No team is going to make a deep playoff run without suffering an injury or two.
Lynden (13-1) certainly had its share of high-profile players banged up during its run to the Class 2A state title this season.
The biggest difference between the Lions and other teams? They didn’t let the injuries slow them down.
Starting running Luke Christianson suffered a dislocated shoulder in Lynden’s 48-21 semifinal victory over Capital but still started against Tumwater, rushing for 25 yards on five carries in the Lions’ 41-7 win.
Two-way starter Zac Vis broke his collarbone on the second day of practice, sidelining him for the first six weeks of the season.
“I knew we would have players step up when I was out,” Vis said. “That’s what they did. It only made us a better, deeper team for the playoffs.”
Vis looked completely healed in the title game, catching nine passes for a 2A state title game-record 271 yards and three touchdowns – including a 71-yard TD reception in the first quarter that seemed to kick-start the Lions.
Vis, who may actually be a better center fielder in baseball than a receiver in football, also made his presence felt on defense. In particular was a fourth-down play he made midway through the first half when he jarred loose an apparent completion to Gabe Gleizes with a big hit.
A reception would have given the T-Birds a first down inside the Lynden 40 with a chance to trim their deficit to six points. Instead the Lions took over and marched down the field, with Vis capping the drive with a 12-yard touchdown grab for a 20-point cushion at halftime.
Vis added a 27-yard scoring catch in the third quarter, pushing his receiving total to 271 yards and surpassing the record of 267 put up by Prosser’s Kirby Moore against Lynden in the 2008 2A title game.
Vis’ total is a state championship game record for all classifications.
“I knew I had some yards,” Vis said after being informed of his record-breaking total, “but I had no clue it was that many. It’s a pretty amazing way to end your high school football career.”
T-BIRDS’ DEFENSE SCORES
Keeping with a season-long trend, Tumwater’s defense found the end zone, when linebacker David Durden picked off a Josh Kraght pass in the second quarter and returned it 20 yards to the end zone.
It marked the school-record 10th time this season the Thunderbirds have scored on defense or special teams, but it was a first for Durden.
“I used to play tight end and was a kick returner,” said Durden, who finished his senior season with a team-best 143 tackles, “but I could never find the end zone. This was the first time I’ve ever scored a touchdown.”
Kraght had thrown just four interceptions during the season prior to Durden’s big play.
“It all happened so fast. I was stunned I had the football in my hands,” said Durden, who had a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown called back on a penalty during Tumwater’s first-round playoff game against Steilacoom. “It’s tough to lose, but I’m very proud of this team for what we accomplished. We were one of the best defenses Tumwater’s had here. We just wanted to drag the season out as long as we could and we did that. We just ran into a very good Lynden team.”
2013 OUTLOOK BRIGHT
Despite losing several standouts to graduation, including 2A Evergreen Conference MVP Andrew Brown and UW-commit Jaimie Bryant, expect Tumwater to once again be the class of the EvCo and a state contender next season.
The T-Birds return 12 starters (six on offense, six on defense) and all-EvCo kicker Elijah Hill next season as they look to capture their fourth consecutive league title.
Topping the list of returning players will be first-team all-EvCo selections Korye Trejo (defensive tackle) and Gabe Gleizes (defensive back) and second-team selections Tyrus Snow (running back) and Trevor Davis (linebacker), as well as quarterback Jayden Croft.
LYNDEN RULES EVCO
Since its inaugural season in 2006, the EvCo has generally been regarded as the strongest 2A league in the state.
Lynden, however, has run roughshod over the EvCo, posting a record of 9-1 against the conference over the past seven seasons, and has outscored EvCo opponents a combined 256-115 in those 10 meetings.
The Lions’ only setback came in 2010, when Tumwater won at Lynden (21-10) in the first round of the state playoffs.
Lynden defeat Centralia, 14-10, to capture the 2006 state crown – the first of five titles over the seven-year span.