A BLAINE - Blaine is slowly learning no lead is safe against Mount Baker.
Last year the Mountaineers rallied from four touchdowns down to upend the Borderites. This time, Baker only needed to overcome two scores.
"We came back from being down 28 last year, so we knew we had it in us to win it," Mount Baker linebacker Tyrel Cronk said. "We went into halftime and made some adjustments. We have a lot of heart on this team."
The No. 10-ranked Mountaineers rallied from an early hole to score 38 unanswered points against the Borderites, beating No. 7 Blaine 38-14 in a Northwest Conference Class 1A heavyweight matchup Friday, Oct 19, in Blaine.
The win guaranteed Baker at least a share of the NWC 1A title.
"I thought our assistant coaches did a nice job of making adjustments," Mount Baker coach Ron Lepper said. "(At halftime) we just talked about how we come out. We wanted to make sure we play how we play. (Blaine running back Mario) Gobbato is good. I hope I never have to coach against that guy again. He's dang good. We just came out and made plays that we're capable of making."
Gobbato ran for 232 yards on 22 carries in the first half, eclipsing the 2,000-yard mark for the season with a 15-yard carry late in the first half. The Mountaineers limited the Blaine standout to 4.9 yards a carry in the second half, as he finished with 300 yards on 36 rushes.
The first 16 minutes of the game, it appeared Blaine was going to ease its way to a win and an automatic berth into the Class 1A state playoffs by locking up NWC 1A's No. 1 seed.
However, Mount Baker proved there's no quit on its team.
"I think they believed," Lepper said. "Like I tell them, the game isn't over until the clock is out."
Blaine held a 14-0 lead with 8:47 to go in the second quarter on Gobbato's second TD run of the first half, but Mount Baker only needed 25 seconds to answer with a score of its own.
Running back Izaiha Schwinden capped off a three-play, 60-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run around the right end. The drive was highlighted by a 24-yard pass from quarterback Andrew Zender to Zan Roman, who had two interceptions in the game playing in the Mountaineers' secondary.
Blaine's Tyler Kelly made a key pass deflection in the end zone during Baker's next drive on a fourth-and-2 on the Blaine 5 right before the half to maintain the Borderites' seven-point lead.
Any momentum Blaine may have built in the first half disappeared eight minutes into the third quarter.
Mount Baker needed five plays to tie the game at 14-14. Running back Jake Schleimer, who finished his night with a team-high 131 yards on 18 carries and one score, rumbled for a 37-yard TD off the left tackle to put Baker up seven.
Following a three-and-out by Blaine, Zender nearly matched his season rushing total on the ensuing play. Coming into Friday's match up, Zender amassed a total of 56 yards on the ground.
He dropped back for a pass, couldn't find anybody open and made his way down the middle of Blaine's defense for a 44-yard TD run.
"I told him, 'OK, we're running a little boot here,'" Lepper said. "If it's not there, tuck and run. Just be smart. He ended up tucking it and running for a touchdown."
Four minutes after Zender's TD, Mount Baker found itself in the end zone again. Schwinden scored his second of three TDs on a 12-yard run around the right side on a third-and-5 on the Blaine 12-yard line to put Baker in front 28-14 with 4:16 to go in the third.
Blaine's offense simply couldn't get anything going. The rushing lanes that were opened in the first half were filled by Cronk and players like Sterling Honeycutt.
After gaining 12 first downs in the second quarter, Blaine only moved the chains five times in the second half with three of the first downs coming on the final drive.
Mount Baker kicker Edgar Zavala booted a 43-yard field goal late in the fourth to put the Mountaineers in front 31-14, and Schwinden found pay dirt once more with a 31-yard run around the right side to seal the win.
The win sets up a match up against Meridian at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at Baker, where the Mountaineers have a chance to clinch an automatic state berth.
Blaine faces Nooksack Valley next at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, in Everson.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
Mount Baker 0 7 21 10- 38
Blaine 8 6 0 0- 14
BLA - Mario Gobbato 37 run (Nate Kramme run)
BLA - Gobbato 8 run (pass fail)
MB - Izaiha Schwinden 9 run (Edgar Zavala kick)
MB - Jake Schleimer 37 run (Zavala kick)
MB - Andrew Zender 44 run (Zavala kick)
MB - Schwinden 12 run (Zavala kick)
MB - Zavala 43 field goal
MB - Schwinden 31 run (Zavala kick)
First downs 14 17
Rushing Att-Yards 35-291 43-320
Comp-Att-Int 3-9-0 6-17-2
Passing yards 42 49
Penalties-yards 2-25 7-65
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-1
RUSHING - Mount Baker: Jake Schleimer 18-131, Izaiha Schwinden 10-67, Andrew Zender 3-40, Joey Walton 3-51, Kaleb Brownfield 1-2. Blaine: Mario Gobbato 36-300, Nate Kramme 5-15, Caleb Johnson 2-5.
PASSING - Mount Baker: Andrew Zender 3-9-0-42. Blaine: Nate Kramme 6-16-1-49, Mario Gobbato 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING - Mount Baker: Zan Roman 2-34, Dylan Howard 1-8. Blaine: Isaiah Jackson 3-26, Brett Allen 2-13, Cole Muder 1-10.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.