TACOMA - Think back to December of 2009.
The Lynden football team had just won the second of back-to-back Class 2A state titles and was starting to think what was next. How could the Lions possibly go forward after graduating a strong senior class that was the backbone of those championship runs?
Here we are three years and two Lynden state championships later, and Lynden finds itself in exactly the same place.
OK, maybe it's a little more exaggerated this year. The 23 football players in Lynden's Class of 2013 did, after all, account for 19 of the 22 starting positions on offense and defense during the Lions' 41-7 title game victory over Tumwater on Saturday, Dec. 1.
So is this the end of Lynden's reign, which has seen them win five state titles in seven years? How can they possibly play at the level Lions fans have become accustomed to with those kinds of losses?
"It won't be easy," Lynden coach Curt Kramme said. "Those are some pretty special players we have to replace. But I can tell you this, when they put the Lynden uniform on next year, they'll expect to be successful."
That just simply comes with the territory.
So what is next for the Lions after they bid adieu to a senior class that went 37-2 and made it to the state playoffs all three years during its reign?
The cupboard certainly won't be empty - it will just need a little restocking.
The Lions do return three starters, and all three of them are pretty talented.
And don't forget about kicker Alex Otano-Guenther, who booted a pair of field goals during Saturday's championship game.
"I wasn't even the starter when we came in this season," Otano-Guenther said. "That was Dak Shagren, but Coach Kramme kept giving me chances because he believed in me. With coaches like that, I'm sure we'll find some good players to replace the guys we are losing."
Fortunately, Kramme and his coaching staff will have a foundation to build around in the middle of their defense, with the return of junior linebacker Jaremy Martin, who led Lynden with nine unassisted tackles and four assists during Saturday's championship game. That gave him 142 for the season.
"I've got to start getting ready for next year right now," Martin said. "I've got to tell people what it takes to get back here, but I also have to show them. We need to work our butts off to get back here, starting right now."
One person sure to be joining Martin in preparations is sophomore Trent Postma.
Not only was Postma a starter on Lynden's defensive line, but he also was Luke Christianson's top backup at running back. With Christian on the sidelines most of Saturday with a separated shoulder, Postma rushed for 36 yards on six carries, upping his season total to 293 yards.
"As a sophomore, it was pretty exciting to be a part of all this," Postma said. "Now I'm going to be the one of the guys that other guys are looking to."
They'll also be looking to junior receiver/defensive back Jalani Phelps. Though he was held without a catch on Saturday, Phelps finished second on the team with 569 yards and seven TDs.
But even with players like that returning, Lynden certainly won't enter 2013 with the same expectations it had this year.
But that's just fine with them.
"It's kind of fun not to have all those expectations and to surprise some people," Martin said. "We look forward to being the underdog. It will be a little bit different than this year."
That is the only thing that is certain for next year.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
A MATTER OF CLASS
Breakdown by year for Lynden's Class 2A State Playoff roster:
Key losses: Luke Christianson (RB/DB), Josh Kraght (QB/DB), Dak Shagren (WR/DB), Zach Vis (WR/DB), Gabe Kaemingk (WR/DB), John Shine (WR/DB), Jose Martinez (RB/LB), Marcus Fakkema (OL/DE), Casey Halbert (OL/DL), Bret DeGraaff (OL/DL), Caleb Newman (OL/DE), Matt Meyer (OL/DE).
Key returners: Jalani Phelps (WR/DB), Cameron Wainwright (QB/DB), Alex Otano-Guenther (RB/LB/K), Trent Postma (RB/DL), Jaremy Martin (TE/LB), Scooter Hastings (WR/DB).
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.