TACOMA - Lynden was never concerned when backup quarterback Sterling Somers was forced to replace injured starter Lucas Petersen halfway through the season. The Lions never complained about cobbling together a new defensive line week after week, and they never, for one moment, stopped believing their group of relative unknowns could three-peat as state champions.
Despite losing 19 starters from arguably the most talented team in program history, Lynden never stopped believing.
The Lions personified adversity and overcame it over and over again.
"We have that next-man-up mentality, knowing we can trust that next guy up in the depth chart," senior lineman Kody Ames said. "It was a huge thing, just being one, just being able to trust."
Never was that more evident during Lynden's 38-28 win against No. 1-ranked Tumwater during the Class 2A State Championship on Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Tacoma Dome.
Lynden starting running back and inside linebacker Trent Postma would never have imagined he'd be watching the entire second half from the trainer's table, but when the two-way star went down midway through the second quarter with a dislocated knee, his absence provided Lynden yet another opportunity to beat misfortune.
Senior Jaremy Martin took over running back duties, and senior Tristan Campbell filled in at middle linebacker. Martin recorded a season-high 90 yards on 12 carries and had touchdown runs of 20 and 8 yards, and Campbell helped slow down Tumwater's offense enough to hold off the Thunderbirds' late rally.
"It's awesome to watch, honestly," Postma said. "When we got out there on offense, we were just dominating the run, and it was just awesome to watch."
Lynden (14-0) played to the crowd as the final seconds ticked away, and its sideline rushed the field after accomplishing what no other Washington Class 2A football program has ever done: win three consecutive state titles. The Lions became the seventh school in any classification to achieve the feat, and they claimed their sixth championship gold ball in the last eight years.
The win also marked the second time, in as many years, Lynden has beaten Tumwater in the 2A title game. The Lions won 41-7 last season.
Lynden coach Curt Kramme was nearly speechless, not only for what his Lions did, but how they did it.
"They've overcome so much with injuries, it's been remarkable," said Kramme of his team. "I kept saying these aren't problems, they are challenges and the boys responded. Wow, what a ride. I'm still stunned. You always expect to win, but to pull off what we've done here, to do something last year's team didn't do, go 14-0, undefeated. I'm just so proud of these guys. I can't say enough."
Somers was one of those players, and the sophomore signal-caller had another big day Saturday. He completed his first nine passes, finishing 17 of 23 for 267 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions and helped Lynden pile up 445 total yards against Tumwater's vaunted defense.
Somers utilized Scooter Hastings, Jalani Phelps and Jordan Wittenberg and also ran for 44 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Hastings, who caught a 48-yard touchdown pass and finished with four catches for 113 yards, presented a matchup problem for Tumwater, but Wittenberg was Somers' go-to target. The speedy sophomore finished with a team-high nine grabs for 100 yards. Phelps caught three passes for 44 yards.
"He was awesome today," said Kramme of Somers. "For him to come in as a sophomore and help us achieve what we achieved, I think it is remarkable and a real feather in his cap."
Lynden's title win was history-making, but what distinguished it from the previous two was outside doubt surrounding the team before and during the season.
"This team is a team that will be remembered for the rest of the decade, forever, because no one believed in us," Martin said. "The last two years we had the best team Lynden has ever had. I'm really proud to be a part of that, and I thank God I was a part of that."
It was the third title for Martin and the rest of the seniors, the seventh for Kramme, and the Lynden coach couldn't say enough about what his 6-foot-2, 240-pound senior has meant to Lynden program and especially this year's Lions.
Martin, who last week set a new school record for most solo tackles in a season with 106.5, once again played a huge role on defense. And he showed his versatility by filling in for Postma at running back.
"Jaremy was a warrior today," Kramme said. "He has been awesome for us in so many ways. I can't say enough good things about him."
Lynden's defense has been the Lions' driving force all season, and it came through again three plays into the game.
Lions defensive tackle Blake Browning gave Lynden a quick 7-0 lead after he received a gift of a fumble from Tumwater quarterback Jayden Croft, who popped a botched handoff into the air and into Browning's awaiting arms. The Lynden junior rumbled 40 yards for a score just 1:16 in.
"It gave us hope," said Martin of the big play. "We knew that we could do it now. We knew that there would be flukes, and we had to capitalize on it."
The Lions pushed their lead to 14 three plays into their first possession when Hastings caught a 10-yard hitch-route, beat a defender and then sprinted 40 yards down the left sideline, but Tumwater, which is predicated off big offensive plays, made a memorable one on the following possession courtesy of running back Trevor Davis.
Davis took a third-and-5 carry around the right end, evaded a tackle by Phelps, doubled back around the left side and tip-toed down the near sideline for a 47-yard TD run that cut Lynden's lead to 14-7 with 3:40 to go in the first.
Lynden and Tumwater exchanged touchdowns early in the second quarter thanks to a 1-yard TD run by Somers and a 42-yard run by Tumwater wing back Easton Trakel, but the Lions pushed their lead to 28-13 right before half. Martin capped a four-play, 46-yard drive in 47 seconds with a 20-yard touchdown in which he ran over a defender at the 15-yard line before coasting into the end zone.
"I had to go in there and step up for Trent," said Martin, whose 12 carries matched his largest workload this fall. "I went in there and had to do it for my team, my coaches and all the fans. I wouldn't have gotten any of those yards without the line and our receivers."
Martin put Lynden in front 35-13 with an 8-yard touchdown run with 5:09 left in the third quarter, but the Thunderbirds made a late rally.
Croft ended a near five-minute drive with a 1-yard TD run to cut the Lions' lead to 35-21 with 11:53 to go, and the Thunderbirds tightened the score to 35-28 with another Croft touchdown run, this one from 5 yards out, with 4:26 left in the game.
But after senior safety Rudy Mendoza recovered an onside kick, Lynden kicker Alex Otano-Guenther booted a 40-yard field goal from the left hash with 1:34 remaining to seal Lynden's state title.
"I was watching pregame, and he was knocking them through," Kramme said. "He was hitting them really good. That was a big play."
Ames said the state championship win is one he'll never forget.
"Wow, it's unbelievable," he said. "Going into this season not very man people expected us to make it this far, so to raise the expectation, to raise the bar, it's unbelievable to go undefeated."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
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