by Tom Yelle

It has been a season framed by consistency and one that now has afforded the Blaine High School program an 11th opportunity to play in the big-school state football tournament.

With its 40-14 Friday night win over Andover in the Section 7AAAAA championship game, Blaine enters first round state tournament play on a 10-for-10 season run in 2010. It will put that mark on the line when it faces top-ranked Wayzata next Friday night on the Osseo field.

Before it heads into that 11th game, it should be noted that Blaine has been defining consistency in butt-kicking style for nearly two months. Only once in its first 10 games this season has a team come within seven points and that was only after Blaine constructed a commanding 28-7 first-half lead over Champlin Park during Week 3 of the season.

Other than Champlin Park, no other opponent has come close. Furthermore, the 26-point margin of victory over Andover in the 7AAAAA finale on the Blaine High School field, epitomized what this Bengals team has been all about.

Head coach Shannon Gerrety explained the simple concept of continuity and consistency. At the start of this season he threw out a challenge to his players, asking them to give up individualistic play for that of team play. To be successful, Gerrety told his kids:

“You have to pull together as one all the time.”

And, he added:

“They [the kids] grabbed the concept early on and have carried it through. They [have done] it as a group — no pressure on any individuals — just team play in a team game.”

Along the way, however, there has been some pretty good play turned in by some of Blaine ‘s top players. Two of Blaine ‘s best, in fact, were on display against Andover in the section finale.

On the offensive side of the ball was quarterback Eric Kline, who came through with another one of his sterling all-around passing and running performances. Kline, who rushed for 183 yards and passed for 135 more, scored four consecutive touchdowns during the second and third quarters.

He ripped off 29- and 11-yard slide-and-glide runs to the end zone in the second quarter, a slip-through 1-yard run (immediately after an Andover goal line fumble) early in the second half, then a magnificent 43-yard dash that encompassed most of his athletic abilities. A play which might have been his best effort of the season, Kline started left, cut back right, then cut back on diagonal across the width of the field before turning up along the left side line to reach the end zone with a dive.

On the defensive side, meantime, was Chris Thomas, who throughout the season has had a knack for making big plays. The middle linebacker’s late interception of a pass over the middle denied Champlin Park a complete comeback during that Week 3 game Blaine won by just seven points was his first.

After that play, Thomas returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown against Coon Rapids Oct. 1, picked up a fumble and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown against Andover Oct. 15, then picked up another fumble and returned it 61 yards in the 7AAAAA semifinal game against Forest Lake Oct. 30.

In this second meeting with Andover Friday night for the 7AAAAA championship, Thomas did it again. Similar to his saving pickoff in the game against Champlin Park, he did so against Andover , intercepting a Tyler Finnes middle-thrown pass a step above the five before cutting up the right sideline on a 94-yard solo sprint.

From the moment he picked off the pass to the end zone at the other end of Blaine ‘s field where he scored, Thomas was full throttle, never missing a stride.

Finnes, like Kline, was also an offensive force throughout the season for his Andover team. In this game, however, he was limited by the swarming Blaine defensive unit to just 35 yards rushing and not quite 150 yards passing.

Finnes did score both Andover touchdowns — a first-quarter keeper of four yards, then a fourth-quarter scramble/run to the end zone of six.

Blaine running back Ben Pigorsch also had a touchdown — the game’s first score from seven yards — by scampering around the left side with an option pitch from Kline to the end zone.

At that moment late in the first quarter, Blaine was off and running toward its 11th trip to the state tournament.


Highlight videos of the Andover vs Blaine playoff game courtesy of Coon Rapids Sports on YouTube


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