The Borderites could have reacted a number of ways when they found out they’d be competing at the Class 2A level this year.
Understandably, a sense of disappointment could have been warranted, or Blaine had the option to embrace the chance to play one of the most competitive league schedules in the state.
The Borderites’ attitude? Bring it on.
“I think you have to be fired up about it,” Blaine coach Jay Dodd said. “We could come out and complain, or we could look at it and understand it and get excited about it. Our players are doing a good job of being excited about it and treating it as an extra challenge.”
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Even though Blaine reached the Class 1A state playoffs last fall before losing to La Center 35-14 in the first round, navigating a path to the Class 2A postseason should prove more difficult.
The Borderites are playing the underdog card, though, and feel they’re up to the challenge. They certainly return the leadership necessary to compete at a high level, and that starts with four-year starting quarterback Nate Kramme, who has more experience than any other Northwest Conference signal-caller.
“He has done a great job this year, and also sharing his knowledge with other teammates has been a big thing for us,” Dodd said. “He’s been fine-tuning his skills and knowledge of the offense and helping other people at the same time.”
Kramme, whose season ended last year after suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 7, lost one of his last year’s main targets in Josiah Westbrook, but Dodd feels the Borderites have ample pass-catching options.
Sophomore wideout Anthony Ball has contributed and could be poised for a strong season. Cody Gobbato, Steven Crafts and Jonathan Starcer are also slated to get work in the pass game.
One of the biggest voids Blaine needs to fill is the running back spot. Cole Muder, who carried the ball 273 times a year ago, has graduated. Dodd plans to work in up-and-coming sophomore talent Riley Fritsch as well as Ferndale transfer Kier Munzanreder and Rudy Nolasco.
“They all give us something different,” Dodd said. “All three of them give us different strengths. We’ll utilize those strengths the next couple weeks and see who does best.”
Adam McShane and Jon Fakkema, two other key senior leaders, anchor a Blaine offensive line group that is expected to also feature Tim Samoylovich, Armando Moser, Joey Sawyer and Kurtis Sanders.
The majority of Blaine’s offensive line also will be responsible for plugging holes on the defensive side of the ball, too, and Dodd is extremely high on his linebacking core, which should help Blaine reduce the 30.5 points per game it allowed last season.
Josh Fakkema and Marcus Potts should be the leading candidates for the two outside linebacker positions, while Munzanreder, Nolasco and Kaden Foster give the Borderites a solid core of inside linebackers.
Crafts and Starcer should start at cornerback, and Dodd has a number of options at safety, which include Kramme, Fritsch, Ball and Gobbato.
“We want to continue to build on our mental toughness,” Dodd said. “That’s a learned skill. We want to improve and be ready to fight right out of the get-go and start each ball-game ready to play football, be mentally tough people. ... We’ll face challenges this year, that’s for sure. We have a seven-game league schedule, and every league opponent we play is twice our size in enrollment, so we’ll have to be mentally tough”