Sophomore quarterback Marcus Potts admitted if someone told him at the beginning of the year he'd be leading the Borderites into the opening round of the Class 1A State Playoffs, he never would have believed them.
Potts had far different plans this fall.
"Coming into this year, I wanted to play good on JV," Potts said in a phone interview. "I never thought of playing varsity. I didn't think I'd play until my senior year. I never thought I'd get the chance."
But a month ago when junior starting QB Nathan Kramme went down with a season-ending injury against Meridian, Potts suddenly was handed Blaine's offensive controls.
He'll be under center for Blaine's biggest game since 2009 - the last time the Borderites reached the state playoffs - when it travels to face No. 2-ranked La Center at 3 p.m. Saturday, at Ridgefield High School.
Though Potts' varsity experience is still limited, it hardly feels that way.
Blaine coach Jay Dodd has seen nothing but poise from his backup signal-caller, and it started the night Potts relieved Kramme during Blaine's 24-21 win against the Trojans.
Potts came off the bench to help Blaine overcome a 14-point deficit by tossing two second-half touchdowns and became the keystone piece in what Dodd billed one of the most impressive wins he's been a part of.
It wasn't the win that revealed Potts' makeup as much as it was a reaction to a mistake he made soon after being inserted in, Dodd said.
"In the second quarter we fumbled a snap and fumbled a quarterback-running back exchange, and in the heat of the moment I got upset with him," Dodd explained. "Seeing his reaction, I knew that we would be OK. When a coach gets excited with a player, he can melt and lose composure completely. He didn't."
Potts admitted logging his first varsity minutes was nerve-racking, but his biggest obstacle has been adjusting to the pressures of a varsity game.
"Just the environment, I would say how big it is playing in a varsity game and how much it counts for your team," he said.
And he's played in some big-time settings. He traveled to Deming to face Mount Baker after beating Meridian, and then started at Civic Stadium during the Borderites' 35-21 Class 1A Tri-District Playoff win against Port Townsend last week.
Potts has completed 33 of 59 passes through four games for 585 yards. He's thrown five touchdowns, four interceptions and has run for two scores.
The calmness he's displayed during games has instilled confidence into teammates who didn't know whether their season would plummet or move forward with Kramme out.
"He's got a great personality to handle big moments and not get too wound up," Dodd said. "When Nathan first got hurt, the team didn't hit the panic button, but they were very concerned and didn't know what to do. Since that time, Marcus has worked well with his teammates. He works well with running backs and wide receivers. He is just one of the guys."
Potts credited his supporting cast for his confident play.
"I wouldn't be anywhere without my teammates," he said. "The first thing they said to me in Meridian was that they have my back. That gave me a lot of confidence, and that helped me play better for them."
While Blaine has tailored its offense to match Potts' strengths, he wasn't forced to waste time building a rapport with his wide receivers. He played with leading pass catchers Josiah Westbrook, a sophomore, and Anthony Ball, a freshman, in previous years and said Westbrook has been a lifelong best friend of his.
Four out of Potts' five TD passes have been to either Westbrook or Ball.
He's also shown an ability to run the ball. Blaine this year adjusted to a new spread offense, which presents more opportunity for quarterback runs, and Potts can run well enough to be considered a dual-threat.
That same ability to run earned Potts the nickname Bambi amongst his teammates, due to his long strides.
"He runs like a deer," Dodd explained. "We went over to Eastern Football Camp last year. He was running our JV offense and on quarterback keeps he was able to make a lot of moves. We'd never seen him run like that."
This weekend Blaine's ability to slow down La Center's rushing attack will be much more important than runs from Potts.
The Wildcats churned out 611 yards of offense last week during their 54-28 district win against Elma. Three different running backs surpassed 130 rushing yards.
"They have big guys, and they all work together to move the ball," Dodd said. "It's hard to stop them. No one has done it all season. You have to stay low and keep your pad level low and get off blocks. We're going to have to play tough. We're going to have to put our big-boy pants on and play like men."
Offensively, Potts said his team simply needs to carry out its game plan.
"We need to execute all of our plays, and we don't want to make mistakes," Potts said. "That won't help us out at all."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
CLASS 2A STATE FIRST ROUND
? Sehome at Tumwater, 7 p.m.
CLASS 1A STATE FIRST ROUND
? Meridian at Cashmere, 1 p.m.
? Blaine at La Center (at Ridgefield), 3 p.m.
? Woodland at Mount Baker (at Civic Stadium), 6 p.m.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.