Fresh off the heels of a three-point loss to Mount Baker, the Borderites found themselves pulling out a nail-biting fourth-quarter drive against the Burlington-Edison Tigers. Efforts fell short as quarterback Nathan Kramme was sacked for a fumble and turnover with 1:15 remaining, effectively ending the October 7 game at 19-21 – an agonizing two-point defeat.
Despite Blaine’s recent string of losses, Borderites head coach Jay Dodd is not interested in passing the buck.
“I think coaching wins the close ones, and we have lost two close ones in a row,” Dodd said. “I need to take a good look in the mirror about what I’m doing and change some things up, because we have come up short on both [of Blaine’s close losses].”
Trailing the entire game due in part to a failed first-quarter point-after attempt and two-point conversion, Blaine managed to stay in arm’s reach of the lead, thanks to powerhouse running back Mario Gobbato’s 220 yards and a late fourth-quarter touchdown reception by tight end Andrew Price, landing the Borderites within three points at less than three minutes to go.
Despite a bungled onside kick attempt, Blaine managed to force a punt after Burlington was hit with an offensive delay of game penalty at the end of their drive, moving them to fourth and long with 1:40 to play.
As the tension reached a fever pitch and Borderites players began stoking the crowd by waving their arms up and down, Blaine mounted their final drive, opting to keep the ball in the air and out of the hands of the reliable Gobbato. This would prove costly.
After two incomplete passes, Kramme was sacked by Tigers center Andy Agen for a fumble that the Tigers recovered with 1:15 remaining. From there on, the Tigers ran out the clock.
With the taste of victory just out of reach, losses like this are bound to leave a sour aftertaste in any Borderite’s mouth.
“We’ve got good players who play hard, but things just haven’t gone our way in the last couple weeks,” Dodd said. “We need to figure out why.”
So where does one look to improve? For starters, Blaine could have done without their nine penalties, costing them an unnecessary 79 yards.
“The last couple weeks we have had some penalties for things we need to clean up,” Dodd said. “Minor things like attention to detail, lining up properly and snap counts. These are things that definitely need to be improved upon.”
It’s safe to say the Borderites’ running game is solid. Gobbato ran for 220 yards over 38 carries, managing several times to thread the Tigers’ defensive line for major gains, including a first-quarter touchdown and 45-yard kickoff return. Gobbato has posted 1,303 yards over 174 rushes for the season, averaging 7.5 yards per carry.
Kramme went 4 for 13 with three interceptions and two touchdowns, often lobbing the ball into heavy coverage to 6-foot-7-inch tight end Price.
“Once we got into league play, we started (Price) out at wide receiver and tried to create a mismatch on the outside,” Dodd said.
Price clearly had a height advantage over Burlington defenders on Friday, a mismatch that Blaine could effectively utilize in future games – provided Kramme and Price continue to tighten their chemistry.
Another promising aspect of Blaine’s passing offense lies in Kramme’s development. After injuries sidelined two Borderites quarterbacks early in the season, freshman Kramme was plugged in to the starting lineup and has managed to hold his own among upperclassmen ever since.
“Nathan is doing great,” Dodd said. “He’s been [quarterback] since the second week of the season, and he has gotten so much better. He is definitely improving every week.”
Blaine’s next few games will determine how Kramme and Price work out their air game to alleviate some of the pressure on Gobbato and offer some offensive alternatives.
Blaine, now 1-5 (1-3 in conference play), heads to Bellingham this weekend to take on the Red Raiders this Saturday, October 15, at Civic Stadium.