended last weekend in a driving rainstorm in Bellingham as the Borderites lost in the quarterfinals of the state tournament to the Lynden Lions 21-7.

But what a season it’s been. Despite being the smallest 2-AA team in the Northwest conference, Blaine has proven itself to be one of the top eight programs in the state, doing it on the field, where it counts.

Blaine was one of five county programs still competing at the state tournament level last weekend, three of which (from Lummi, Nooksack and Ferndale) bit the dust along with Blaine, leaving Lynden as the lone survivor.

Blaine is no longer the league doormat, as shown by the way they played the second half of the season when successive mid-season double and triple overtime losses to Squalicum and Burlington left them at a low point.

With a 3-5 record and narrow prospects for anything post-season, they somehow found the determination and courage to win four straight games by combined scores of 151 to 65 and sail into the post season under the radar, feeling good and playing like they haven’t played for a long time.

They were stopped, no doubt about it, but by a team that has more gold in the trophy case than Fort Knox. Lynden is a quality program that will now go back to the state semi-final game for the third year in a row.

“We lost to a good team,” said head coach Jay Dodd, making no excuses.

He’s right. It’s no disgrace to play your best and lose to a quality opponent, especially if you will remember that just a few years ago to suggest that Blaine could even walk on the field with this kind of competition would have been laughable.

This time Blaine played Lynden effectively and evenly throughout most of the game, eventually forcing Lynden coach Curt Kramme to throw out his playbook and use a repetitive two to three-play offense that seemed to be straight out of touch football.

Nothing was working for Lynden by the end of the first half thanks to Blaine’s defensive grit, so Kramme benched his starting quarterback and replaced him with senior running back David Gaylord, who at 6’4” and 225 pounds is bigger than anyone on Blaine’s team.

Lynden then ran the same play over and over for the rest of the game, mostly quarterback keepers, occasionally handing off to the tailback until first Brett Bajema and then Gaylord himself scored for the two-touchdown margin.

The weather was bad for both teams, of course, but because of the field configuration the 50 mph, rain-soaked 40-degree gusts got the fans on the Blaine side of the field much more directly than the Lynden side, one huge gust sending much of Blaine’s sideline equipment sailing away at one point shortly before the game began.

The same storm knocked out power to most of South Surrey for several hours. It was so cold the stadium-brewed coffee almost tasted good.
Another difference that should not go unnoticed was Blaine’s lack of rain gear for players on a night that was almost too cold even for fans who still fish for a living. Putting something waterproof and warmer than polyester on our guys next year should be a priority, and if asked to help contribute, we all should happily do so.

But despite the Antarctic monsoon conditions, Blaine fans filled the stands on the north side of the field, sitting under a roof that covered them about as well as a bikini in a hurricane, and Blaine’s pep band, easily the best in the conference, played loudly, often and well despite the inclement conditions.

“Look,” shouted a woodwind when things began to go from wet to ridiculous, “some guys are actually playing football out there!”

Blaine and Lynden traded series and punts for much of the first quarter. The high winds held up all night, favoring the team defending the east goal, which was Lynden in the first quarter.

They scored first when running back Jace Baxter recovered Lion quarterback Jordan Hastings’s fumble in the end zone. Blaine put together a workmanlike drive downwind in the second quarter to tie the score on Casey McCabe’s one-yard plunge.

The series showed state-wide media that Blaine can not only play but dominate at this level and in survival conditions to boot, despite being outweighed at nearly every position. They did it on guts and determination.

Blaine’s momentum continued into the second half with the Borderite defense stopping Lynden and getting Blaine close enough to smell paydirt when a fumbled snap gave the ball back to the Lions mid-way through the third quarter.

As with any post-season game, mistakes can be costly, and in the end the Borderites’ inability to stop Gaylord when it mattered cost them the win. McCabe’s streak of 100 plus yards per game was ended when he left with a fourth quarter shoulder injury but true to the spirit of never say die he returned later to rack up a respectable 67 yards total rushing.

Daniel Gorze, playing in his final game in what has to have been a dream season for the honor student, still got 21 yards through the air against rain.

Blaine has had a great year, no doubt about it, and has re-discovered itself and its gridiron potential in the process, coming back nicely from a mid-season low point to go farther than anyone except the team itself expected them to go. Next year looks promising as only 12 seniors will be leaving. Blaine football is back, and in a big way. Thanks to players, coaches, trainers, managers and boosters for a great season.