For a team that piled up 627 points in 2015, a measly four shouldn’t seem significant. But for the Lummi Nation football team, those four points were gigantic – they were all that separated the Blackhawks from their second Class 1B state title and the heartbreak they’ve felt the past eight months.
In fact, it wasn’t even four points – it was one play. The lack of a red-zone fumble here or the elimination of an ill-timed holding penalty there, or even a defensive stop in the closing minutes, and Lummi probably would have found itself on the other side of its 46-42 loss to Almira-Coulee-Hartline in the state championship game.
“One play away,” Blackhawks coach Jim Sandusky said after the game. “I can’t say anything more than one play away.”
While the Lummi community is still stinging from that loss last December, it learned this summer it will receive a pretty nice consolation prize, and that “one play” has become motivation for the team and community.
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“It’s awesome for me,” Sandusky said of being selected. “One of my biggest things is bringing the community – the tribe – together. We’ve been able to do that with athletics and especially football. ... We’re not just a tiny little school anymore. It’s still a small school, but getting national attention is a big, big thing.”
Joining the Blackhawks in the series, which is intended to help the six teams turn what haunts them from 2015 into motivation for 2016, are teams from New Palestine, Ind.; Glynn Academy (Brunswick, Ga.); Marion Local (Maria Stein, Ohio); Tri-County Academy (Flora, Miss.); and Deerfield-Windsor (Albany, Ga). Those six were selected from a list of 101 schools that lost their state title games by a touchdown or less last year.
“Instead of telling the stories of the champions,” Russell Athletic’s Matt Murphy said in the release, “we wanted to find the untold story of team – the team coming back strong from that close loss.”
Sandusky said the selection process lasted about two months, and it was about a month ago he learned Lummi was chosen.
The campaign, scheduled to launch during preparations for the season, is designed to show what motivates the six teams in 2016.
“Our goal was simple: Tell the story of the birthplace of team in America,” Murphy said. “We found it in small towns like New Palestine, Ind., and communities like Lummi Nation. Anyone who loves football and believes in the idea of team will relate to these stories and find inspiration from them.”
To help inspire the Blackhawks, Lummi players will receive inspirational practice shirts to remind them of the one thing that kept them from a state title last year – “1 Play.” Sandusky said the team also is getting practice jerseys and other equipment from Russell Athletic.
According to the release, the Lummi community also now will have to stare down a billboard stating what haunts it most – that “1 Play” – and the Blackhawks will get to tear down that billboard the night before the season starts, revealing the team’s new mantra for the season.
Like the other five teams, Lummi’s season will be documented at TeamOn.RussellAthletic.com and on other Russell Athletic social media channels, according to the release. The Blackhawks also will have a feature video on SBNation.com.
Lummi, like all other high school football teams in the state, is scheduled to open practice Aug. 17.
Sandusky said Lummi has a pretty good shot at returning to the title game with 26 to 28 players expected back, though they will have to fill the shoes of four talented seniors who graduated.
“I think we have a good shot to return to the state title game,” Sandusky said. “We have a lot of our team back, and the team we played didn’t lose a whole lot, so we might see them again. I think we’re definitely on track to make a run at it. We had a great camp, and the summer went fast, and we’re ready to get going again.”