There’s nothing discreet or subdued about Bryce Sterk on the football field.
Standing at 6-foot-5, weighing 230 pounds he’s an imposing figure, towering over the majority of his competition. The high-motor and sheer passion he exuded made his play impossible to go unnoticed. And the Lynden senior lineman’s play-making ability seemed second to none.
“He is one of those people I say even the casual observer recognizes his contributions,” Lions coach Curt Kramme said in a phone interview. “He is very disruptive. ... His attitude and how he played, he played with a very competitive edge.”
Sterk’s effort on the football field embodied his school’s nickname. His length, footwork and strength made him a perfect offensive tackle, and at defensive end he terrorized offensive lines with his pass-rush ability and hounded running backs with his nose for the ball.
As a captain he provided tremendous leadership, helping guide the Lions to a Northwest Conference title and their fourth consecutive trip to the Class 2A State Playoffs title game, where Lynden’s bid for a state championship fell short.
Sterk’s team contributions went beyond his fiery passion for the game, competitiveness and other intangibles. His special season was backed up with impressive numbers, especially on defense, the area of his game Sterk took the most pride in.
The Lynden senior finished with 83 tackles and 64 assists, second on the team only to standout linebacker Trent Postma. Sterk’s 10 sacks set a new single season school record and his 13 total is the most in Lynden program history. He also had a single-season school record 24 quarterback harasses, and his 370 defensive points broke the mark of Lynden alumnus Jaremy Martin’s 355.
Kramme said there were games where opponents would refuse to run Sterk’s way, designing every play to go the other side.
Sterk’s efforts were recognized by league coaches and garnered statewide recognition, as well. He was selected the Class 3A/2A NWC Most Valuable Player as a first-team offensive and defensive lineman. He also was the only NWC player, besides Ferndale’s Chris Hernandez, to earn first-team all-sate honors on both offense and defense.
For an incredible season, Sterk has been selected The Bellingham Herald’s All-Whatcom County Football Player of the Year. First-year Squalicum coach Nick Lucey, who led the Storm to its most wins (nine) in program history, its first state playoff appearance and first state win, has been selected Coach of the Year.
“I feel like the year personally went well,” Sterk wrote in an email. “I believe I grew as a person and a player with my team and coaches. It was a challenge this year with injuries, and it was good as a team to overcome them.”
Sterk was one of Lynden’s top-flight talents who managed to stay healthy all year, giving the Lions much-needed consistency. Sterk’s impressive year could have been predicted after a strong junior season, but Kramme said his senior’s true turning point came after his sophomore year.
Two years ago Kramme admitted he couldn’t have projected Sterk as an all-league MVP candidate or an all-state player, but during the 2012 offseason something clicked.
Lynden graduated Caleb Newman, who also played defensive end, a position Kramme said is the team’s most challenging spot to play, served as a strong mentor. Sterk still remembers a passing-of-the-torch moment at the end of his sophomore season.
“I looked up to Caleb Newman a whole lot,” Sterk said. “I still remember Caleb telling me as I subbed in for him in the 2012 state game that I was the next man to fill this position in. That was when it clicked that I was going to be a starter next year and to be as prepared as possible.”
Sterk became a workout warrior in the weight room, achieving top-10 school records in both incline press and medicine-ball throw. He added speed, too, while competing in track and field. Last spring Sterk flaunted his athleticism by placing sixth at the Class 2A State Track and Field Championships in the 300-meter hurdles, finishing third on the Lions’ 4x400 relay team and taking 15th in the shot put.
He carried that over to this fall, where he’d routinely chase down running backs from behind. Pretty impressive for an offensive lineman.
And what enabled Sterk’s rare athleticism to flourish, without a doubt, was his competitive edge.
“I’m just extremely competitive on the field and hate not coming out on top in a one-on-one battle,” Sterk said. “It is so important to play at a high level of intensity and heart. Football is a game of inches. Any advantage helps, and if my teammates see that they all join with the intensity.”
Sterk is planning on continuing his football career in college and said he’s received offers from Wyoming, Eastern Washington and Portland State. He’s also talking with the University of Washington and said he’ll make a decision once his official visits are completed.
Of course Kramme can’t predict the future, but he believes Sterk’s intense work ethic combined with his “top-notch” character will help him excel.
“Off the field he’s a wonderful young man,” Kramme said. “He carries himself with high class and dignity. I’m very proud to have coached him and wish him the best.”