TACOMA - If you're going to be aggressive from the outset, you might as well follow through all the way.
The Lynden football team, which has made a habit this postseason of not only winning the coin toss before games, but electing to receive and go on offense first in an effort to put opponents in an early hole, again won the toss Friday, Nov. 23, in its Class 2A state semifinal against Capital at the Tacoma Dome.
But the Lions didn't win this one with the flip of the coin.
No, it took a little guts, as well.
Lynden used three early fourth-down conversions to set the tone, and Capital never recovered, as the Lions won going away 48-21 in a game that was nowhere as close as it was expected to be. With the victory, Lynden (12-1) secured an opportunity to defend its 2A crown with its fifth trip in seven years to the state championship game, which will be 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Tacoma Dome against the winner of Saturday's other semifinal between Tumwater and Prosser.
"It's pretty exciting," said Lynden quarterback Josh Kraght, who rushed for four first-half touchdowns and 103 yards and passed for 270 yards and another score. "Not many teams get a chance like this. But we've still got some work to do. I'm sure our coaches are going to come up with a good game plan for us, and it's up to us to have a good week of practice and come ready to play."
There's little doubt that Lynden was the team that came ready to play on Friday in a showdown of teams that were ranked among the top five in Class 2A throughout the regular season.
Nothing came particularly easy for the Lions early, though.
On their first offensive possession, they faced fourth-and-1 from their own 49. Kraght calmly converted with a keeper around left end for 5 yards.
But three plays later, Lynden again faced fourth-and-3 from the Capital 40. After a timeout, the Lions again decided to go for it, and Kraght didn't disappoint, as he turned a quarterback draw into a nifty 40-yard touchdown run through the middle of the Cougars defense and a 7-0 lead 3:54 in.
"That's something we've typically been doing," Kramme said of the decisions to go on fourth down. "We want to be aggressive, and to do that, sometimes you've got to take some chances."
But even Kramme admitted it was a bigger risk when he decided to go for it on fourth-and-10 from the Capital 40 on the Lions' next possession.
In fact, he initially sent the punt team out, but decided to call time out and huddled with his offense before sending it back out onto the field.
"Josh made me look pretty good on that one," Kramme said. "Of course, he's been doing that quite a bit. The coaches upstairs kept telling me, Josh is having a special day, and he is a special athlete."
Kraght showed just how special when he rolled right, and threw on the run toward Jalani Phelps.
"Josh realized I had the smaller defensive back against me, so he just put it up there and I went up and got it," Phelps said. "I was happy I could make a big play for my team."
One play after the 33-yard completion, Kraght took it the remaining 7 yards with a keeper up the middle.
Three fourth-downs, three conversions - and a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
"That was huge," said receiver Zach Vis, who finished with six catches for a game-high 104 yards. "That set the tone early for us. It gave us a lot of confidence to be able to convert those plays. We knew we could move the ball, but that just gave us confidence that we could do it."
And move the ball Lynden did, just as it has throughout the season and particularly in the postseason.
Though Kraght was intercepted at the goal line by Tad Maiava on Lynden's next possession, the senior quarterback added scoring runs of 1 and 6 yards in the second quarter to make it 27-0 by the end of the first half.
It may not have been enough to start the running clock at the start of the second half, as Lynden did in postseason wins against Sultan and Sumner, or even enough to start it early in the third quarter, as it did in a first-round win over Mark Morris, but it sure was impressive against a team that came in outscoring opponents by an average of just more than three touchdowns a game.
"I figured that this one would be only a one- or two-touchdown margin either way," Kraght said. "We knew they were a good team, and we would have to play our game. We did a great job executing our game plan, and everything just fell into place for us."
Things continued to fall into place for Lynden in the second half, as Luke Christianson took over where Kraght left off, scoring on a trio of 20-plus yard plays.
The first came after Kraght hit Christianson on a 43-yard screen play down the right sideline set up by a crushing block by Vis. One play later, Christianson got behind the coverage and Kraght hit him in stride for a 23-yard TD.
In the fourth quarter, Christianson added touchdown runs of 47 and 68 yards. He finished with 188 yards on 16 carries and 91 yards on six catches. Add in his 21 return yards, and Christianson finished with 300 all-purpose yards.
With performances like that, Lynden will get a chance to play for its eighth state title in the program's history and the fifth in seven years.
"I'm very excited to be a part of this again," said Phelps, a junior, who had two catches for 49 yards in the game. "We've got a pretty special opportunity. This will be the last time we get to play with a number of these guys, and we want to make the most of it."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Capital 0 0 0 21-21
Lynden 14 13 7 14-48
Lyn - Josh Kraght 40 run (Alex Otano-Guenther kick), 8:06
Lyn - Kraght 7 run (Otano-Guenther kick), 2:42
Lyn - Kraght 1 run (Otano-Guenther kick), 5:22
Lyn - Kraght 6 run (Otano-Guenther kick), 1:33
Lyn - Luke Christianson 23 pass from Kraght (Otano-Guenther kick)
Cap - Kai Van Sickle 37 run (Joey Geraci kick) 10:21
Lyn - Christianson 47 run (Otano-Guenther kick), 9:57
Lyn - Christianson 68 run (Otano-Guenther kick), 5:42
Cap - Tad Maiava 48 pass from Derrick Becker (Geraci kick), 3:44
Cap - Van Sickle 9 run (Geraci kick), 0:30
First downs 15 21
Rushes-yards 38-213 34-305
Pass att-cmp-int 7-19-0 17-24-2
Passing yards 105 270
Third down conv. 3-10 5-9
Fourth down conv. 0-1 3-3
Penalites-yards 4-34 3-30
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Possession time 26:06 21:54
Capital Att. Yards Avg. TD
Kai Van Sickle 29 162 5.6 2
Derrick Becker 5 31 6.2 0
Ryan Rieta 4 20 5.0 0
Lynden Att. Yards Avg. TD
Luke Christianson 16 188 11.8 2
Josh Kraght 13 103 7.9 4
Trent Postma 4 16 4.0 0
Ryan Mouat 1 -2 -2.0 0
Capital Cmp. Att. Yards TD Int.
Derrick Becker 7 19 105 1 0
Lynden Cmp. Att. Yards TD Int.
Josh Kraght 17 24 270 1 2
Capital Rec. Yards Long TD
Tad Maiva 1 48 48 1
Kai Van Sickle 2 21 11 0
Jakob Racimo 1 17 17 0
Sam Hollingsworth 1 8 8 0
Lynden Rec. Yards Long TD
Zach Vis 6 104 43 0
Luke Christianson 6 91 43 1
Jalani Phelps 2 49 33 0
John Shine 2 16 12 0
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.