After a jittery start to the season under Ferndale’s Friday night lights, Blaine settled into a groove and revealed some exciting new offensive weaponry, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the first half blowout.
Blaine lost their first game of the season 47–21 on September 6.
Ferndale won the game with productive, persistent rushing on offense, and with periodic breakthroughs for long touchdown runs. The Blaine defense was beaten on the perimeter, and was fooled three times by a double-handoff play that misdirected aggressive defenders and led to two touchdowns.
“Our defensive technique improved a little bit throughout the game. We did a better job of reading their offense, anticipating and reacting in the second half,” said head coach Jay Dodd. “Obviously we need to see that improvement continue.”
On offense, Blaine unveiled a new look with diverse options that is a major departure from years past, when running back Mario Gobbato carried the ball on most plays.
“In the past we relied on Mario because he was so darned talented, but also because we didn’t really have other options,” Dodd explained. “This year, we have more than one playmaker. We have three to five guys we want to spread the wealth to.”
Blaine executed a variety of packages on offense, with receivers sometimes lining up three or four deep outside. Quarterback
Nathan Kramme showed his ability to operate out of the shotgun for productive quarterback scrambles. He also completed several passes for major gains. One of those passes, a gorgeous 30-yard spiral into the hands of sophomore Josiah Westbrook, yielded a 67-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Westbrook also made a diving catch for a first down in the third quarter, followed by a spectacular 11-yard touchdown catch in tight coverage.
Regarding Westbrook’s receiving skills, Dodd said, “He has good hand-eye coordination and agility combined with great awareness.”
Josh Fakkema and Cody Gobbato also made catches for significant gains. Kramme passed for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
That’s not to say Blaine’s pro-style spread offense relied solely on passing. In fact, a slight majority of Blaine’s offense came in the form of running plays by senior Cole Muder, who ran for 107 yards, and Kramme, who ran for 73 yards and a touchdown. Kramme’s yardage would have been 100 if not for two big sacks in the final seconds of the game.
Blaine struggled to connect on offense in the first half. Kramme completed only one of seven pass attempts, and although Muder carried the ball 10 times for 67 yards, Blaine only gained four first downs before halftime.
“We came into the game very excited,” Dodd said. “A lot of our guys were starting for the first time and we made some silly mistakes. There were a few drives with penalties that hurt us.”
The electric atmosphere of a season-opener in Ferndale, where the crowd is big and the lights are bright, may have contributed to Blaine’s mistakes early in the game, Muder said.
“It’s a pretty exciting atmosphere here [in Ferndale], and for a lot of kids it’s their first big game, so it’s easy to get jitters,” he said.
Ferndale ran the score up to 26–0 before the Kramme–Westbrook connection in the third quarter broke the ice for Blaine.
Blaine’s first scoring drive began when Westbrook returned the kickoff to the 25-yard line. Muder drove up the middle for five yards, then an offensive false start penalty made it second-and-10 for Blaine. Kramme scrambled for the first down, then completed a pass to Gabbato before running for another first down.
An incomplete pass and a stuffed carry attempt were followed by a defensive penalty. On the next play, Westbrook made a diving catch at the sideline for a first down deep in Ferndale territory.
Two incomplete passes brought a third-and-long situation, and Muder carried the ball into the red zone for a first down. Operating from the shotgun, Kramme dropped back and threw an arching lob to the left side of the end zone. Westbrook went up for the ball in lockstep with a Ferndale defender, who also got his hand on it. Both players fell to the ground, but Westbrook came up with the ball.
Blaine’s first touchdown marked a turning point in the game, and from that point on the two teams were more evenly matched.
“As the game progressed, our offense got into the groove,” Dodd said. “We were able to run a variety of packages and we started making plays.”
Muder said rallying talk at halftime sparked better play in the second half, when changing the offensive matchups proved more successful.
“We tried setting me up outside, with Brian [Ferrer] running the slots. Mixing it up seemed to work in the second half,” he said.
After Blaine’s first touchdown, Ferndale responded with a four-play drive to the end zone, including a 47-yard run made possible by a big block from Daniel Jones, who scored on the next play.
Blaine’s following drive was kept alive when Muder converted a fourth-and-two scenario into a first down. Kramme scored on a bootleg, and the extra point made it 33–14.
Ferndale’s Joey Akers scored after a well-executed stiff arm, and the Golden Eagles forced a fumble on Blaine’s ensuing drive. Ferndale scored again, making it 47–14.
Steven Krafts returned Ferndale’s kickoff to Blaine’s 33-yard line, and on the following play Westbrook lined up on the right-hand side, outran his coverage and caught Kramme’s excellent pass for a 67-yard touchdown.
Peter Benne’s booming kickoff following the touchdown pinned Ferndale at their own 15-yard line.
“Our special teams did an outstanding job in the game,” Dodd said. Penne, who is also a soccer player, made all three of his extra point attempts and nailed the kickoffs. “He’s going to make a huge difference on our football team,” Dodd said.
Blaine forced a fumble and recovered it to end Ferndale’s last drive. Fakkema caught a long pass for a first down, but the clock ran out two plays later, with the scoreboard reading 47–21 Ferndale.
The Borderites will play their first home game on Thursday, September 12 against Lord Tweedsmuir from Vancouver.