LYNDEN - Junior quarterback Nathan Kramme, playing on the "hands" kickoff return team, seemed to jump about as high as a 5-foot-11 athlete possibly could to wind up at the bottom of a large pile with the must-have recovery of a wildly bouncing onside kick.
Then it was sophomore wide receiver Josiah Westbrook's turn to leap as high as he could, gathering in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kramme with 37 seconds remaining.
As a result, Blaine's remarkable 20-19 Northwest Conference Class 1A victory over Lynden Christian on Friday, Oct. 4, left Borderites coach Jay Dodd feeling about as high as he ever has in seven seasons.
"Amazing. I can't recall coming back from two scores down that late in the game," Dodd said. "We are so fortunate to have Nathan Kramme. He is just a great leader. He just wanted that onside kick (nicely executed by Peter Benne) so much. He just has a refuse-to-lose (spirit)."
It could not have been a tougher loss for the Lyncs (2-3 overall, 0-1 NWC 1A), who were seeking their first 1A league win since 2010. LC led 17-0 until the final play of the third quarter when the exceptionally athletic Westbrook caught a high-arc 21-yard touchdown pass from Kramme.
"Josiah's my go-to guy," Kramme said of Westbrook, who finished with seven catches for 144 yards after being held to one grab for eight yards in the first half by the feisty LC defensive backfield. "When we need a big play, I go to No. 1."
That's hardly a secret in the NWC, since first-year varsity football player Westbrook came in with a conference-leading 17 catches for 336 yards and seven touchdowns for Blaine (2-3, 1-0).
The Lyncs scored on the game's second play when junior cornerback Nathan Rusnak seemed to read Kramme's mind and scored on a seemingly intuitive 43-yard interception return. Later in the first half, LC's Joe Kooiman and Nick Price recovered Blaine fumbles on the 13- and 3-yard lines, respectively.
LC made it 10-0 on the final play of the first half when Trevor Kamena kicked a 28-yard field goal. Sophomore quarterback Lucas Roetcisoender set up the kick with first-down completions of nine yards to Josh Hornstra, 38 yards to sophomore cousin Zach Roetcisoender and 13 yards to junior Jordan Jansen, all in the final 20 seconds of the first half.
The Lyncs drove 60 yards on 14 plays, most of them rushes by Jansen and Josh Friberg, to make it 17-0 on a 1-yard plunge by Friberg with 1:10 left in the third quarter.
"LC did a great job the way their defense attacked the A gap (between center and guard) in the first half," said longtime Blaine line coach Dave Fakkema. "They were tough. We made adjustments at halftime."
Kramme also sportingly lauded LC's defensive line for "a great, tough job," as did Dodd, who said, "Hats off to LC's kids for their effort."
Westbrook, however, gave Blaine life with a 55-yard catch to open the ensuing drive while down 17-0. Two plays later - one of them a sack of Kramme by LC's Kooiman, one of the Lyncs' 11 tackles-for-loss on the quarterback - Kramme shook it off to find Westbrook in the end zone.
Knowing he needed two scores to win with a 17-7 deficit, Kramme avoided a tough punting situation by running out of the end zone on his next series for an intentional safety, making it 19-7 with 6:04 remaining. LC couldn't capitalize on the ensuing kickoff, losing a fumble in a wild scramble at Blaine's 10-yard line with 4:24 to play.
The Borderites, behind hard-running Cole Muder (96 yards on 18 carries), Kramme and Westbrook, drove 82 yards on 13 plays, capped by Muder's 2-yard touchdown and Benne's conversion kick, pulling Blaine within 19-14 with 1:27 left.
The ensuing onside kick, of course, was automatic. Benne came through with a tough bouncing boot and Kramme fearlessly came through with his remarkable high grab.
At that point, LC defensive back Alex Vander Velden, who gamely battled Westbrook all night, sustained an injury to his right ankle and had to leave. Kramme proceeded to drive the Borderites 50 yards on five plays, including a 9-yard pitch to Muder to set up Westbrook's winning grab.
Lucas Roetcisoender finished 9 for 21 for 137 yards, including 101 yards on five catches by cousin Zach. Meanwhile, Jansen amassed 80 yards on 19 carries, Friberg gained 67 yards on 16 and Blake Mellema 40 on 7 carries.
It was an odd statistical game for Blaine, since only three players - Kramme, Muder and Westbrook - handled the ball on all but one play.
"Nathan's such a great leader," said Westbrook. "He always knows what to say. We knew we still had a chance to win behind Nathan. LC was tough - they really rang my bell a couple of times."
Blaine 0 0 7 13 - 20
Lynden Christian 7 3 7 2 - 19
LC - Nathan Rusnak 43 interception return (Trevor Kamena kick)
LC - Kamena FG 28
LC - Josh Friberg 1 run (Kamena kick)
Blaine - Josiah Westbrook 21 pass from Nathan Kramme (Peter Benne kick)
LC - Safety, Kramme intentionally ran out of end zone
Blaine - Cole Muder 2 run (Benne kick)
Blaine - Westbrook 22 pass from Kramme (run failed)
First downs 18 22
Rushes-yards 38-142 45-190
Comp-Att-Int 8-17-1 9-21-0
Passing yards 151 137
Fumbles-lost 3-2 2-1
Penalties 8-75 7-80
RUSHING - Blaine: Cole Muder 18-96, Nathan Kramme 20-46. Lynden Christian: Jordan Jansen 19-80, Josh Friberg 16-67, Lucas Roetcisoender 3-3, Blake Mellema 7-40.
PASSING - Blaine: Nathan Kramme 8-17-151-1. Lynden Christian: Lucas Reotcisoender 9-21-137-0.
RECEIVING - Blaine: Josiah Westbrook 7-144, Cody Gobbato 1-7. Lynden Christian: Zach Roetcisoender 5-101, Jordan Jansen 2-16, Josh Hornstra 1-10, Alex Vander Velden 1-10.