High School Football

No. 7-ranked Lynden Christian is benefiting now from past struggles

Misconstruing the Lynden Christian Lyncs football team with the Lynden Lions would be plausible amid Week 4 of the regular season.

Lynden Christian is 3-0, has outscored opponents 128-13 and is ranked No. 7 in the newly released Class 1A Associated Press Washington State Prep Football Poll.

Who are these Lyncs?

Time will tell, but the first three weeks have shown they are a hungry team on the rise ready to put themselves in the same class as Meridian, Mount Baker and Nooksack Valley.

It hasn’t been since 2005 that LC won its first three games, and the past three seasons the Lyncs own a 2-13 mark in conference games. During coach Galen Kaemingk’s four-year tenure, his team has never beat Meridian nor Mount Baker and its only win against Nooksack Valley came a season ago.

But this year’s Lyncs are anxious to leave prior struggles in the past.

“One thing is that we have a nice senior group,” Kaemingk said. “We probably have 14 or 15 seniors, and they all have been working together for years now. This is my fourth year here, so when I got here they were freshman. For the most part, they have all been together those four years, so they have that team chemistry.”

Critics may argue Lynden Christian’s three non-conference opponents weren’t powerhouses, facing Omak, Sultan and Bellingham. But what the Lyncs have done against those teams has been impressive.

LC is averaging 42.6 points per game, 6.3 yards per rush and junior quarterback Lucas Roetcisoender has excelled thus far, completing 69 percent of his passes for 368 yards and six touchdowns with only two interceptions.

But defense, under coordinator Dan Kaemingk, has been the Lyncs’ strength. Besides only giving up 13 points through three games, LC’s rush defense is yielding 2.6 yards per carry and the pass defense has surrendered a measly 118 yards. Last year’s defense allowed 5.6 yards per carry.

“Our coaches do a good job of coming up with good defensive schemes,” senior linebacker Blake Mellema said. “I think we got a really good defensive backfield, too, a lot of seniors, and that helps because we can play different coverages over the top of us. Then we can focus a little more on the run.”

Kaemingk credited defensive linemen Terrel Brown and Cole Stump as well as linebackers Mellema, Sam Mumford, Blake Browning and Jake Van Berkum for LC’s terrific play against the run. All six are seniors.

But to understand how the Lyncs have put themselves in a strong position to start the year, it’s necessary to journey back and delve into what this year’s large senior group has gone through.

Three years ago LC went 2-8 and was winless in conference play. Two seasons ago, when many of the Lyncs’ current seniors were required to play varsity, Lynden Christian finished 4-6 but again went winless in conference play.

Last year’s Lyncs had a minor breakthrough, finishing 6-6 with a postseason berth.

“A lot of them had to play as sophomores and juniors and should have been JV players,” Kaemingk said. “They know what it’s like to not have success, so they’ve really dedicated themselves to making this year special.”

Such dedication sprouted in the weight room and has grown throughout practice and into the locker room.

“The teamwork of our class, we have been building it up since freshman year,” Brown said. “We all have been waiting for this year. We have a lot of guys, a lot of athletes, and we just, we’re ready to just dominate.”

Kaemingk said he’s had high hopes for this year’s senior crop since they came in as freshman. The difficult seasons have hardened the group and subsequently given them an all-in mentality for 2014.

“We all have really high expectations,” senior running back Jordan Jansen said. “It’s been a long time since LC has had a successful season, and that’s kind of our mindset right now, to have a really successful year.”

And with league play beginning this Friday against Meridian, the Lyncs know what transpires the next six weeks will ultimately determine their fate, not the past three.

“First three games are preseason,” Mellema said. “These next six games are regular season, and we got to come out and get these ones.”

LC starts its bid for a postseason berth at the same spot the Lyncs’ season ended last fall, against No. 8-ranked Meridian in Laurel.

Different from year’s past, though, Kaemingk expects Lynden Christian to enter the game with a firm belief it can win.

“That’s the $64,000 question,” Kaemingk said, regarding how his team will respond playing against the 1A schools who’ve beaten them down in the past. “I have every confidence in the world they are going to come out and play well. For Meridian, they have a winning tradition, and they don’t expect to go out onto the field and lose. They go out expecting to win, so if you go in there, you are going to have to play 48 minutes to beat them. You’re going to have to take it. They aren’t going to give you anything.”

And this year’s Lyncs, who’ve taken a long road to find success, will have earned everything they achieve.