Just about the time Lynden Christian coach Dan Kaemingk seemed hard-pressed to come up with a fourth consecutive career-best performance by a different skill player, Easton Stremler stepped up.
Except that Stremler, a junior running back, was no surprise to Kaemingk or his teammates.
“I’ve been hurt off and on all season,” said Stremler, who rushed for 78 yards on 21 carries, both career highs, and scored the first touchdown in LC’s 20-0 win over Cascade Christian in the opening round of the Class 1A state playoffs Saturday at Civic Stadium.
It was the first state playoff win since 2003 for the Lyncs (9-2), who next will play in the quarterfinals at Hoquiam, a 49-0 winner over Ridgefield. Time and day were still to be decided.
It was a day of celebration for Kaemingk and his staff, who recently learned that the Lyncs won the state academic title, determined by team grade-point average for all six divisions.
“Yes, that was the real Easton. He’s a heck of a back,” said Kaemingk, whose team shared the Northwest Conference 1A title with Meridian, a 40-21 winner over Elma later at Civic. Third-place Mount Baker also advanced with a 48-7 rout at Montesano.
“We would love to have 15 carries apiece in every game for Easton and Levi Korthuis,” said Kaemingk, referring to two of the league’s most dangerous two-way players (both are also linebackers).
In essence, that happened Saturday, when the rugged Korthuis plowed 12 times for 41 yards, with many in key short-yardage situations.
Stremler’s score against Puyallup Cascade Christian (7-2) came on a 15-yard scamper up the middle midway through the second quarter to snap a scoreless tie.
“It was kind of a weird environment, playing Saturday at 1 p.m. at Civic Stadium,” said Kaemingk, whose defense limited the Cougars (7-2) to 43 yards in the first half and 142 for the game. That included 80 yards passing by senior Michael Gurr, who filled in for concussion victim Parker Johnson.
The Lyncs scored twice in the fourth quarter, with receiver Sam Faber running two yards in LC’s version of a jumbo package to cap a 14-play, 59-yard drive, which began after an interception by Jude Veltkamp.
Junior quarterback Trajan Schouten completed five of seven passes on the drive, including an 11-yard flip to Faber on third-and-11 to the CC 12 and a third-and-four toss to Jackson Corkill immediately before Faber’s score.
The Lyncs mounted a third drive in the final 5:40, scoring on Schouten’s 12-yard pass to Tanner Feenstra on fourth-and-five with 1:04 left to end a 58-yard, 10-play drive.
Schouten completed 15 of 21 passes for 90 yards, with 63 in the second half. Sophomore Zach Sipma led the Lyncs with 34 yards on four catches.
Kaemingk said Stremler emerged as a potential standout in a summer camp at Eastern Washington when he got reps because Korthuis was on a fishing trip to Alaska.
“Easton was a bit of a discovery,” said Kaemingk, who also saw Bryce Bouwman contribute to the shutout with an interception late in the first half near midfield. “Easton really emerged” — until injuries limited his backfield time for much of the season.
“It really motivated me,” Stremler said of the Lyncs’ 15-year state playoff win drought. “I knew it had been a long time.”
In other games Saturday:
Lynden 34, Eatonville 14: The Lions (10-0) scored four consecutive second-half touchdowns and the Lions rallied from a 7-6 halftime deficit to overwhelm the Cruisers (8-3) at Civic Stadium. The Lions earned a second-round home game, likely Saturday at Civic, against Tumwater. Junior Brock Heppner finished with football’s version of the quarterback cycle: accounting for touchdowns running, passing and receiving. Heppner threw scoring passes of 45 yards and 49 yards to Kobe Elsner, caught a 13-yard scoring pass from quarterback/receiver James Marsh, and scored on a 3-yard run that gave the Lions a 34-7 lead. Marsh scored on a 60-yard romp and finished with 135 yards on 15 carries.Senior Trevin Melendez made the most of his offensive opportunities with a season-high 94 yards on 10 carries to help the Lions finish with 462 total yards, including 293 on the ground. With Elsner making two fine catches, Heppner went 4 for 8 for 133 yards and no interceptions. Lynden had five interceptions, with two in the second half by Brendan Kleindel and one each by Elsner, Grant VanderYacht and Melendez.
“I was super excited to get the opportunity (to play so much offense),” said Melendez, a starting linebacker. “I had been preparing all season for this.”
Coach Blake VanDalen was enthused over the Lions’ answer to first-half mistakes and adversity: “That third quarter was about as close to perfect as possible. In the ultimate team sport, we had to own our first half collectively and we responded so well. “Heppner said he looks at the game against Tumwater, which eliminated the Lions last year in the first round, as “our chance for redemption.” Tumwater eliminated Prosser 21-14.
Meridian 40, Elma 21: Junior Kevin Galiano had three interceptions, the last a 41-yard pick six for the game’s final touchdown, and caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Dawson Logan to put the Trojans (8-3) ahead for good with three second left in the first half. The Trojans will next have home game, likely Saturday at Civic, against Colville, a 48-7 winner over Connell. Logan scored on runs of 1, 12 and 16 yards and finished with 25 carries for 173 yards along with 8 for 17 passing for 146 yards and a total offense of 319 yards. The Trojans amassed 446 total yards on 53 plays and held Elma (8-3) to 296 total yards. Cole Roberts (68 yards on 13 carries) and Dylan Hickok (59 yards on 15 carries) were also keys and Hickok gave Meridian a 26-14 advantage with a 3-yard scoring scamper in the third quarter. Hickok led the Trojans in receiving yardage with 79 yards on three catches.
Mount Baker 48, Montesano 7: The Mountaineers (8-4) received heroics from many players to move into a quarterfinal at defending 1A champion Royal, which eliminated Riverside 41-0. Sam Barrett rushed for 171 yards on 12 carries, including a 48-yard run, and Jason Lee scored twice and finished with 54 yards on 12 carries. Kaleb Bass was 8 for 16 for 143 yards, including a 20-yard scoring pass to Michael Kentner and a 22-yard touchdown toss to Waylon Kentner for a 34-7 lead in the final seconds of the first half. The key play was Bass’ pick-six of more than 80 yards for Baker’s second touchdown against Montesano (8-3). Kobee Malone’s 33-yard run contributed to Baker’s 329-146 total yardage advantage while setting up Lee’s touchdown, which was Baker’s fourth score. Bass contributed a touchdown on a sneak in the fourth quarter.
Vancouver Mountain View 42, Squalicum 0: The 14th-seed Storm (8-3), champion of the 3A Wesco North, suffered five turnovers against No. 3 seed Mountain View (10-1). Spencer Lloyd rushed 15 times for 68 of the Storm’s 85 yards on the ground and completed 12 of 24 passes for 151 yards with two interceptions. Dedrick Mitchell caught six passes for 83 yards for the Storm.
Crescent 46, Lummi 36: At Lummi, the visitors from the Olympic Peninsula earned their first state tournament spot while eliminating a young Lummi team from the Class 1B playoffs.