Coach: Jay Dodd, 11th season with Blaine (54-49)
Home Field: Blaine High School
Last Season: 4-5 (2-4 NWC)
Key Losses: TE/LB Josh Fakkema, All-Conference 1st Team TE (14-234-4); LB Layton Hagee, All-Conference 2nd Team; TE/DE Marcus Potts; WR Jonathan Starcer (16-395-2); OL/DL Shaquille Woods 6-foot-6, 372-pound athletic lineman.
Top Returnees: RB/ILB Riley Fritsch; WR/S Anthony Ball; LT/OLB Jared Philips; QB/DB Jalen Kortlever; K/P Kyle Sentkowski; LG/ILB Tucker Jensen
HISTORICAL COMPARISON: Anthony Ball & Adrian Newell
Ball has consistently been the main target for Borderite quarterbacks since he was inserted into the starting lineup as a freshman. He’s also brought a lot to the table defensively and in the return game.
Newell also made an impact at the varsity level as a freshman when he intercepted a pass in the final minute against Lynden, essentially knocking the Lions out of the playoffs. After battling injuries he went on to become the first Borderite receiver to score double-digit touchdowns in a season.
Blaine 55, New West (BC) 20
Blaine 48, Granite Falls 0
Ferndale 34, Blaine 20
Blaine 37, Sehome 7
Sedro Woolley 48, Blaine 8
Blaine 35, Anacortes 28
Burlington-Edison 45, Blaine 21
Squalicum 34, Blaine 13
Lynden 37, Blaine 14
09/02 – Nooksack Valley – 7 PM
09/09 – at Meridian – 7 PM
09/16 – Sedro Woolley – 7 PM
09/23 – Bellingham – 7 PM
09/30 – at Anacortes – 7 PM
10/07 – at Lynden – 7 PM
10/14 – Lakewood – 7 PM
10/21 – Sehome – 7 PM
10/28 – at Burlington-Edison – 7 PM
While watching the Borderites the past few years, I kept getting the feeling that everything was building for the 2016 season. This year’s seniors are a tight-knit group that closely resemble the 1996 Blaine graduating class, of which Head Coach Jay Dodd was a star lineman, when Blaine won the Whatcom County League Championship.
“Our objective is to get to the playoffs this year,” Dodd said. “We’re bigger and faster now, and we’ll be able to line up against all nine teams this year.”
Senior Jalen Kortlever is back at quarterback after putting up big numbers last year (1511 yards, 19 touchdowns), and is poised to have another great season with most of his weapons back. Junior lefty Cameron Ellis will back up Kortlever, and Coach Dodd has really enjoyed his improvement.
Coach Dodd has also emphasized generating a strong run-game to protect the defense. That might work out well with one of the county’s best returning running backs in Riley Fritsch. He has been the workhorse over the past few seasons, racking up 461 rushing attempts. He should easily reach the 600-plateau, where only four other players in Whatcom County history have ever reached (Mario Gobbato, Dave Longoria, T.J. Busch and Chad Clark). Senior Garrett Adams is a more than capable back-up to Fritsch, and averaged 8.3 yards per carry last season.
The Borderite receiving corps will be undoubtedly led by senior Anthony Ball as he aims to become the 14th player in Whatcom County history to catch 100 passes in his career. Senior Gunnar Arnason will move to wide receiver this year from the tight end spot, and he will be joined by fellow seniors Haden Anthony and Alfonso Dermendziev of whom each received valuable playing time last year. They will be pushed by a pair of sophomores, Chase Abshere (who starred as a freshman on last years’ varisty baseball team) and Colby Knutzen who is making the move from running back. 6-foot-3 215-pound junior Cruz Rodriguez will start at tight end, and he’ll be backed up by Arnason.
Other teams will have to take notice when looking at Blaine’s offensive line; not only because of sheer size, but they have the ability to match it. Anchoring the line will be left tackle Jared Philips (6-4 240) and right tackle Austin Kelstrup (6-4 320). Phillips was an All-NWC 2nd Team selection last year, and Coach Dodd has enjoyed the improved athleticism of Kelstrup. John Kramme and River Markusen are both more than capable centers. Porter Schmidt is at right guard, while Tucker Jensen and Tristan Alanis are competing for the left guard position.
The defensive line will see a steady rotation of Markusen, Alanis, Kelstrup, Kramme and Schmidt. Coach Dodd has also enjoyed the quickness of junior Chase DuBois on the interior line. Rodriguez and Philips have tremendous size and will star at each of the outside linebacker spots. They will be backed up by the Soto twins, juniors Jakob and Joshua.
Fritsch has been moved from safety to inside linebacker, and he will be joined by Jensen, who led the Borderites in tackles last season. Seniors Braden Otto and Isaac Avena will also get into the mix in the middle. Dermendziev has tremendous speed, and returns at cornerback. He will be joined by another speedster, junior Isaiah Russ, as well as Anthony and Knutson. Arnason will move from outside linebacker to start at safety, where he will be joined by Ball. Adams will also see time at safety, along with Kortlever.
Senior Kyle Sentkowski returns as not only one of the best kickers and punters in the conference, but in the entire state. Dare I say the nation? He’s attended numerous kicking camps across the country, and has shown the ability to make 50+ yard field goals, as well as boom kickoffs into, and sometimes through, the end zone. Fritsch, Adams and Knutson look to be the main return men in black and orange.
The Borderites are loaded with size and ability, it’s just a matter of putting it all together. The playoffs are in their grasp, and I believe it will come down to them and Lynden for the Conference Championship.
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