Lynden seniors Luke Christianson and Josh Kraght have been close friends since about the time they were old enough to start playing youth football and baseball together.
"We've been real close for a long, long time," Christianson said in a phone interview. "We used to dream what it would be like to be in the same high school backfield and get to play together."
That dream has finally come to fruition this year, and the results have been undisputable for the Lynden football team.
In 10 games - Christianson sat out a Week 3 win over Mount Baker with a bruised knee cap - the senior has rushed for 1,244 yards and 20 touchdowns. He's also caught 28 passes for 305 yards and five TDs. In Lynden's two playoff wins this year, alone, he's amassed 393 yards of total offense and scored 10 TDs.
Add those numbers to what Kraght - the two-time defending Northwest Conference MVP - is capable of putting up, and it's downright scary.
"I wouldn't want to game plan against them, that's for sure," Lynden coach Curt Kramme said in a phone interview. "I'm not sure I'd know where to start. They are two very athletic kids. If they get a crease somewhere, they can do a lot of damage. And on top of that, you have to defend our receivers. I think it's a mistake to go man-to-man against us, but this is football and nothing is guaranteed."
Charged with trying to stop Lynden next is Sumner in the Class 2A state quarterfinals on Saturday, Nov. 17, at Sunset Chev Stadium.
The Spartans have made a living out of stopping opponents and running the ball on offense this year, as they held Kingston to 266 yards of total offense in a 26-9 first-round win last week. But Kingston did not have Christianson or Kraght.
"Josh and I have been waiting for this opportunity to play together in the same backfield since we were in second or third grade," Christianson said.
While Kraght got to start at quarterback as soon as he moved up to the varsity team as a sophomore, Christianson had to wait for his opportunity to team with his friend, at least in the same backfield.
Christianson actually entered spring practices before his junior year thinking he might get his chance to start at tailback last year, until then-senior Kyle Hanson emerged. In an effort to get as many of its top athletes on the field as possible, the Lynden coaching staff decided to move Christianson to receiver last year and start Hanson in the backfield.
The results were definitely positive for the Lions, as Hanson rushed for 1,110 yards and 11 touchdowns, including the go-ahead TD in the closing minutes of the 2A state championship game. Christianson, meanwhile, accumulated 705 yards of total offense and scored seven TDs.
"Kyle was a great back for us," Christianson said. "He fit our offense perfectly. He fit in comfortably and got us a lot of yards. Having both of us on the field at the same time obviously worked out pretty well - I mean, we won a state title. We had the first undefeated season that Coach has ever had here at Lynden, so that is saying something."
It also says something about a player of Christianson's talents willing to take a little bit lesser role - he was limited to 79 touches offensively in 2011 - for the betterment of the team.
"I think that was a very important part of the success we had last year," Kramme said. "I think it says a lot about Luke, to recognize that Kyle was very good. Luke wanted to be the back, but he recognized that we could get more athletes on the field if he played wide receiver. He accepted a role that was something other than he wanted, and he helped make our team better. I always say that football is the ultimate team game. For the team to perform at its ultimate highest, guys have to sacrifice for each other, and I think Luke was the poster child of that for us last year."
Not that Christianson is the only Lynden player to take one for the team.
Kramme noted that players like Matt Meyer and Caleb Newman are probably athletic enough to play tight end for Lynden, but they make terrific bookend tackles on the Lions' offensive line, and there are many other examples throughout a talented Lions senior class.
"We have this tremendous bond that we've been forming since we were in the third or fourth grade," Christianson said. "We're all best friends. There is not one guy that is better friends with somebody than they are with anybody else. We've all had relatives or close family members play for Lynden. We've seen the success they have had here, and we've been waiting for our turn. We play for each other and the coaches here more than we play for ourselves. It makes it more fun. It's more fun to play for each other, and that makes this team better."
Christianson has definitely done his part to make the team better the past couple of years.
Kramme said he's impressed with the Christianson's work ethic in the weight room, as he's a deceptively big and strong back at 6-foot, 180 pounds.
"I don't think you can arm tackle him," Kramme said. "If you grab his shirt, you might spin him, but that's not going to do it with Luke. He's got a good 15, 20 pounds on most backs, and as long as he has good forward lean, he's tough to bring down."
Add that to Christianson's leadoff batter speed - he says he's been timed at 4.52 seconds in the 40 - and you've got the makings of a great back. He already has eight 100-yard rushing performances so far this year.
Plus Christianson has the ability to make Barry Sanders-like cuts and stops and accelerate back to full speed in the blink of an eye.
"He is so athletic," Kramme said. "His lateral quickness is as good as anybody. He has a tremendous ability to move sideways and accelerate again so quickly. Ordinarily, I wouldn't coach a back to start and stop like he does. But with a back like Luke, you don't coach him - you just let him do his thing."
Or you let him do his thing with a little help from his friends.
"I worked this offseason on being more explosive and changing directions," Christianson said. "What makes it happen, though, is my line and my receivers sticking their blocks. Everybody is blocking on every play - nobody takes a play off or loafs around. It's 11 guys working together, not just me making cuts."
But make no doubt about it, Christianson is glad he's the guy making the cuts this year.
"It's been awesome," he said. "It's been more than I expected. It's been fun running between the tackles. It's been fun to get out in space. It's been fun to line up in the slot. It's fun to watch other teams strategize against us. We have a lot of weapons on this team, and I'm just happy to be one of them."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
SATURDAY'S STATE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
CLASS 2A STATE QUARTERFINALS
? Burlington-Edison at Capital (at Olympia Ingersoll Stadium), 4 p.m.
? Lynden at Sumner, 7:30 p.m.
CLASS 1A STATE QUARTERFINALS
? Mount Baker at La Center (at Battle Ground District Stadium), 1 p.m.
CLASS 1B STATE FIRST ROUND
? Lummi at Taholah (at Aberdeen Stewart Field), 3 p.m.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.