The cracks of striking shoulder pads are a reminder that yes, the Blaine Borderites 2012 football season is soon upon us.
With fall practices beginning to hit full swing, the Borderites want to rebound off a disappointing 4-6 season, including a first-round playoff 35-24 loss to Cedarcrest High School.
Although the 2011 season ended too soon, the Borderites looked impressive at times, winning their final three regular season games while amassing 145 points and conceding only 64 over that stretch.
Part of the Borderites’ late-season improvements was the seasoning of then-freshman quarterback Nathan Kramme, who replaced senior quarterback Parker Wallace two games into the season when Wallace suffered a knee injury. Kramme threw for 549 yards and seven touchdowns last season, while tossing seven interceptions.
Kramme has taken a much larger role with the team since last fall, head coach Jay Dodd said. Kramme organized throwing sessions twice a week with his wide receivers throughout the off-season.
“He really looks great,” Dodd said. “We are just head and shoulders above where we were last year when it comes to throwing the football.”
Kramme’s technical skills aren’t the only improvements Dodd has seen.
“I see great leadership skills,” he said. “The seniors respect his work ethic, and he’s definitely a leader when he comes to the huddle. He leads by example, and his work ethic is outstanding.”
Nonetheless, the focus of the Borderites’ offense will continue to be the same guy who helped the Borderites score nearly 33 points per game last season – senior tailback Mario Gobatto.
Gobatto rushed for 2,669 yards and 38 touchdowns last season on 335 carries.
“He basically put the whole offense on his shoulders last year,” Dodd said. “We had a freshman quarterback playing last year, and our passing and our wide receivers were a little bit limited.”
Dodd plans to spread the offensive burden around this season. Dodd hopes to decrease Gobatto’s touches throughout the game, allowing him more energy in late-game situations.
Being in a position to win games late will come down to improvements in the special team’s game, which last season routinely gave the opposing team’s offense a short field to score on and was a large factor as to why the Borderites surrendered 30 points per game last season.
“Our defense kind of got a bad rap last year when it came to giving up points,” Dodd said. “Our special team wasn’t very good. Teams were starting (drives) near mid-field a lot, so our defense had to basically defend (50 yards).”
This season offers much to look forward to, with nothing more intriguing than Blaine High School moving from division 2A down to division 1A, which will see Blaine facing schools similar in size.
But moving down divisions doesn’t change the high expectations Dodd has for his team.
“Our expectations are still the same – we think we have the ability to win all our games [every year],” Dodd said. “I would say that if the Seattle Seahawks were on our schedule.”
The numbers don’t always tell the whole truth, especially if you ask head girls’ soccer coach Dan Steelquist.
“Last season was one of the most solid teams that we’ve put on the field,” Steelquist said. “Our record doesn’t show how hard this team worked, and it doesn’t show how much team play [was involved].”
Though the team finished last season 2-14, Steelquist said he sees a bright future ahead, led by a strong mix of seniors and underclassmen.
“In this league, with high school sports, the younger girls look to the older girls for leadership,” Steelquist explained, “and the older girls are now in a position where they can really apply their strengths in the program.
“The season goes where the seniors take you,” Steelquist said. “I have always believed that.”
Unlike the football team, who will only play division 1A schools, the soccer team will continue to face a mix of 1A, 2A and 3A schools, but if they make the playoffs, they will face only 1A opponents.
And making the playoffs is Steelquist’s goal for this team.
“I’m excited to watch this team play,” Steelquist said, “not just coach them.”
Faced with the prospect of not having any seniors, head volleyball coach Sheli Moore will emphasize the fundamentals in order to make the playoffs.
“With the younger kids, you have to work on the difference in the speed of the game,” Moore explained. “It’s a lot faster than in the middle school level.”
Asked if the move from 2A to 1A will change anything, Moore said, “Probably not a whole heck of a lot. It is still a really tough, competitive league, and it’s a great place to try to make your team better.”
Seniors Tom Bradley and Eddie Fontes – both two-time state qualifiers – want to lead the boys’ cross-country team to another state tournament.
The opportunities to advance to state will be easier at the 1A level, head coach Carey Bacon said, but he conceded that it will still be a difficult road for his runners.
“The leagues are so competitive, but I’m excited and hopeful,” Bacon said.
The girls’ cross-country squad will be small, but Bacon thinks sophomore Hillary Kiele will be a strong competitor, even though she is coming off an injury.