LYNDEN - The defending Class 2A state champion Lynden football team, which is coming off its first unblemished season, is living large at practice this summer.
During water breaks, players get to visit with one another while music blares from a nearby softball dugout, and in between plays, coaches can be heard laughing with their players and quoting more movie lines than Meridian coach Bob Ames.
Even Lions head coach Curt Kramme got in on the "entertainment" with a joke before his post-practice speech to his players.
"I didn't get it at first, but when I finally did, it was pretty funny," senior lineman Matt Meyer said. "It's great that we can all laugh and joke around and have a good time. It's awesome. It's what high school sports is supposed to be all about."
The Lions certainly are having fun, but not at the expense of some good, old-fashioned hard work when it's time to work, as they prepare to make a run at the school's fifth state title in the past seven years.
"I think we can't allow ourselves to get too far ahead of what we're trying to do," senior Luke Christianson said. "We've got an opportunity to do some pretty neat things this year, but we don't want to get nervous and start thinking about them already. We're having fun in camp, and it helps keep us loose. Our coaches don't want us worry about the expectations."
Any doubts about how serious Lynden is taking its preparations would have been dismissed quickly on Wednesday, Aug. 22, when junior reserve Dimitriy Telega went airborne while returning a kick during kickoff coverage work. Telega's play immediately brought whoops and cheers from teammates and coaches alike, and set the tone for the spirited team defensive work that followed.
"He (Telega) always hits it hard," senior lineman Caleb Newman said. "He's flying around and doing stuff like that all the time. It really fires it up."
It also shows just how important the scout team is to Lynden's success.
"I was wondering how our scout team guys would step up, because we graduated some really good ones," Newman said. "But they've done a great job in practice, so far."
The scout team was where the majority of the Lions' losses were after last year, and that's a big part of the reason why the Lions have high aspirations again this season.
"We all know that right now, we're capable of winning a second title, and we all think we can do it," Christianson said. "That's not to be cocky or anything, but it's what we're coming into the season looking to do."
But Lynden knows that goal won't come easily.
The season is full of many potential pitfalls, and Kramme has tried to keep the pressure off by setting a more reasonable goal.
"I just want to make sure that we get better every week," Kramme said. "I'm not worried about championships or anything like that. What I'm focused on is helping these guys get better. We're not going to be the same team in Week 1 as we are in Week 4, and we won't be the same team in Week 8 or Week 9, either. If we can focus on getting better every day in practice and in every game and playing as hard as we can every time out, that's all I can ask of these guys."
The Lions open the season on Aug. 31, when they host Abbottsford (B.C.) Robert Bateman Secondary.
"I'm just excited the season is almost here," Meyer said. "Ever since we won the title in football, I've been anxious to get back out here. It was great to move on to basketball and win another title and keep going into baseball and play for another state title, but I couldn't wait for football to get started again."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
This is the 10th in a series of reports from the 11 Whatcom County high school football teams during preseason practices. Look for The Bellingham Herald's special 2012 Northwest Conference football preview section in the Friday, Aug. 31 paper.
Next up: Meridian
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.