An out-of-sync offense and a too-little, too-late comeback marred the Borderites’ bid against state powerhouse Lakewood on Friday night.
Lakewood, a team that made it to the quarter finals in last year’s Washington state football playoffs, was much more physical than Blaine’s first two opponents this season. They ramped their game up early, leaving the Borderites to play catch up. “They are big, and they hit hard,” head coach Jay Dodd said.
The Cougars started their scoring run with triple-threat quarterback Justin Peterson running it in from the six-yard line – just one play after Cougar running back Donovan Evans’ 30-yard sprint was cut short by Borderite Caleb Johnson’s touchdown-saving tackle. The extra point was good, propelling Lakewood to a 7-0 lead.
Blaine’s first drive was stalled by the first of its three fumbles for the night. Lakewood quickly took control, with Peterson air-mailing a 40-yarder to Evans for a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion pushed the Cougars to a 15-0 advantage, which they maintained for the rest of the first quarter.
Senior James Fakkema intercepted Peterson’s pass at the 7:52 mark of the second quarter, effectively stopping Lakewood’s drive, and putting Blaine back in the game.
The usually potent tailback Mario Gobbato was pretty well bottled up by a keyed-in Lakewood defense in the first half. Gobbato was kept on a short leash, and only allowed 42 yards in the first half. That, in combination with two turnovers, kept the Borderites at bay during the first half.
In the third quarter, the Borderites began to find their footing. Blaine senior wide receiver Tyler Kelly hauled in a touchdown pass with Gobbato stepping up for a two-point conversion. The celebration was short-lived, though, with the Cougars quickly turning in their own touchdown to widen the gap to 22-8.
Forcing the Cougars to go three and out, the Borderites started their drive from their own 28 with Gobbato and Caleb Johnson blazing the way. Johnson, the 230-lb. senior running back, pummeled through on the inside, with lightning-quick Gobbato making his move around the edges to set Blaine up for a goal drive at the 9-yard line. In the red zone, Gobbato and Johnson garnered 3 and 5 yards respectively, making way for paydirt on the third when Gobbato found his way into the end zone.
With the deficit closing at 22-14, the tide seemed to turn, and the Borderites held Lakewood in check on the next possession. A newly-energized defense gave the Blaine offense a chance to make a game of it, and several key plays were made in this stand.
The tide had turned, and Blaine held Lakewood in check on their next possession, giving the offense a chance to make a game of it. Several key plays were made in this stand.
Down by eight with 8:06 left in the fourth, Blaine found itself in a violent chess match. Starting on their own 10-yard line, the Borderites had a lot of ground to make up. Gobbato muscled his way to the 18 on the first down, picking up 8 yards for the offense, and followed with another 7-yard drive for a Borderite first down.
Lakewood revised their defense, and their eight-man front honed in on Gobbato, effectively holding the 5'9" running back.
The Blaine coaching staff countered, outmaneuvering the eight-man defensive front with a faked handoff to Gobbato. Quarterback Nate Kramme reverse pivoted, rolling out to the right behind his pass protection. He then rifled the ball to Tas Scanlan, good for 23 to the 50-yard line. Scanlan had two catches for the evening good for 33 yards. Kramme was six of thirteen passing for 109 yards.
Caught off guard by the last pass play, Lakewood switched to a more conventional cover two defense with 5:32 on the clock. Quick on their feet, the Borderites gave Gobbato free rein to run the ball out of a pass formation. With the defensive ends playing back to cover the flat, Gobbato received the handoff and took advantage of the hole created by the defensive end and linebacker moving back. He bounced outside, scampering 19 yards down the left sideline before running out of real estate, earning a first-down for Blaine.
With 1:59 on the clock, and Blaine at the third and two, Gobbato powered to the 20 behind senior offensive lineman Palmer Sandel to gain yet another first down for the driven Borderite squad.
“We used a power play behind our offensive line led tonight by Sandel,” Dodd said. The 6’5”, 280-lb. senior was great on defense [he had a good night’s work with 11 tackles], but he was even more dynamic on offense.
“He [Sandel] … gives great push to make space for our backs to run through,” Dodd continued. “During this last critical drive we called his number … Like Gobbato, he was intense and was driving his man backward three yards.”
Out of backfield, Gobbato edged past a number of tacklers and made a break to the 13. Another play inched him closer with a four-yard gain to the nine, with 53 seconds on the clock for a Blaine first down.
Facing Lakewood’s nine-man stack, Kramme switched tack, trying for a quick pass to Brett Allen. Falling incomplete, it still shook the Cougars’ defense enough to put them on their heels for the final play. With five seconds left, Kramme powered the snap to Gobbato for a last-ditch dive into the end zone. Gobbato hit paydirt, scoring a final touchdown for the Borderites with zero on the clock.
“Our offensive line was blowing their guys backwards on this final drive. They were doing an awesome job of opening holes. I knew I would score on the final play. Give the credit to the offensive line,” Gobbato said. Gobbato had 218 hard-earned yards for the night on 45 carries.
The play left Blaine with one last chance to tie the game. They made a drive for the two-point conversion, and the line surge was enough for Gobbato to move the pile into the scoring area.
Victory celebrations were quickly quelled for Blaine with a ruling from the referees that Gobbato’s knee was down before he crossed the plane. This ruling left the Borderites with a loss, and the final score at 22-20.
“All the line played well down the final stretch,” Dodd said.
Junior wide receiver Isaiah Jackson left the game with an injured arm, and he had an MRI scheduled Monday. The Borderites will play the Red Raiders at Civic field in Bellingham 7 p.m., Friday, September 21.