In the rapidly chilling night, after most of the fans had long since filed out of the stadium, Todd Bird was collecting and storing the yard markers from the football field. On this night it seemed Bird did whatever he could to help his team. On the field, there was little else he hadn’t done except giving the ball boy a break.
Bird, the senior wide receiver, played three positions on offense, caught 15 passes for 153 yards and four touchdowns, rushed for 94 yards and another score, kicked an extra point, executed an onside kick and pushed over the winning two-point conversion with 14 seconds remaining in the game.
For good measure, he intercepted Bellingham quarterback Bobby Funkhouser’s last gasp pass to preserve Blaine’s thrilling 35-34, come-from-behind homecoming win over the Red Raiders Friday, October 15.
The victory, Blaine’s first conference win of the season, was as unlikely as it was wild.
The Red Raiders had seemingly salted away the game when, with 3:22 left in the game, Dominic Franklin capped a spectacular game for Bellingham by sweeping untouched 61 yards for his third touchdown, giving his team a commanding 34-19 lead. Franklin finished the game with 206 yards rushing and had a fourth touchdown, a 50-yard burst up the middle nullified by a holding penalty.
The sequence that followed will be remembered in Borderite homecoming lore as it will be for its controversy.
On first down from their own 30-yard line, Bird carried the ball for 40 yards out of the quarterback position, setting the Borderites up at the Bellingham 30. Five plays later, quarterback Sean Allen found Bird on a fade route for a 20-yard touchdown. Allen then hit Andrew Price with a two-point conversion to draw within a touchdown: 34-27. On the ensuing kick off, the first profoundly controversial play occurred. Bird’s onside kick rolled directly to Bellingham’s Cole Goodridge, who fielded the ball on his knees.
By rule, in high school football, if a player controls a ball while on his knees, he is immediately ruled down and the play is dead. However, a moment after he got the ball, Goodridge was savagely hit by three Blaine players who, in the ensuing scrum, were ruled to have recovered the onside kick.
In possession with under two minutes to play and aided by a penalty, it took Blaine six plays to get to the Bellingham 11-yard line with 19 seconds left in the game. This time Allen hit Bird with a short crossing route that he caught at the two as he was running parallel to the goal line.
Bird ran three steps, and as he was crossing the goal line was crushed between two defenders. The ball came out, and was recovered by Bellingham. However, the side judge ruled that the ball had crossed the plane of the goal before the ball came loose, and the Borderites were awarded the touchdown, making the score 34-33 Red Raiders.
Bellingham players protested vehemently and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that moved the conversion attempt from the two to the one-yard line. Blaine head coach Jay Dodd elected to go for the win, and Bird followed Tyler Chau’s lead block for the apparent two point conversion.
Still, instead of a definitive signal, the officials gathered to determine if Bird’s knee was down before crossing the goal line. After a minute of deliberation, the conversion was confirmed setting off a wild celebration.
Two plays later, Bird intercepted Funkhouser’s hurried pass to end the game.
Dodd was doused with the water bucket as Blaine’s win preserved their slim hopes for a post-season berth. In the throes of the celebration, Dodd was quick to point out that despite Franklin’s audacious rushing performance and the two touchdowns thrown by Funkhouser, it was the Borderite defense that deserved the credit.
“Everyone’s been doubting us through this adversity,” Dodd said, “the defense takes a lot of flack. The defense won this game for us.”
Indeed, it seemed that the third quarter was going to be another struggle for the Blaine defense early, when on the second half kickoff return, junior Kaleb Arrequin fumbled and the Red Raiders recovered on the Borderites’ 40-yard line. On the next play, Franklin burst untouched through the defense for his second touchdown.
After the blocked point after, it gave the Red Raiders a 27-13 lead with only nine seconds elapsed in the half.
It was then that the Blaine defense did what they hadn’t done since week one: shut down a team for a quarter.
In fact, the Borderites held the Red Raiders scoreless until deep into the fourth stanza, forcing Bellingham to punt three times and turn the ball over on downs once. Between Franklin’s touchdown runs, Blaine held the Red Raiders to only 14 yards of offense.
Bellingham opened the scoring on their second possession when Funkhouser connected with Walker Storrer for a 65-yard TD bomb with 5:25 left in the first quarter. Blaine responded, mounting a 14 play, 80-yard drive, culminated by a three-yard Bird touchdown run.
Both teams exchanged touchdowns on consecutive drives but Bellingham held a one point lead when Bird’s point after was blocked.
Two plays later, Franklin got loose for his first touchdown from 67 yards away and Bellingham took a 21-13 lead into the halftime locker room, setting up the drama of the second half.
Allen, who leads the Northwest conference with 17 touchdown passes, wasn’t put off by surrendering snapped to Bird,“Bird’s our playmaker. We just want to get the ball in his hands any way we can.”
It is a situation that Bird relishes.
“I like it, I just want the ball as often as I can,” Bird said. “This was awesome. We know that Bellingham versus Blaine is going to be an absolute smash mouth game.”
There is no rest for the Borderites as every week has taken playoff importance.
Friday, Blaine welcomes in Anacortes, whose stunning upset of Burlington and their pristeen 6-1 record has them eyeing a potential number one seed in the playoffs with a contest against Lynden looming.