With time running out and the pressure on, the Blaine football team displayed an intense desire to win and pulled off a narrow victory in their first Northwest Conference game of the season.
The Borderites defeated the Lynden Christian (LC) Lyncs 20–19 at Lynden Christian October 4. All of Blaine’s points were scored in the fourth quarter in a comeback that culminated with a spectacular onside kick recovery and a confident final drive for the endzone.
LC’s aggressive defense and a series of mistakes on Blaine’s part had the Borderites in a 17–0 hole late in the third quarter.
“We really struggled in the first half,” said head coach Jay Dodd. “We had opportunities but we let them get away from us.”
Blaine had four promising drives in the first half that ended with the ball in LC’s hands and no points on the board for Blaine. The first two drives ended with big sacks that forced Blaine to punt, and the second two drives ended in fumbles – one on the 13-yard line and one on the 1-yard line.
“Our offensive linemen were not communicating enough,” Dodd said. “LC was blitzing a lot, and with the O-line not communicating they were able to run right by us and get to the ball, which forced us to rush plays and make mistakes.”
On the third play of the game, a Blaine receiver ran the wrong route, and a Lyncs cornerback intercepted the pass and ran it in for LC’s first touchdown.
LC scored a field goal for the only points in the second quarter, bringing the score to 10–0 at halftime.
After taking a critical look at their effort during halftime, the Borderites came out strong in the third quarter.
“We started playing hard and playing with purpose,” Dodd said. “A couple of silly penalties hurt us, but it was good to see us playing better in the third quarter.”
Despite their improvement, Blaine couldn’t stop LC from putting seven more points on the board. The Lyncs put together a long drive of running plays, finally pounding into the endzone on a one-yard run.
On the following possession, Blaine quarterback Nathan Kramme connected with wide receiver Josiah Westbrook on two big plays bookending a quick drive that gave Blaine its first touchdown of the night. Westbrook scored on a 21-yard pass.
Blaine was still down by 10 points when, on their next possession, Blaine faced a fourth down deep in their own zone. Rather than punting to give LC good field position, Kramme ran out the back of the endzone to give LC the intentional safety, bringing the score to 19–7.
On the ensuing kickoff, a turning point came for Blaine. Senior offensive lineman Andrey Baydak got his hand between the ball and the LC carrier’s grasp.
“He just kept ripping and ripping, just a great effort to get the ball loose,” Dodd said.
Borderite Joe Leeking recovered the fumble on Blaine’s 10-yard line. With four minutes on the clock, Blaine marched downfield on a fast-paced drive capped by senior Cole Muder’s 2-yard run into the endzone, bringing the score to 19–14 LC.
The following play was an all-or-nothing onside kick. Blaine kicker Peter Benne sent a hard toe-ball bouncing towards the Lyncs. Kramme, who only plays special teams when good hands are required, chased the ball down with singular purpose and leapt up after it just as a LC returner grabbed the ball.
“The LC guy had it, but Nate would not be denied,” Dodd said. “I told him that could have been the best play of the season.”
A LC defensive back sustained an ankle injury during the play, and during the time out Dodd addressed his offense.
“I remember looking around at their faces and seeing the look in their eyes, and I could see the confidence and the belief in themselves, and it was clear we were going to march down the field and score,” he said. “I knew right then we were going to win the game.”
Sure enough, with two minutes and a couple of time-outs left, the Borderites executed a drive that highlighted what their offense can do.
Muder ran the ball for significant gains, Westbrook caught a pass on a hook route and the team looked unstoppable as they approached the endzone.
Westbrook caught the 22-yard touchdown pass on a fade with 40 seconds left to play, and the game ended with Blaine on top 20–19.
“What a thrilling game,” said Blaine athletic coordinator Steve Miller. “Blaine pulled off the W.”
Dodd gave credit to LC for its aggressive defense. “Their offense also did a good job controlling the tempo of the game, winding down the clock and holding onto the lead,” he said.
The Borderites will face Friday Harbor at home Friday, October 11 for their homecoming game.
The game starts at 5:45 p.m.