High School Football

From sleepovers to varsity football, Blaine’s offense has become one of the best

Blaine’s Riley Fritsch, left, stiff-arms Nooksack Valley’s Jeremy Dykes Sept. 2 in Blaine.
Blaine’s Riley Fritsch, left, stiff-arms Nooksack Valley’s Jeremy Dykes Sept. 2 in Blaine. eabell@bhamherald.com

Blaine senior quarterback Jalen Kortlever and senior wide receiver Anthony Ball were best friends long before they were teammates.

Kortlever said he vividly remembers the many nights Ball spent at his house.

“Anthony pretty much spent the night every night at my parents’ house when we were 10 years old,” Kortlever said. “We would wake up in the mornings, and my dad would take us outside to play football. Anthony would run different routes, and I would hold up a finger to signal which route.”

Ball is still Kortlever’s favorite target. The duo has hooked up 15 times in the first two weeks of the season for a Whatcom County-leading 274 yards and five touchdowns and helped the Borderites get out to a 2-0 start.

We run a basic spread offense that mixes up a lot of personnel groupings so we can adjust to certain teams’ defensive plans.

Blaine head coach Jay Dodd

Earlier this season, Ball broke Blaine’s career record for touchdown receptions with 21. He has played varsity football since the middle of his freshman season.

“Anthony has grown every year in the program,” Blaine coach Jay Dodd said. “He was good enough to play as a freshman, and he’s continued to improve every season. What really took him to the next level this year was his confidence.”

Not only does Ball have confidence in himself, but also his teammate and best friend, Kortlever. Last week in a 45-35 win at Meridian, Ball changed one of his regular routes based on Meridian’s coverage. What Ball didn’t do was tell Kortlever he was changing his route.

It didn’t matter.

“I knew that was coming,” Kortlever said. “We’ve been doing this kind of stuff since we were 10 years old. We didn’t even have to look at each other before the play, I just knew that he was going to run a fade route based on the coverage.”

370 yards per game for Blaine in 2016

That mutual confidence has helped Kortlever as much as Ball. Kortlever leads Whatcom County with eight touchdown passes and is second with 511 passing yards.

Helping the passing game flourish is the rushing threat presented by senior Riley Fritsch. The running back, who already has two 1,000-yard seasons, has rushed for 215 yards and three touchdowns, providing balance to the Borderite attack.

“Our first two weeks we played against opponents that stuffed the box with eight guys because of Riley,” Dodd said. “That opened up the passing attack for Jalen.”

Dodd described Fritsch, who rushed for a combined 2,573 yards and 29 touchdowns as a sophomore and junior, as the heart of the Borderites football team. Ball described Fritsch as clutch.

“If we need anything from 2 yards to a big play, we can rely on Riley for that,” Ball said. “That’s a nice feeling to have in your teammate.”

The Borderites will face a tough test this week against Sedro-Woolley in their 2A Northwest Conference opener. A win could help put Blaine in the thick of the race for a postseason spot.

If the Borderites’ offense can keep clicking the way it has through most of the first two weeks behind Kortlever, Ball and Fritsch, there’s no reason to think they can’t compete.

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