TACOMA - The Class 1B state championship game - the game following Lynden's 2A state title game against Tumwater - moved into the waning moments of the first half on Saturday, Dec. 1, and still they stood in the southwest corner of the Tacoma Dome.
The last of the players had finally cleared out only a few minutes earlier, carrying the Class 2A state championship trophy and the celebration with them into the locker room at the other end of the arena, but still a handful of fans clad in Lynden green and gold stood in lines to purchase championship sweatshirts, snapping a few pictures and savoring every moment of what they had witnessed over the past three years.
Nobody seemed to want to let this group of 23 seniors go. They had simply meant so much for the Lynden football program since they were sophomores and done so much for the entire community since they were grade schoolers.
"I miss them already," Lynden coach Curt Kramme said. "I don't want to see them go."
But go they must - on to bigger and better things.
But before they wrapped up their high school football careers, Lynden's senior class provided one final unforgettable performance, as they overwhelmed Tumwater 41-7 in record-setting fashion to claim the 2A state title for the second straight year and the program's fifth time in seven seasons.
The title was the seventh overall for the Lions, who completed the 2012 campaign with a 13-1 record.
"This is special," Lynden senior lineman Casey Halbert said. "Most of us, really, have been together since we were in the sixth grade. We've worked so hard together to get here. This is the top of the mountain, and to finish it off with such a great victory like this, it's the cherry on top."
If there was only one cherry for the entire bunch of them, it probably had to go to senior receiver Zach Vis, who caught nine passes for a Class 2A state title game-record 271 yards and a record-tying three touchdowns.
The old record of 267 yards was set by Prosser's Kirby Moore in the 2008 championship game against Lynden, which the Lions won 35-34 in double overtime.
"When my assistant coach told me I broke it, it was all kind of surreal," Vis said. "I had no idea that I was even having that big a game. It just makes everything a little bit more special."
Moore also was the most recent player to catch three touchdowns in a title game, and Vis now makes that a three-way tie.
"Stud - that's all you can say about a performance like that," Lynden senior quarterback Josh Kraght said. "He was simply amazing today. He's a great receiver and a great friend, and I'm going to miss him a lot."
Kraght wasn't too shabby himself, as he finished with four touchdown passes and 376 yards passing - just 14 yards shy of the 2A title game mark of 390 set in 1999 by Meridian's Jeff Bennum. Lynden's 401 yards passing broke the team record of 392 set by Prosser in 2008.
The individual record probably would have been Kraght's, too, had he not been lifted in with 8 1/2 minutes remaining to the roars of the Lynden faithful.
"I knew about it afterward, but Josh Kraght is not about records, except what our team's record is," Kramme said.
Vis followed Kraght to the sideline one play later to a similar ovation.
"It wouldn't have mattered if I threw five interceptions and for only two yards," Kraght said. "Records don't really matter, but we just wanted to win today."
That's something Vis, Kraght and the rest of Lynden's seniors have done 37 times in the 39 times they've taken the field as part of the varsity team since they were sophomores. The only two times they didn't win: a 21-10 loss to Tumwater in the first round of the state playoffs when they were sophomores and a season-opening 42-39 loss to King's in August.
But Lynden simply wasn't going to be denied on Saturday - not after six, seven, eight years of preparing for this very moment with each other.
"I think it was probably seventh grade when I caught my first pass from Josh, and it didn't take us long to figure out that we had something special," Vis said. "I'd love to keep playing with that guy in college or wherever. I'd love to keep playing with all these guys."
Kraght and Vis certainly looked like they'd been playing a lifetime together, when Vis beat the Thunderbirds' secondary deep and Kraght hit him in stride for a 71-yard touchdown to put the Lions up 10-0 with 5:36 to play in the first quarter.
"That was a great tone setter," Vis said. "We knew we were going to be able to move the ball against them, and that just set the tone for us."
Kraght's next pass was his only real hiccup of the night, as he tried to force a throw into Vis through double coverage, only to have David Durden intercept it and return it 20 yards for a touchdown.
But that was about the only thing Tumwater had to cheer all afternoon, as the Lynden defense stymied the Thunderbirds' offense, holding it to 203 yards and keeping it out of the end zone.
Tumwater's leading rusher Andrew Brown was held to 9 yards on seven carries and didn't see positive yardage until the third quarter.
"We just played terrific assignment defense," Lynden linebacker Jaremy Martin said. "Everybody did their job, filled their gaps and did exactly what they were supposed to do. It was a team effort."
As it was on offense, where Kraght rushed for a 1-yard touchdown early in the second quarter and hit Vis for a 12-yard touchdown on a screen to make it 27-7 at the half.
"This game was kind of like many of our other wins, where teams would hang with us for a while, but they couldn't for the entire game, because we simply had too much talent," Kramme said.
Lynden began flexing its muscle in the third quarter, when Kraght hit Dak Shagren, who made a beautiful spinning reception on a 2-yard touchdown thrown to his back shoulder.
Vis capped off the scoring - and his record-setting performance - with a 27-yard touchdown catch from Kraght.
Not a bad way for Lynden's seniors to wrap up an unforgettable high school career together.
But don't say goodbye just yet - there's still basketball and baseball season to go, and many of these same names and faces will be playing together there.
But this is the title they'd been dreaming of since sixth grade.
"This means so much to all of us," said senior receiver John Shine, who caught two passes for 61 yards. "We've been playing football together and been such great friends for such a long time. This is really the only way this could have ended for us. We love sports and we love being around each other, and this is just the perfect way to end it."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Lynden 10 21 14 0 -- 41
Tumwater 7 0 0 0 -- 7
Lyn - Alex Otano-Guether 36 FG, 9:08
Lyn - Zach Vis 71 pass from Josh Kraght (Otano-Guenther kick), 5:36
Tum - David Durden 20 interception return (Elijah Hill kick), 2:24
Lyn - Otano-Guether 29 FG, 11:06
Lyn - Kraght 1 run (Otano-Guenther kick), 6:06
Lyn - Vis 12 pass from Kraght (Otano-Guenther kick), 1:58
Lyn - Dak Shagren 2 pass from Kraght (Otano-Guenther kick), 6:21
Lyn - Vis 27 pass from Kraght (Otano-Guether kick), 2:08.
First downs 22 12
Rushes-yards 33-158 36-88
Passes att.-cmp.-int. 18-29-2 10-18-1
Passing yardage 401 115
Total offense plays-yards 62-559 54-203
Third-down conversions 4-10 2-12
Fourth-down conversion 2-2 1-5
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 7-67 7-51
Time of possession 24:47 23:13
Lynden Att. Yards Avg. TD
Josh Kraght 14 55 3.9 1
Trent Postma 6 36 6.0 0
Luke Christianson 5 25 5.0 0
Ryan Mouat 5 22 4.4 0
Cameron Wainwright 2 18 9.0 0
Sterling Somers 1 2 2.0 0
Tumwater Att. Yards Avg. TD
Christian Cummings 13 69 5.3 0
Tyrus Snow 4 13 3.2 0
Trevor Davis 1 10 10.0 0
Andrew Brown 7 9 1.3 0
Jayden Croft 11 -13 -1.2 0
Lynden Cmp. Att. Yards TD Int.
Josh Kraght 16 27 376 4 2
Luke Peterson 1 1 18 0 0
Sterling Somers 1 1 7 0 0
Tumwater Cmp. Att. Yards TD Int.
Jayden Croft 10 18 115 0 1
Lynden Rec. Yards Long TD
Zach Vis 9 271 71 3
John Shine 2 61 45 0
Dak Shagren 4 20 9 1
Trent Postma 1 24 24 0
Scooter Hastings 1 18 18 0
Trey Shagren 1 7 7 0
Tumwater Rec. Yards Long TD
Andrew Brown 4 64 37 0
Zach Delucco 3 31 16 0
Kyle Plamondon 2 18 9 0
Tyrus Snow 1 2 2 0
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.