A fourth straight state championship proved more a dream than a reality.
Lynden used a come-from-behind win, earned a blowout and finished on top of a competitive battle each of the last three state championships before ultimately hoisting the gold ball at game’s end.
This feeling was different — much different.
Curt Kramme admitted he was grateful to beat Sedro-Woolley the first time the Northwest Conference rivals met six weeks ago. The Cubs showed why Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Tacoma Dome.
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“Bottom line was, they played better than we did today,” Kramme said. “I felt fortunate to beat them the first time around, and I knew it was going to be a difficult task.”
Fourth-quarter suspense was non-existent. The Lions’ fate had been sealed long before the final whistle blew, as Lynden walked off the Tacoma Dome floor with a 42-13 Class 2A State Playoff Championship game defeat.
Sedro-Woolley (13-1) won the battle up front, amassing 321 rush yards, the second most Lynden has given up this season, and the Cubs’ defense grounded the Lions’ high-octane offense.
While Sedro-Woolley seemingly ran the ball at will, Lynden (12-2) struggled all game. The Lions finished with a season-low 11 rush yards on 16 carries. Running back Trent Postma led Lynden with 22 yards on eight carries.
Lynden’s inability to run, combined with its deficit, forced the Lions to lean heavily on their pass game.
Sterling Somers, often throwing with pass rushers in his face, completed 16 of 33 passes for 188 yards and was intercepted four times. Sedro-Woolley in total recorded five picks, including a late, meaningless one off Clark Hazlett.
“They were a big challenge for us today,” Somers said. “They played outstanding. They played great. It just wasn’t our day today, especially not mine.”
The game-clinching interception for Sedro-Woolley, which won its first state championship in program history and was playing in its first state-title game since a 1983 loss, came early in the fourth quarter when Carter Crosby jumped a route and returned the ball 21 yards for a score, giving the Cubs a 35-13 lead with 9:21 to play.
Sedro-Woolley yielded 360 pass yards during Lynden’s 33-30 Week 8 win, but the Cubs were prepared this time.
Sedro-Woolley’s Anthony Cann had two interceptions, and Chad Wilburg, Mason Elms and Crosby each had one.
“We knew that they throw the ball a lot,” Crosby said, “and we practiced all week on that: slant route, fade route, everything. Yeah, we thought we were going to pick some balls off today, and we did.”
The Lions struggled stopping the Cubs’ rushing attack from the start.
Sedro-Woolley used a grinding 13-play, 71-yard touchdown drive to open the game. The Cubs didn’t pass until 5-foot-8 Elms, on a fourth-and-goal from the Lions’ 4, hauled in a fade route over Jonathan Whetnall from quarterback Devin Willard in the back-right corner of the end zone, giving Sedro-Woolley a 7-0 lead 5:55 in.
Lynden punted on its first two possessions, but the Lions’ defense toughened up deep in its own territory to keep the game close.
Lions safety Noah King made a big stop on a Cubs’ fourth-and-4, and Sedro-Woolley came up empty on its third possession after marching 61 yards to Lynden’s 5.
Scooter Hastings finally helped the Lions get something going offensively midway through the second quarter, when he threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Whetnall after receiving a pitch from Somers. Whetnall broke a tackle at the 15 before strolling into the end zone.
“It’s a big play,” Kramme said. “That’s something we have been doing for years. It worked once. We needed to have some more big plays, but it just didn’t happen today.”
Sedro-Woolley answered with a seven-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that was capped with a Crosby 1-yard sneak up the middle to put the Cubs in front 14-6 with 2:50 left in the first half.
Lynden nearly scored before the half, moving the ball down to the Cubs’ 14, but Cann picked off Somers on a second-and-10 with 6 seconds left until the break.
“If we could have scored right before halftime, that might have made a difference,” Kramme said, “but the bottom line was their defensive backs made some plays on our receivers.”
Lynden’s defense played tough in the third, but two interceptions set Sedro-Woolley up in prime scoring position.
Elms scored on a 3-yard TD run with 3:15 left in the third, giving the Cubs a 21-6 lead, and a second pick put Sedro-Woolley at Lynden’s 22. Three plays later, Quinn Carpenter’s 6-yard run put the Lions in a 28-6 hole.
“They’d find something that would work and stick with it and then run the same play until we stopped it,” senior two-way starter Bryce Sterk said. “And then they’d find another weakness and pound that until we fixed it.”
Somers used passes of 13, 19 and 32 yards on Lynden’s next drive before plunging in from the 1 to trim the Lions’ deficit to 28-13 on the last play of the fourth quarter.
Lynden forced a punt to start the fourth, but tragedy struck when Crosby intercepted a Somers pass and returned it 21 yards for a score with 9:21 left that virtually sealed the game.
Sedro-Woolley used three different quarterbacks throughout the game, Willard, Elms and Crosby, and three different running backs ran for more than 60 yards. Carpenter led the way with 88 yards and two TDs on 17 carries.
Jonathan Whetnall led the Lions with 113 receiving yards and a touchdown on six receptions, and Hastings recorded 78 yards on seven receptions. Jordan Wittenberg, Lynden’s leading receiver, finished with 56 yards on four catches.
“I just couldn’t say enough great things about our team,” Kramme said, “and for us to even be here in this building with the chance to win it again with all the adversity we’ve been through is a real testament to our kids and coaches and overall support of our program.”