TUMWATER – Lynden’s 23-21 loss to Tumwater in the opening round of the Class 2A state football playoffs Friday had to be one of the most unusual games in the proud history of the Lions.
But there was nothing odd about the Lions’ proud defensive effort, even though they gave up 379 yards rushing.
That’s because it took Tumwater (9-2) – which came in winning by an average of 45 points – a whopping 73 carries to achieve those 379 yards. That’s right, the much-improved Lions (5-6) held one of the state’s deepest rushing teams to five yards per carry.
“I’m just so proud of this team,” said junior quarterback James Marsh. “Our defense did great.“
Marsh kept the Lions in the game to the bitter end while completing 13 of 21 passes for 189 yards and touchdowns of 60 yards to Aaron Weidenaar in the second quarter and 46 yards to Grant VanderYacht with 4:26 to play. Marsh also scored on a 1-yard keeper in the first quarter.
VanderYacht’s graceful grab pulled the Lions within the final 23-21, but the T-Birds ran out the clock with 11 running plays and a penalty on Lynden.
To lose by only two points – and to keep super sophomore Dylan Paine out of the end zone even though he ran 29 times for 219 yards – was indeed a defensive effort that literally brought post-game tears to coach Blake VanDalen’s eyes.
“I love you guys,” VanDalen told his team a moment after the game ended. “You have nothing to hang your heads about. You handled adversity really well.”
That adversity began earlier in the year when legendary coach Curt Kramme died of cancer and longtime assistant VanDalen took over.
“I’m just sad that we won’t be practicing Monday,” said VanDalen, who led one of the younger teams in Lynden’s history. “We’ll get better. These guys inspire me.”
Tumwater senior Nathan Seaman booted field goals of 31, 32 and 26 yards, one in each of the first three quarters.
And the T-Birds, who used eight running backs, displayed remarkable backfield depth. In fact, Dylan Mooers gained 16 yards on his first carry, helping to set up fellow senior Raushaun Tate’s 5-yard touchdown scamper on initial carry with 4:57 to play.
That capped a 15-play, 85-yard drive that ate up nearly seven minutes of the fourth quarter. In all, Lynden had only five plays in the final period, but one of them was the Lions’ last play – Marsh’s scoring pass to VanderYacht.
That play was so well executed under pressure it was hard to believe. The same could be said when Weidenaar beat two defenders on his 60-yard score.
In the opening period, Lynden’s first scoring drive featured three passes to Kobe Elsner for 30 yards on the way to Marsh’s score.
Ironically, Tumwater followed Weidenaar’s huge catch – which put Lynden up 14-3 – with a 96-yard kickoff return by Connor Clark to the 1, from where Zane Murphy scored.
Tumwater’s Jakob Holbrook had 86 yards on 18 carries and six other running backs aided Paine and Holbrook with 73 yards among them. The T-Birds had only five passes, gaining a net of three yards on two completions, but Tumwater limited Lynden to 58 yards rushing on 18 plays, meaning the Lions ran 31 plays compared to 78 for the T-Birds.