Each of the 76 players listed on the Lynden football team's state roster desperately wants to win the Class 2A state title when the Lions take on Tumwater at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Tacoma Dome. But probably none of them want it more than senior offensive tackle/defensive end Matt Meyer.
Almost exactly a year ago, Meyer teamed up with guard Taylor Witman to throw a double-team block that sprung Kyle Hanson for an 11-yard game-tying touchdown in the closing minutes of last year's state championship game against Archbishop Murphy. Santiago Lopez tacked on the extra point, and Lynden ultimately won 17-16, claiming the sixth title in the program's history and the fourth in six years.
"It was probably the greatest feeling I've ever had," Meyer said. "I never wanted it to end."
Unfortunately for Meyer and his family, the end of those good feelings wasn't all that far away.
About a week after the victory, Meyer's father, Wes, started feeling run down and ill.
"We didn't know what was going on when he started to go downhill, so we went to the doctor," Matt said in a phone interview. "We were fortunate we did, because they ran some blood tests and found he had leukemia in the early stages. Something like that really changes your priorities."
Trophies, and just about everything else, suddenly didn't matter anymore.
Fortunately, almost a year after that diagnosis and after spending most of the first six months of 2012 in the Seattle area to receive treatment, Wes is in remission, Matt said.
"He's been home full time ... since about June," Matt said. "We're still watching his counts closely, but the doctors say there is a very low chance that it comes back. He seems to be cancer free. My dad fought it, and I'm proud him."
In Matt's eyes, that's better than any state championship he could win.
"When I think back on it, winning the football title was probably the best one I've ever won," Matt said. "When we won the title in basketball, my dad couldn't be there, and it was like, 'Yeah, this is great. OK, now what?'"
Though Wes wasn't able to make it to Yakima for the 2A state basketball tournament in early March, his numbers allowed him to take weekend trips to Yelm and Yakima in May to watch Matt and the Lions play in the 2A state baseball playoffs, where they ended up finishing second to Archbishop Murphy in an extra-inning title game.
While he father was busy battling cancer, Matt said athletics gave him an outlet to keep himself focused.
"There were days I woke up, and I really didn't feel like going to school," Matt said. "How can you focus on schoolwork when you're thinking about your dad? But I knew I had to go to school if I wanted to practice and I wanted to play. I didn't want to let my teammates down, and I signed a paper at the beginning of the season committing that I would be there every day. The lifting weights part really helped, too, getting my mind off things. When it came down to it, I knew my dad would want me working as hard as I could at everything I did."
While he was playing, Matt also got numerous words of encouragement from his friends, teammates and coaches, as well as from other Lynden fans.
When Wes was able to make it to Lynden's Class 2A Northwest District Basketball Tournament first-round game against Sultan in February, the Lions faithful welcomed him back with a standing ovation.
"The community support here in Lynden was great," Matt said. "Everybody wanted to pitch in and help, and sometimes it's hard to accept that you need that help. In America, we're always striving to be the perfect family, and accepting defeat like that is a little hard.
"But the community helped pick us up so much. People brought me and mom and my cousin dinner for so long. It really takes a load off you. It really means a lot to see people that care so much about you, and you know if something like that were to happen to somebody else down the line, they'll be there to help them out, too. That's what we love about this town."
And now a year later, there's nothing Matt and his teammates would rather do than bring home a seventh football state championship for that community.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.