Some fans may have thought the Borderites were in crisis or left for dead. After a great three-win, zero-loss conference start, they lost their last two games to Mount Baker and Nooksack Valley, leaving them in a three-way tie for second place as the regular season ended.
The playoff was held on Saturday, October 27 to determine who would advance to the Northwest 1A conference as second and third seeds.
On this Halloween weekend, the Borderites, in their black and orange uniforms, arose from the dead. They showed they were
alive and well by winning two mini-games in the Kansas tie-breaker series. They won the first tie-breaker by beating Nooksack Valley and then beat Meridian in the final tie-breaker contest. Meridian beat Nooksack Valley in the second mini-game. Blaine, earning the number two seed, was tapped to play the winner of the Coupeville - Meridian game on Tuesday, October 30.
Game one: The Pioneers
On this night the black clad Borderites had some Halloween trickery in their bag for the Pioneers. In the Kansas tie-breaker games, the offense gets to start from the opponent’s 25-yard line. After the coin toss, Blaine went first.
On first down, senior running back Mario Gobbato was gang-tackled by a swarm of purple jerseyed Pioneers. On second down, Blaine’s sophomore quarterback Nate Kramme’s pass was wide of his target. Then it was third and ten yards to go for a first down. The Pioneer defense was in tight, keying on Blaine’s main offensive threat, Gobbato.
At the snap, Blaine’s offensive guard pulled, making it look like a running play. Kramme, continuing the deception, faked a handoff to Gobbato, then keeping the ball, reversed his direction from the flow of the play and ran 12 yards around the end to get the drive going. Using more trickery on the next play, Kramme again faked handing off to Gobbato, but this time instead of doing the naked reverse, he handed off to junior running back Cole Muder, who did the monster mash to the one-yard line. “Mr. Touchdown” Gobbato took it for the score. On the two-point conversion, the Borderites used their Halloween “trick or treat” special play. Kramme, on the bootleg around end, took it in and the Borderites led 8-0.
Then Nooksack Valley got their chance. The Pioneers used a screen pass to Bret Rediger who hid behind a swarm of purple uniforms to prance his way into the end zone. Nooksack had to go for a two-point conversion to tie.
Borderites senior defensive back Caleb Johnson pulled off the biggest trick of the night. On the Pioneer’s two-point conversion attempt, Johnson gave the Borderites nation and teammates a treat by knocking down the pass attempt. The Borderites celebrated their win and trip to the post-season by bouncing up and down on the Civic field turf.
Game two: Meridian Trojans
Blaine again started with first possession. They ran Gobbato on four consecutive plays into the middle of the white-uniformed Trojans, taking the ball just inside the 10-yard line. Blaine knew they had to score at least a touchdown as Meridian had a potent field goal kicker who had just beat Nooksack. Head coach Jay Dodd knew the play to call: Kramme, using the Halloween special, ran a bootleg one more time for the score. Blaine led 6-0.
On Meridian’s chance to score it was Muder, Blaine’s other defensive back whose work won the game for the Borderites.
Muder intercepted the Trojan pass to win the game for Blaine. “We were playing man to man instead of zone coverage,” Muder said. “I switched who I would pick up and confusing them, the ball came right to me.”
The Borderites ended with a 6-0 win and a top seed for the October 30 match up.
It was a rainy, but mild night on Tuesday, October 30. Two halves of football were played: first, Meridian Trojans (Northwest Conference #3 seed) faced the Coupeville Wolves for the right to play the Borderites (Northwest Conference #2 seed). Meridian breezed through the wolf pack, 34-8. The winner of the second half game between the Borderites and Trojans would earn the seed in the tri-district playoffs for state.
Blaine had already beaten Meridian twice this year; first on October 12, 34-27. Then again last week at Civic Field in the Kansas tie-breaker game.
Both teams played very conservatively to start this game as any mistake would be critical with only one half to play.
Blaine, dressed in all black, received the opening kickoff. Meridian, not wanting a long kickoff return from Mario Gobbato, kicked it short. Conservative play calling by the coaches had the teams trading punts in the opening minutes.
It had been raining hard all day and parts of the field were extremely muddy – in fact, the ball boy who ran onto the field to place a dry ball lost both of his shoes when they came off in the mud.
Meridian, a passing team, was having trouble. They tried running their quarterback Max McGuinn and junior running back Castro. Neither could get good footing to gain a first down. They punted to Blaine and the Borderites took over at their 24-yard line.
On second down, Mother Nature took over and a wet ball caused a fumbled exchange between the center and quarterback. The ball was loose on the ground in the Blaine backfield. There was a scramble that looked like a bunch of pigs at feeding time slopping around in the mud. Meridian’s Neal Tilbury picked up the loose pigskin and returned it 22 yards for the score. With the successful extra point kick, Meridian led 7-0 at the 2:51 mark of the first period.
The Borderites started the next possession at their 30-yard line. The trailing Borderites decided to go with their best play with senior tailback Gobbato running the ball behind the tackles. This gifted runner, as he has done so many times in his career, ran right through tackles and then outraced everyone for a 70-yard touchdown gallop. On the successful extra two-point conversion, Gobbato showed he was also a team player. His big-time block sprung Nate Kramme loose around end for the score. Blaine led 8-7 just 41 seconds later at the 2:10 mark.
With two minutes before the end of the first 15-minute half, there was still time for Meridian to mount another drive. Blaine’s Tas Scanlan had different ideas. The Trojans were moving downfield until Scanlan sacked McGuinn, throwing him for a six-yard loss and ending the Trojan drive.
Meridian had their first possession of the second 15-minute half starting on their 28-yard line. Three running plays made it fourth down with three yards to go. Normally, teams punt in this situation, but with the magnitude of this game, Meridian head coach Bob Ames decided to gamble. The Trojans tried to pass, but again Scanlan rose to the occasion and swatted down the pass attempt, giving the Borderites the ball deep in Trojan territory at the 35-yard line. On first down, Gobbato ran 16 yards to the 19-yard line. He followed this up with a nine-yard run to the 10. It was first and goal to go for the Borderites. Two plays later Gobbato took it in from the six. The extra point run failed, but Blaine was up by seven, 14-7, with just 4:20 left. Blaine fans were feeling pretty good at this point.
A huge kickoff return by Meridian started their possession at the Blaine 49-yard line. Mixing their plays up, they ran Castro for 10 yards, and then McGuinn fired a pass to McMillan down to the 19-yard line with only 31 seconds left.
Taking to the air to preserve the clock, they passed to Sam Chambers for a first down. There were just 10 seconds left and Meridian fooled Blaine by passing to Chambers in the flat. But this time, instead of Chambers running like he had on the last play, he straightened up and passed to McMillan for a touchdown.
This trick double-pass play brought Meridian to within one point, 14-13. Meridian could have gone for the mostly automatic extra point to tie, but Ames is a gambler, and they went for two and the win.
McGuinn fired a quick three-yard slant pass (that is almost impossible to defend if thrown on the mark) to Trevin Todd for the 15-14 win and gut wrenching loss for the Borderites and their fans.
The Borderites will have one more game to play this weekend at Juanita High School against Cedar Park Christian.