SEATTLE - They may wear the same green jerseys and the helmets still are yellow, but Lynden football coach Curt Kramme has been very careful not to compare this year's Lions to the two-time Class 2A state champions the program graduated after last season. It simply wouldn't be fair with the Lions trying to replace 19 of 22 starting positions and arguably the best senior class to ever walk the halls at Lynden.
But there already is one area in which this year's team would compare favorably - the 2013 Lions actually beat King's in a season opener.
Spurred by a bend-but-don't-break defense that didn't allow the Knights any points through the first 47 minutes, 54 seconds, Lynden beat King's 14-6 on Saturday, Sept. 7, at the new Husky Stadium during the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association's Emerald City Kickoff Classic. The win not only atoned for the Lions' 42-39 loss in last year's wild season opener - the only defeat Lynden has suffered since 2010 - it also set the tone for 2013.
"It's a great momentum builder," Lynden's Lucas Petersen said. "I think our confidence level is just going to rise. Hopefully we can build on this."
The Lions' defense definitely started to build early, despite a methodical drive King's used to open the game, when the Knights used 12 straight runs to reach the Lynden 20.
But on fourth-and-2, Jalani Phelps came on a run blitz, managed to spot King's quarterback Koa Wilkins on a keeper and dragged him down 1 yard short of the first down to turn the ball over on downs.
"It felt great just knowing we could stop them," Phelps said. "It was definitely a confidence booster."
It also was a harbinger of a scene that would be repeated a couple more times during the second half, as Lynden tallied four fourth-down stops in its own territory on a pleasant afternoon.
On the Knights' second possession after halftime, Wilkins took to the air to lead King's to the Lynden 13, but Dimitriy Telega and Blake Browning combined to sack Wilkins on first down, before his third- and fourth-down pass attempts fell incomplete to turn the ball over on downs.
"We're a good group," Petersen said of the defense. "We're physical. I think the linebackers, D-line, everybody just stuck together and did really well."
The Knights again tested the Lions' resolve in the red zone in the fourth quarter, but once again, Lynden answered, forcing an incomplete pass on fourth-and-6 from the 19 to give the ball back to the Lions with 2:44 left in the game.
"That's what it's all about," Kramme said. "We keep preaching to these guys, and they're buying in that until they cross the goal line, it doesn't count. ... Hopefully we can keep that rolling."
The Lions would have had a shutout if Corey Kispert hadn't come off the bench and hit Ryan Fransen over the middle with a couple of passes to get the Knights in a goal-to-go position for the first time all afternoon. Kispert then found Jordan Turner from 10 yards out to put King's on the board with just six seconds left on the game clock.
"We defended that goal line very, very well until the last possible play," Kramme said.
While the Lions' defense was outstanding throughout, Lynden's offense was outstanding for a half.
Its first drive of the season was extremely efficient.
After stopping King's on fourth down, Phelps caught a 13-yard pass from Petersen to put the Lions on top.
"That's a play we stole from King's from last year," said Phelps, who is the only returning starter from last season on offense. "They ran it on us last year. When they sit in a cover-two zone, usually that corner bites. ... and it's usually wide open. They called my number, and I got a good ball from Lucas."
Another long drive on Lynden's second possession got the Lions in field-goal range, but they couldn't convert. But on their third drive, Petersen found Scooter Hastings for a 31-yard completion, setting up Trent Postma for a 2-yard dive behind a nice block from Kody Ames one play later to give Lynden a 14-0 lead at the half.
"I was very pleased with our offense in the first half," Kramme said.
But the second half wasn't quite as efficient.
After having a field goal bounce off the uprights in the third quarter, Lynden failed to salt the game away in the fourth when drives ended with an interception and a lost fumble.
But both times, the defense got the ball back with fourth-down stops.
Petersen finished with 170 yards through the air and 53 more on the ground in his first start at quarterback, while Postma rushed for 76 yards on 11 carries. Hastings tallied 84 yards on three catches.
"Now we don't have to watch last year's team or camp video," Kramme said. "We've got a tape to watch from this team. Now we've got an opportunity to get better. Whether we take advantage of that, time will tell."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
King's 0 0 0 6- 6
Lynden 7 7 0 0- 14
LYN - Jalani Phelps 13 pass from Lucas Petersen (Alex Otano-Guenther kick)
LYN - Trent Postma 2 run (Otano-Guenther kick)
KING - Jordan Turner 10 pass from Corey Kispert (pass failed)
First downs 17 17
Rushing Att-Yards 37-108 28-129
Comp-Att-Int 16-32-0 11-21-1
Passing yards 190 170
Penalties-yards 7-49 4-35
Fumbles-lost 3-0 1-1
RUSHING - King's: Chris Yand 10-52, Laka Williams 7-47, Karl Sather 7-27, Koa Wilkins 13-(-14). Lynden: Trent Postma 11-76, Lucas Petersen 13-53, Jaremy Martin 3-6.
PASSING - King's: Koa Wilkins 13-28-0-131, Corey Kispert 3-4-0-59. Lynden: Lucas Petersen 11-21-1-170.
RECEIVING - King's: Ryan Fransen 5-79, Jordan Turner 5-51, Nick Severson 3-37, Lucas Swanson 3-23. Lynden: Jalani Phelps 4-39, Scooter Hastings 3-84, Cameron Wainwright 2-27, Jaremy Martin 1-17, Rudy Mendoza 1-3.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.