BLAINE - How strange is this Class 1A Northwest Conference playoff race?
Strange enough to make a win feel like a loss and a loss feel like a victory.
In a game that ended up amounting to meaningless in the NWC 1A postseason race, Nooksack Valley scored 34 straight points to come back and claim a 40-26 victory Thursday, Oct. 31, at Blaine.
But in the midst of celebrating the victory, the Pioneers (3-6, 2-3 NWC 1A) heard about Lynden Christian's 27-20 victory over Friday Harbor, ending their hopes of advancing to the postseason and squelching what was a jubilant post-game huddle.
"We did our part," said Pioneers sophomore Connor Beard, who played a big role in helping his team do that by turning a pair of second-half fly screens into 73- and 82-yard touchdowns. "We couldn't control that (what happened at Friday Harbor), but we feel good about how we played tonight."
As good as the Pioneers felt about their play on Thursday, the Borderites (4-5, 3-2) felt just about as frustrated by their own performance, after allowing a 19-6 second-quarter lead to slip away.
But unlike Nooksack Valley, Blaine got good news from elsewhere, as Mount Baker beat Meridian, locking the Borderites into the NWC 1A's No. 2 seed.
While they held that same position a year ago, this year that means they'll get to avoid the mess of an election night mini-playoff - where Meridian ended up nipping the Borderites on a last-play touchdown a year ago.
With the district getting an extra berth this year, Blaine gets an automatic berth into the tri-district playoffs, where it will host the District 3 No. 4 seed on either Nov. 8 or 9.
"Well, we feel good on that aspect, but the way we played in the second half, we've got to get better," Blaine coach Jay Dodd said. "They were only playing the run with seven, and we couldn't run the ball in the second half, and that, to me, is worrisome. We've just got to run the ball better. It's basic math. We've got some bigger stronger guys. Give credit to Nooksack. They played their tails off, and I think they just wanted it more."
The Pioneers certainly appeared to in the second half.
After allowing 164 yards on the ground in the first 24 minutes, including 67 on Blaine's opening drive, the Pioneers hunkered down and limited the Borderites to 104 in the second. Cole Muder, who rushed for 110 yards in the first half, including 59 and a 1-yard TD on that first possession, was limited to 51 on 13 second-half carries.
Quarterback Tanner Myhre, who finished with 331 yards and four touchdowns passing and 103 yards and another score on the ground, and the Pioneers started turning things up midway through the second quarter.
"We took advantage of some of our speed," Nooksack Valley coach Robb Myhre said. "Connor Beard is a fast kid, and we kept harping on our team, 'We're a team that is built to come back, and you just have to believe.'"
Dalton Biehle's 3-yard run 2:03 before the end of the first half definitely helped the team keep its faith high heading into the halftime locker room down only 19-12.
Tanner Myhre then opened the second half by returning the kickoff 69 yards, and a personal-foul penalty set the Pioneers up at the Borderites 18. One play later Tanner Myhre found Josh Gimmaka on a slant route for a TD to tie the game just 16 seconds into the third.
"When we came out in the second half and Tanner had that long return and then Josh's touchdown, that really turned things around," Beard said. "It switched the momentum."
And Beard made sure it stayed on the purple sideline, when he took a bubble screen up the right sideline 73 yards two possessions later to give Nooksack Valley its first lead of the game.
"That was just great blocking on Josh's part," Beard said. "I just had to run. It was great blocking."
After Tanner Myhre connected with Ryan Gelwicks on a 14-yard TD pass, Beard all but locked up the win for Nooksack with an 82-yard TD on another screen pass.
"That was a good block by (Dalton) Biehle," Beard said. "I just had to run. They did the hard part."
In addition to the strong running by Muder early, Blaine was able to build its lead thanks to a 43-yard touchdown catch and run by Josiah Westbrook from Marcus Potts, who finished with 155 yards passing. Brian Ferrer also added a hard-running 51-yard touchdown on a fullback trap in the second quarter.
Those are the type of plays Blaine hopes to build on for the tri-district playoffs next week.
Nooksack Valley, on the other hand, will hope to build for next season during its non-playoff crossover.
"We can't worry about what happened over there (at Friday Harbor)," Robb Myhre said. "We could have controlled that earlier in the season, but we took some lumps. But the goal is to continue to get better, and I think we got better tonight. Our kids have to be happy with the results of tonight and not worry about what happened out there."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Nooksack Valley 0 12 21 7- 40
Blaine 13 6 0 7- 26
Bla - Cole Muder 1 run (run failed)
Bla - Josiah Westbrook 43 pass from Marcus Potts (Peter Benne kick)
NV - Tanner Myhre 5 run (kick failed)
Bla - Brian Ferrer 51 run (kick failed)
NV - Dalton Biehle 3 run (kick failed)
NV - Josh Gimmaka 18 pass from Myhre (Connor Beard kick)
NV - Beard 73 pass from Myhre (Beard kick)
NV - Rayn Gelwicks 14 pass from Myhre (Beard kick)
NV - Beard 82 pass from Myhre (Beard kick)
Bla - Muder 8 run (Benne kick)
First downs 17 19
Rushing Att-Yards 30-127 44-238
Comp-Att-Int 21-31-1 8-15-1
Passing yards 356 155
Penalties-yards 7-60 10-88
Fumbles-lost 3-1 4-1
RUSHING - Nooksack Valley: Tanner Myhre 22-103, Connor Bear 1-0, Dalton Biehle 7-24. Blaine: Cole Muder 34-161, Marcus Potts 6-14, Brian Ferrer 4-63.
PASSING - Nooksack Valley: Tanner Myhre 20-30-1-337, Josh Gimmaka 1-1-0-19. Blaine: Marcus Potts 8-15-1-155.
RECEIVING - Nooksack Valley: Connor Beard 4-159, Dalton Biehle 5-57, Ryan Gelwicks 3-33, William Kingma 1-3, Tanner Myhre 1-19, Brady Wood 3-9, Josh Gimmaka 4-76. Blaine: Josiah Westbrook 5-112, Anthony Ball 2-27, Jordan Antonson 1-16.
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Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.