Coaches are about as likely to say they have a favorite team from one year to the next as a parent is to say they have a favorite child. It just doesn’t happen.
But if you listen closely to what they say, sometimes you’ll get a hint.
Lynden football coach Curt Kramme likes the group of players he has this year. Though even he admits it might not be the most talented squad he’s ever had, he uses words such as “heart,” “work ethic” and “togetherness.”
Lynden needed every bit of togetherness, toughness and determination it could muster against equally determined Black Hills and its slippery running back, Kyler Nygren.
And the Lions got exactly what they needed to emerge with a hard-fought 31-21 victory over the Wolves on Saturday in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs at Civic Stadium.
“Every time we step on the field, we say play for something else,” Lynden senior Brody Weinheimer said. “That’s the biggest thing. … Just play for something other than yourself.”
The Lions advanced to the quarterfinals.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” Kramme said. “That was a good football team we beat there today. They played hard, and they had an explosive player, and he got loose a couple times today, as I figured he probably would. I told our offense we needed to score 30 points today, and that’s what we did.”
The Lions reached the 30-point level after Black Hills scored on a 23-yard, one-handed touchdown grab by Noah Brewer to cut its deficit to 24-21 with 7:39 remaining.
The Lions’ response? A methodical dose of Jacob Hommes and Weinheimer runs that covered 68 yards in 10 plays and consumed 4 minutes, 15 seconds before Weinheimer scored his third touchdown of the day.
“A big part of it was depth,” Black Hills coach Kirk Stevens said. “They had some guys they could rotate through there. We had enough guys going two ways. That drive, they ate up a lot of clock, and we were just tired enough we couldn’t get that stop. I think that depth showed.”
Lynden (10-1) definitely did its best to wear down the Wolves (6-5). Hommes ran for 166 yards on 31 carries and Weinheimer gained 102 yards on 22 rushes — behind the blocking of Trey Labounty, Brennan Roebuck, Ed Andrews, Tanner Steele and Jacob Kettles.
“Our offensive line was getting good push the entire time,” Weinheimer said. “Every time I ran the ball, I was just thinking run as hard as you can. I kept telling myself, ‘Yeah you’re tired, but keep running.’ ”
The Wolves had a pretty good running game of their own with the speedy and elusive Nygren, who piled up 149 yards on 19 carries, including first-half touchdown runs of 50 and 37 yards.
“His quickness and speed acceleration is unparalled.” Stevens said. “The way the line blocked gave him those opportunities. Effort and everything else, couldn’t have asked for anything else.”
Lynden managed to sledgehammer a pair of 2-yard scoring runs by Weinheimer around Nygren’s touchdowns for a 14-14 halftime score.
Lynden backup kicker Isaiah Baseden, filling in for an injured Nick Parris, booted a 29-yard field goal with 1:44 left in the third quarter to break the tie and give the Lions a lead they would not relinquish.
Stevens praised his players for their season: “We graduated 20 seniors from last year, and (had) a group that a lot of people thought wouldn’t even make the postseason, let alone state. What they’ve done has been a great accomplishment.”