One of the main engines that helped Blaine running back Mario Gobbato flirt with the state's single-season rushing record the past two years is going to have to change gears.
Borderites senior lineman Palmer Sandel said he plans to sign a National Letter of Intent this week to play left tackle for Western Oregon University next year.
Unlike the Borderites, who played power football by slipping the ball to Gobbato 30, 40 or more times per game, the Wolves use a spread formation.
"They're a lot more pass-oriented," Sandel said in a phone interview. "They use a lot more pass sets, rather than running straight ahead and power running. There will be a lot more zones and isos (isolation blocking assignments), and everything is going to quite a bit more spread out."
To help prepare for that transition, the 6-foot-5, 280-pound Sandel said he plans to work on his speed and flexibility before heading to Monmouth.
Sandel said he chose the school over Simon Fraser, Southern Oregon and Benedictine College in Kansas.
"I went on my visit two weeks ago, and the campus had a really good feel," Sandel said. "It was a small town, like Blaine, so it kind of reminded me of home. And it's not too far from Portland. I really liked the offensive line coach, too."
Sandel said he also was excited that Western Oregon offered a minor in sports management and a major in business management - two areas he wanted to study.
The Wolves finished third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference last year with a 6-5 record overall.
GOEBEL DREAMING OF CALIFORNIA
Sehome senior Daniel Goebel had a state picked out - all he needed was to decide which college he wanted to attend and play baseball at.
To help make that decision, Goebel made a trip to California last summer after the American Legion season had concluded along with Bellingham senior Aaron Burke to check out a variety of programs.
Goebel elected to go with Westmont College, choosing the Santa Barbara-area school over Azusa Pacific and Cal Baptist in Riverside.
"Westmont was the first school we went to," Goebel said. "The campus was beautiful, and the coach, we really hit it off. Since they were an NAIA school, we were allowed to hit and throw on the field with the coach. After the workout, we went in and talked in his office for like 21/2 hours about the program and what it was all about. I really liked the coach. He seemed like an awesome guy."
Goebel said he signed his National Letter of Intent to play for the Warriors in early October.
Playing in California was important to Goebel - not just because of the palm trees, sunshine and lack of rainouts, but also because he has family in the area.
Finding a coach in Robert Ruiz who preaches the same small-ball approach to the game that Goebel has learned from Mariners coach Gary Hatch and his staff the past four years was a bonus.
"I feel like I'm going to fit in pretty well there," Goebel said.
With the graduation of two outfielders from last year's team, which went 24-27-1 and 13-19 in Golden State Athletic Conference play, there should be an opening for Goebel to see some playing time early.
Goebel hit .333 with a homer and 17 RBI last year for Sehome.
While he has not yet decided on a major, Goebel said he is "leaning" toward Kinesiology so that he can get into physical therapy.
BURKE TO STAY CLOSER TO HOME
After making the trip with Goebel to California, Burke decided to stay a little bit closer to home, when he committed to play baseball for Oregon Tech.
Burke said he still is waiting for his National Letter of Intent to arrive in the mail, but will sign it as soon as it does.
"It will feel pretty good to get it done," Burke said in a phone interview. "Now I can just go out and play baseball and have one more year with some buds I've been playing with since I was 10."
Burke said he chose Oregon Tech because of the small-school feel of the Klamath Falls campus.
Oregon Tech also offers a strong engineering program, which Burke plans to utilize for his major.
The Owls won the NAIA West title in 2009 and 2010, but are expected to be in a bit of a rebuilding phase this year, as they are picked to place seventh in a poll of the conference's coaches.
"They're looking to get an outfielder and a couple of pitchers," Burke said.
In Burke, the Owls get an outfielder that batted leadoff for the Red Raiders last year, leading the team with a .358 batting average and 12 stolen bases.
FAMILY CONNECTIONS LEAD VISSER TO DORDT
While not many people may have heard about Dordt College here in Whatcom County, Lynden Christian senior Emily Visser is a bit of an expert on the college in Sioux City, Iowa.
Not only did her father grow up 15 minutes away and graduate from the school, her older sister, Lauren, is currently a junior there. Visser, who still has family in the area, has decided it was the perfect place to continue her education and her athletic career, as she signed her National Letter of Intent to run for the cross country and track teams at Dordt.
She said her familiarity with the school helped her choose it over Cal Baptist and Point Loma University.
"I liked the atmosphere there," Visser said in a phone interview. "Everybody makes you feel like you're a part of the community. They're really welcoming, especially to people from out of state. I liked the feel of the campus, and it's a Christian school, which is what I wanted to do for my college career."
Visser, who had a season-best time of 23 minutes, 3.9 seconds at the Class 1A State Championships in November, is also looking forward to being part of a strong cross country program at Dordt, which placed ninth at last fall's NAIA National Championships in Vancouver, Wash.
"They had a really strong team, and I'm excited to be a part of it," Visser said. "It's going to be a big change of pace for me going from a high school team that struggled to get seven girls and sometimes couldn't even field a full team to a program with 20-25 girls out."
Visser, who declared a business major but is still contemplating the decision, also said she plans to run track for the Defenders, and her coach is looking at her for the pentathlon.
The Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges announced that three more Whatcom County student athletes had signed their National Letters of Intent to play at colleges close to home.
Meridian's Amy Butcher has signed to play softball with Wenatchee Valley College, while Allie Spencer has selected Treasure Valley College as the site to play soccer.
Ferndale's Austyn Sprague also has signed to play baseball at Everett Community College.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.