With the memory of the sublime and surreal results of the 2010 season still seared on their minds, the Borderite football team is prepared to embark on its 2011 campaign.
The Borderites are resolved not to repeat some of the pitfalls that befell them last year and aim to build on their achievements, which included two wide receivers finishing the year with more 1,000 yards each and quarterback Sean Allen’s school-record-setting passing performance.
The 2010 Borderite passing attack was the envy of the Northwest Conference, but unfortunately the Blaine defense was often the envy of opposing running backs, as the Borderites were frequently gouged for big numbers by the likes of Lynden’s Josh Kraght and Mount Baker’s Levi Wigg. Combined with an inexplicable, last-second loss to lowly Sehome that dropped Blaine from playoff contention for the first time in four years.
Blaine head football coach Jay Dodd sees last season’s Achilles’ heel as a point of optimism.
“There wasn’t a senior on last year’s defense that was a full-time starter,” Dodd said. “The returning players are bigger, faster and smarter. We feel our defense could be our biggest strength this year.”
While the experience of the defense remains to be tested, one sure thing for the Borderites is that the conference’s defensive coaches will again have to contend with all-conference tight end Andrew Price.
Price emerged as the top player at his position in 2010, despite finishing the season with a broken finger. The 6-foot-7 senior, already being courted by schools in the PAC-12 conference, is sure to see double-coverage throughout the year.
“Teams will focus on Andrew, and it’s probably a smart thing to do,” Dodd said. “There will be times where we have to get him the ball no matter what the defense is doing. He’s big and strong, with good ball skills, so it’s silly to be afraid of two defenders.”
With Allen now a walk-on at Central Washington University, the job of getting the ball to Price will fall to Parker Wallace. Dodd’s confidence in the senior is unshakable.
“He’s got a good arm, and we love his competitive nature and his maturity,” Dodd said. “He’s a winner, and I think his attitude will be contagious for the rest of the team.”
Wallace will be throwing to an entirely new field of receivers who showed improvement in the spring practices.
Tyler Kelly and Brett Allen are joined by track stars Isaiah Jackson and Ephraim Westbrook as each seeks to find his role in taking pressure off Price.
The running game took a back seat to the passing game in 2010, but may see a resurgence as junior Mario Gobbato returns as the Borderites’ full-time starter.
“He’s improved a lot in spring,” Dodd said. “He now has the ability to run the ball in the box and get short gains, along with making people miss and creating longer runs as well.”
Spelling Gobbato in the backfield will be Tyler Chau and Caleb Johnson, both returning players.
The offensive line charged with opening holes and protecting the quarterback will be bigger and stronger this season, something Dodd feels good about.
“We feel we have seven varsity-type offensive linemen at this point,” Dodd said. “We think the offensive line has the potential to open some holes, but we’ll see.”
Two juniors are manning the tackle positions. Explosive James Fakkema is 225 pounds with good feet, while Palmer Sandel is bigger and expected to be a dominant down blocker. Aggressive Eddie Avena and huge Jesse Antczak return at the guard positions while starting center Carlos Serrano will be pushed by Jesse Nieuwendorp, who started at left guard last year.
The season of potential that has coaches so encouraged begins auspiciously, as the Borderites will be featured in a slate of high school openers at Seattle’s Century Link Field on Saturday, September 3. Blaine will meet the 3A Hazen Highlanders of Renton in the opening game at 9:30 a.m.
“We’re all very excited for this opportunity,” Dodd said. “These players will be watching Seahawks games for the rest of their life. I imagine every time they turn on the TV, they’ll think about this experience and what happened that day.”