TACOMA — Christian Cummings exited the Tumwater locker room at the Tacoma Dome, cradling his pads and jersey, already thinking about the 2013 season.
“I’m looking forward to next year and see what happens there,” the junior halfback said.
Even though the sting of Saturday’s 41-7 loss to Lynden in the Class 2A football state title game was evident on players’ faces, many said they believe preparation for next year begins immediately – as in today.
“Yes it does,” said Cummings, one of 12 starters who could return in 2013.
As the Thunderbirds’ 2012 season progressed through victory after victory following a three-touchdown season-opening loss to Class 3A Shelton, they began to silence the doubters – even some on their own team – to reach the state title game for the second time in three seasons.
For many of Tumwater’s players, including senior Andrew Brown, it was their second time playing for a state title.
“I didn’t think we’d make it this far, but we made it and I’m happy for all the guys,” said Brown, who was held to 9 yards rushing but had a team-best 64 yards on four receptions. “We all love each other and that’s the reason why we made it this far.
“I really wish we could play (Lynden) again, though.”
Tumwater (12-2) simply had no answer for the experienced Lions (13-1), the defending state champions who featured seniors at 19 of 22 starting positions.
The T-Birds were manhandled by Lynden’s bookends on defense, WSU-bound Matt Meyer (6-foot-5, 280 pounds) and Caleb Newman (6-3, 220).
Meyer and Newman helped Lynden limit the T-Birds to 88 rushing yards. Cummings led the Tumwater rushing attack with a team-best 69 yards on 13 carries.
Lynden outgained Tumwater in total offense (559-203) behind a record-setting day from senior wide receiver Zach Vis.
Vis, who missed the first six weeks of the season with a broken collarbone, set an all-classifications record with 271 receiving yards on nine catches and touchdowns of 71, 12 and 27 yards.
Quarterback Josh Kraght completed 16 of 27 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns. He was intercepted twice. He also led the Lions’ rushing attack with 68 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
“We just didn’t have enough manpower,” T-Birds coach Sid Otton said.
One of the interceptions was returned for a touchdown when senior linebacker David Durden intercepted a Kraght pass and ran it back 20 yards for his first career touchdown. That cut Tumwater’s deficit to 10-7 late in the first quarter.
It was the eighth time in 14 games the Tumwater defense scored points and increased its record-setting point total to 65. But the game was the first this season the offense failed to score.
Lynden’s balanced running and passing attack overwhelmed teams in the playoffs. The Lions built a 41-point lead in the second half against the Capital Cougars in last week’s 2A semifinal contest.
After back-to-back weeks topping teams from the 2A Evergreen Conference, the Lions are 9-1 against the league dating back to 2006.
Lynden coach Curt Kramme earned his sixth state championship (he also quarterbacked Blaine to the 1A state title in 1978) and moves into second place in all-time state titles behind Bellevue’s Butch Goncharoff, who won his 11th state title Friday night with a 35-3 win over Eastside Catholic in the 3A title game.
Tumwater is 5-1 all-time in six state title-game appearances.
“I hope they remember it in the offseason when they’re working,” Otton said.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick