In horse racing, talk always centers around blood lines. In the Fakkema household, it's all about the O-line.
It's been that way since Dave and Carolyn Fakkema met while they lived in Oak Harbor. By the time Carolyn was a senior, Dave was already in his third year at Washington State playing on the Cougars' offensive line, where injury forced him to move from tackle to center.
"We always joke that playing line is in the family," Dave said in a phone interview. "My wife's senior year at Oak Harbor, she wrote in the yearbook that she wanted to marry me and raise linemen."
With senior James Fakkema starting at offensive guard and on the defensive line for the Blaine football team and younger brother Jon Fakkema now starting at center as a sophomore, the Fakkemas have done exactly that. As if having 40 percent of the Borderites' starting offensive front wasn't enough, the Fakkema family has put its stamp on every other lineman on Blaine's roster, as Dave serves as the team's offensive line coach.
"I don't think I've ever had a more enjoyable year in football than this year," said Dave, who coached four years under Rob Smith at Western Washington University and has since coached 18 of the 20 years he's spent as a history and psychology teacher at Blaine serving as either the offensive line coach or the Borderites' head coach. "When you're coaching two of your own sons in a game that you love and they love, what else can you ask for?"
Blaine couldn't agree more, as it prepares for a Friday, Oct. 19, showdown with Mount Baker.
With a win, the Borderites (6-1, 3-0 NWC 1A) would clinch the NWC 1A title and an automatic berth into the Class 1A State Playoffs. A win by the Mountaineers (6-1, 3-0) would assure them of at least a three-way tie for the top spot in the final NWC 1A standings heading into next week's game against Meridian (4-3, 2-1).
If Blaine is going to pick up that important win on Friday, the Fakkema family will certainly play a big role, as James, Jon and Dave will be asked to find a way to open holes for running back Mario Gobbato in a Mount Baker defensive front that last week held Friday Harbor - a team that rushed for 253.3 yards per game the first six weeks of the season - to 31 yards on 32 attempts.
But winning wars in the trenches is the Fakkema family business.
"I don't think our dad pushed us to be linemen, but we all knew that James and I have that kind of body type," Jon said in a phone interview. "Obviously, he can help us with technique or if we need anything more on the line, because that's where he has all his experience."
But just because you're a Fakkema, it doesn't mean you're automatically going to play the line.
Youngest brother Josh is now a freshman tight end/fullback/linebacker at Blaine, because at 6 foot, 140 pounds, "He's still a big kid, but he's a little slighter build than James and Jon were at his age," Dave said.
And you better bet Josh gets some good-natured ribbing about that.
"We make fun of him a little," the 6-3, 230-pound James said in a phone interview. "We tell him he didn't get the lineman gene. ... My dad always says that tight ends are half men. Yeah, we give him some trouble. But we don't think it's a bad thing. Wherever he plays, we know Josh is going to be good, whether it's at tight end, fullback or even on the line."
Josh's older brothers are certainly setting the bar high, though, as they became varsity starters as sophomores.
James has been a standout on both sides of the ball the past couple of years for the Borderites. Besides being a physical presence, he plays the game with raw emotion - so much so, that it can sometimes get him in trouble, but it always seems to give his teammates a boost. He mixes that high intensity with some impressive physical talents.
"His sophomore year, he went to camp with the team, and I wasn't able to go," Dave said. "When the team came back Jay (Dodd, Blaine's head coach) said he was thinking about making James a starter. I was a little surprised, but Jay said James has a motor that just won't quit. Other guys have that same attitude, but James has got some good speed, too. I've seen him make tackles 20 yards away from the line, because he is so fast and just won't quit. You combine that, and you've got something to build on. Then James has got a love of the weight room. He's made that commitment early on, and now he's got good size and strength, too."
James' size, strength and determination were on full display on Friday, Oct. 12, when he sacked Meridian quarterback Max McGuinn, separated him from the ball and recovered the fumble at the Blaine 11 with six seconds left in the game to secure a crucial 34-27 win over the Trojans.
While James is defined by his fire, Jon is known for his ice.
He's more stoic as a player, like his father was, and is extremely intelligent - exactly what you want for a 6-3, 215-pound center, who is responsible for reading and calling out defensive fronts.
"Jon's definitely in a different mold than James," Dave said. "He's not an emotional leader - he's not the rah, rah type. He's extremely intelligent. As a sophomore, he's already taking AP Chemistry. Because he is so intelligent, he's got an amazing grasp of the mental aspects of the game for a sophomore playing center. He's very good at reading defenses and making the right calls. He really gets into the Xs and Os of the game. I get questions from him about blocking schemes that I don't get from our seniors."
But as he did with James, Dave said he abstained from the decision whether to start Jon as a sophomore, leaving that up to Dodd and the rest of the coaching staff so that he couldn't be accused of nepotism.
There's little doubt that Jon is ready, though.
"I think it's really cool to get to start right next to my brother," James said. "We've grown up together, so this is really nothing different, but I know he was one of the five best linemen we could put on the field. I love starting next to him."
Jon enjoys the benefits of starting next to an older, more-experienced family member, as well.
"During the game, it's no different than playing next to another quality lineman," Jon said. "I know what he's doing, and I expect him to do his job. But if I do have a question or need some advice, it's nice to have somebody that you know you can trust to ask. There's a certain amount of comfort between the two of us."
That family comfort level extends to their position coach, as well.
"It seems to me and other coaches I've talked to, if you have a good parent-son or parent-daughter relationship, it tends to work well coaching them," Dave said. "If you have problems with that relationship at home, coaching them only magnifies those problems."
Though he said he feels he is fortunate to have a "great father-son" relationship with each of his boys at home, Dave said he tries to treat James and Jon the same way he does every other player on Blaine's sideline on game night and during practice.
That includes coming down on them the same way he would anybody else.
"I don't think, on the field, you'd see any difference in our relationship with our dad than what you see between any other player and coach Dodd," Jon said.
The only difference is Dave's sons may have already heard some of the analogies he will use, "a hundred times before while we were growing up, so we just roll our eyes and move on," James joked.
But James and Jon have plenty of respect for their father and coach.
"He's, without a doubt, the best offensive line coach I've ever had," James said. "I mean, look at the experience he can bring when he teaches you - playing Division I football and coaching in college and high school for so long. He has so much he can teach you."
That teaching doesn't end when the Fakkemas head for home, either.
Football is quite often a dinner-table discussion, especially during the fall, and Dave's love of the game and the way he watches the college and pro game on TV as an experienced offensive lineman no doubt rubbed off and helped shape his sons' love of the game and how they play it.
Judging by the numbers Gobbato has piled up over the past two-plus years, the Fakkemas definitely know how to play the game.
Gobbato became the 16th player in state history to surpass 5,000 career rushing yards last week. Though James and Palmer Sandal were the only returning starters on the line this year, Gobbato enters Friday's game with 1,805 yards and 24 touchdowns on 199 attempts so far this year (9.1 average).
With 2,669 yards in 10 games last year, Gobbato fell just 9 yards short of what was then the state's single-season rushing record, and he once again finds himself with a shot at the mark, as he is just 876 yards shy of the new record of 2,681 set last year in 12 games by Interlake's Jordan Todd.
The humble Gobbato would be the first to give credit to his linemen for every yard he scores and each and every time he reaches the end zone.
That, obviously, has created a special bond between the star back and his line.
"It would mean a lot to us if we can help Mario break some records," Jon said. "He's not a guy that takes credit willingly. He knows we're a big part of it, and we know he's a really big part of our success as a team. If it was anybody else, I don't know if it would be special, but for somebody like Mario, to be a part of it means a whole lot."
And you can bet it would mean a whole lot to the Fakkemas - a family that takes pride in paving the way for Gobbato and playing together in the trenches.
"We're a football family," James said. "I have to give a lot of credit to my mom, because she puts up with a lot of football. You can tell sometimes she gets bored with it, but she makes it a point to get to every one of our games. There were years where I was in high school, Jon was playing in middle school and Josh was playing Boys & Girls Club, but she never missed a game. Football is our thing, and she really supports that."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.