When Caleb Newman's family was looking to move to the Lynden area from Chilliwack, B.C., Newman wasn't so sure about the idea.
He was big into sports - especially basketball, at that time - and he wasn't sure how he would fit in with new teammates or how good his teammates would even be. So when his father came down to look for a house, Newman went with him, and they decided to take in a middle school basketball game to see some of the then-seventh grade players Newman soon would be joining.
"I just remember my dad looking over at me and saying, 'That's a special group of athletes,'" Newman said in a phone interview.
Nearly five years later, that is still true.
And though Lynden's Class of 2013 has shined on a variety of playing surfaces - from the hardwood to the wrestling mats in the winter to the baseball diamond and all-surface track in the spring - football is where this year's seniors have made their greatest impact.
And that's where they'll gather one last time at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Tacoma Dome, when they take on Tumwater for the Class 2A state championship.
It didn't take Lynden's current group of seniors long to make their impact or prove just how special they could be on the high school level.
Senior linebacker Jose Martinez remembers the freshman team getting off to a 4-0 start in 2009 before falling 30-29 to Ferndale's freshman team.
"There were a lot of people there, and I think it was the biggest upset we ever had," Martinez said in a phone interview. "We had been playing together since our seventh-grade season, and we knew we were going to be a good team. The Ferndale coach said they had their best team ever, and we lost to them by only one point. I think it was then we realized how special a group we would have."
The young Lions finished the C-team season 7-1 that year, and also started to catch the eye of Lynden varsity coach Curt Kramme.
"We had heard about this group from the time they were in sixth grade that they were going to be capable of winning three state championships (in football, basketball and baseball)," Kramme said in a phone interview. "But until you see them, you're kind of not sure. But sometime when they were freshmen, we realized we had something special. We don't bring freshmen up to play on the junior varsity or varsity, but we needed to bring up Josh Kraght to be our JV quarterback and backup varsity because of injury. It became apparent to me that he was going to be a special guy right away."
The next year, Kraght was given the keys to Lynden's high-powered offense on Friday nights and was joined by a handful of other sophomores, and all they did was finish the first undefeated regular season in Kramme's then 20-year tenure.
As if that weren't enough, the rest of the sophomore class in 2010, helped Lynden to the first of two straight unbeaten junior varsity campaigns.
Last year as juniors, even more members of the Class of 2013 helped Lynden's varsity squad to a 14-0 season and the sixth state championship in school history. Some of the members even helped add a state basketball title and a trip to the baseball state championship game, for good measure.
And this year, as seniors, the Class finds itself right back in the 2A state championship game for their final football game together.
"We've been friends since way back in the third grade," senior receiver/safety John Shine said in a phone interview. "We've always been on the same team, and we've always been close. We've worked really well together, and in high school, it just really clicked."
During their high school career, this group of seniors has tasted defeat only three times on a football filed - that one-point C-team loss to Ferndale, a 21-10 loss to Tumwater in the first round of the 2010 state playoffs when they were just sophomores and a 42-39 loss to King's to open this season.
Since they were sophomores, the Class of 2013 has posted a 36-2 varsity record.
So what has made Lynden's Class of 2013, which lists 23 seniors in the state football program, so special?
With players like Kraght, running back/defensive back Luke Christianson, all-state receiver/safety Zach Vis, standout offensive tackles/defensive ends Matt Meyer and Caleb Newman and a host of other really good core players, the Lions certainly aren't short on talent. Meyer already has committed to a scholarship offer from Washington State, Newman has several offers he is considering, Vis and Kraght should also be playing on Saturdays somewhere, and Christianson will probably land a baseball scholarship offer.
And the Lions seniors are very well-rounded, with plenty of talented big bodies to go with a host of skill-position players. In fact, the senior class held down 19 of the 22 starting positions on offense and defense during last week's semifinal win over Capital.
The only underclassmen to crack the starting lineup were junior receiver Jalani Phelps and linebacker Jaremy Martin and sophomore defensive lineman Trent Postma.
But wins and athletic talent are only a very small part of the Class of 2013's legacy.
"I think what makes this class special is a combination of tremendous athletic ability, but it's more about them being quality human beings," Kramme said. "We've had quality kids before, but I'm not sure we've had such a big group of them go through at one time. These are guys you wouldn't mind having over for a holiday meal. I'm sure their parents would tell you they're far from perfect, but these are good kids, and the parents are all very involved in their lives."
And the athletes are heavily involved in each other's lives.
Since they started playing together in grade school, members of the Class of 2013 have been nearly as inseparable off the field as they are on it.
"We're all super close friends," Shine said. "We're just normal guys. We like to hang out and have little competitions with each other and talk sports and stuff like that. We just all get along. Everybody is friends with everyone else."
And because of that close bond, they're willing to do just about anything for each other.
Newman accepted a move from running back to offensive tackle last year to help fill an area of need. Marcus Fakkema accepted a similar move to the offensive line.
Christianson held off on his dreams of playing tailback as a junior and got fewer touches than he would have liked so that the Lions could put more athletes on the field at the same time.
Gabe Kaemingk, all 165 pounds of him, sacrifices his body against players nearly twice his size in the trenches as a defensive lineman and ended up leading the team in sacks so far this year with six.
Time and again, unselfish moves have been repeated by the senior class, helping make Lynden even more successful.
"It's special," Martinez said. "We trust each other and we have each other's back. If you mess up, you know your teammates are going to pick up for you. We do everything we can to help each other. In school we help each other out. It's a beautiful thing to have guys that you can trust that much and know will do anything for you."
Not that this group needs all that much help in school, either.
"I think there's only one or two of them that don't have a GPA above 3.0, and they're just below that mark," Lynden teacher and defensive coordinator Blake VanDalen said. "This is just a high-achieving group, on the field, off the field, in the classroom and in life. They're a fun group to be around. They actually make going to practice every day fun. Yeah, it's easy to have fun when you have a lot of success like they have, but I think they're the kind of kids that would have fun even if we weren't as successful."
Oh, but they have been successful.
And the success has only made them hungrier for more.
"Last year's state title was great, but it was also very humbling," Shine said. "I think what it did was motivate everyone to work harder to get ready for this season. We want to finish our last season together strong."
Regardless of what happens in Saturday's championship game, Lynden's Class of 2013 has left its mark on the school and county, setting the bar high for all other schools and classes to try to reach - both on the field and off it.
"Being a part of this group of guys is special," Martinez said. "Being able to play alongside them like I have for the past seven or eight years, I couldn't ask for anything more. To be able to call these guys friends - that's something I'll never forget."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
CLASS OF 2013 BY THE NUMBERS
36-2: Varsity record of Lynden's Class of 2013 since they began starting as sophomores.
1,492-532: Lynden's scoring advantage over the past three years.
4,346: Rushing yards compiled by Lynden's Class of 2013.
6,029: Passing yards compiled by Lynden's Class of 2013.
5,033: Receiving yards compiled by Lynden's Class of 2013.
141: Touchdowns scored by Lynden's Class of 2013.
23: Seniors listed on Lynden's roster in the state football program.
19: Regular senior starters on Lynden's offense and defense.
2: Perfect regular seasons the past two years - the first in coach Curt Kramme's tenure.
1: Class 2A football title won by the Class of 2013, a mark they hope to double with a win in the state championship game on Saturday, Dec. 1
No Name Pos.
2 Luke Christianson* RB/DB
3 Josh Kraght* QB/DB
5 Dak Shagren* WR/DB
11 Zach Vis* WR/DB
12 Ryan Mouat RB/DL
14 Jordan Sterk DB
17 Gabe Kaemingk* WR/DL
20 John Shine* WR/DB
24 David Gallegoes WR/DB
34 Clay Tevelde OL/DL
51 Jose Martinez* RB/LB
52 Marcus Fakkema* OL/DE
55 Harmin Mattu OL/DL
57 Casey Halbert* OL/DL
59 Simba Aulakh OL/DL
63 Roman Castillo OL/DL
66 Bret DeGraaff* OL/DL
68 Layn Debruin OL/DL
70 Russel Moretto OL/DL
74 Ryan Priestman OL/DL
77 Caleb Newman* OL/DE
78 Matt Meyer* OL/DL
NA Calvin Griffin OL/DL
*Projected offensive or defensive starter
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.