There’s no disputing the raw speed of Sehome junior Taylor Rapp, but as quick as he is, he wasn’t the fastest thing on the Civic Stadium turf on Friday, Sept. 26. That honor belongs to the emotional roller coaster Blaine receiver Anthony Ball was on in the closing minutes of the Class 2A/3A Northwest Conference game between the Mariners and Borderites.
With about two minutes remaining in regulation and his team trailing by six points, Ball broke behind the Sehome defensive backfield, hauled in a pass from quarterback Nathan Kramme and was running seemingly unchallenged toward the end zone and a 67-yard touchdown that would have tied the game and given his team a chance to take the lead with an extra point.
Just a split second later, Ball’s dreams were dashed when Rapp refused to give up on the play and chased Ball down from behind, punching the ball out his arms at the Sehome 7 and leaving Ball to watch helplessly as it rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.
“It was a big growing point,” Ball said. “I know there are a lot of fast people out there and I needed to protect the ball. I just knew I had to pick myself up, come out and make a play for the team.”
Ball did exactly that, as he got a second chance to be a hero only 20 seconds later after the Borderites recovered a fumbled Sehome snap at the 12. One play later, the sophomore snared Kramme’s pass in the back of the end zone on a broken play with 1 minute, 25 seconds to play, and Kyle Sentkowski’s extra point proved to be the difference, as Blaine escaped with a 20-19 victory.
“That’s just the kind of person Anthony is,” Blaine coach Jay Dodd said. “Anthony doesn’t quit. Anthony’s a fighter. He wasn’t hanging his head — you know he’s only a sophomore. I think the guys around him wouldn’t let him hang his head, either. We wanted to call his number.”
Ball’s resilience was just a mirror reflection of what the Borderites showed, as they battled back after allowing Rapp to gallop 75 yards on the game’s first play from scrimmage and found themselves in a 16-0 hole with a minute to play before the half.
Riley Fritsch started the comeback, when he raced 62 yards for a TD just 32 seconds before the break.
Sehome’s Jonny Reid booted his second field goal in the third quarter to make it 19-6, and Blaine (3-1, 1-1 NWC 2A/3A) seemed to be running out of time in the fourth.
Kramme led the Borderites on a 13-play drive with a series of gutsy scrambles, but the drive ate up nearly five minutes before he found Josh Fakkema for a 3-yard TD to make it 19-13 with 3:10 to play.
Blaine’s onside kick attempt failed, giving Sehome (2-2, 1-1) the ball the Borderites’ 48. Blaine forced a three-and-out but was pinned at its own 1 with 2:42 to play. Kramme hit Ball for a 28-yard completion on the first play of the drive, and two plays later found the receiver behind Sehome’s coverage.
That’s when Rapp, who rushed for 162 yards on 17 carries, showed not only his speed, but his competitiveness — refusing to give up on the play and forcing the fumble.
“He’s such a competitor,” Sehome coach Bob Norvell said. “You want our whole team to compete like that.”
Ball, on the other hand, was left kicking himself.
“Shoot —I was hoping the guy was going to roll out,” Ball said. “And I was mad at myself. I know there’s going to be someone behind me — I’m not going to be running free 30 yards in front of everybody.”
Fortunately for the Borderites, Sehome had difficulty with its shotgun snaps, as it put the ball on the turf eight times in the game, losing three.
“I have no idea,” Norvell said of the problems. “We just couldn’t hold onto the ball back there.”
And given a second chance, Ball, who had 121 yards on six catches, certainly held on.
“It was a broken play,” Ball said of the game-winning TD. “When I saw the corner looking at Nate, and when he was running back, I cut across the field to get open for Nate to throw the ball right on the money.”
Seh — Taylor Rapp 75 run (Jonny Reid kick)
Seh — Reid 25 FG
Seh — Tyler Hruby 12 run (kick blocked)
Bla — Riley Fritsch 62 run (pass failed)
Seh — Reid 33 FG
Bla — Josh Fakkema 3 pass from Nate Kramme (Kyle Sentkowski kick)
Bla — Anthony Ball 12 pass from Kramme (Sentkowski kick)
RUSHING — Blaine: Riley Fritsch 15-85, Nathan Krammme 18-70, Steven Crafts 1-6, Kier Munzanreder 4-7, Kyle Sentkowski 1-(-7). Sehome: Taylor Rapp 17-162, Gavin Kaepernick 6-(-27), Marcus Montag 1-0, Tyler Hruby 3-18, Josh Slesk 5-9.
PASSING — Blaine: Nate Kramme 12-22-1-164, Jalen Kortlever 1-1-0-33. Sehome: Gavin Kaepernick 12-22-1-167.
RECEIVING — Blaine: Josh Fakkema 3-20, Marcus Potts 1-33, Anthony Ball 6-121, Rudy Nolasco 1-5, Cody Gobbato 2-18. Sehome: Marcus Montag 2-56, Tyler Hruby 4-43, Gunnar Nelson 1-42, Jonny Reid 1-1, Taylor Rapp 3-22, Scott McIvor 1-3.