PUYALLUP — Senior James Marsh’s 50-yard touchdown run opened up what was looking to be a tight contest between No. 3 Lynden and No. 7 Fife in the 2A state semifinals Saturday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
Marsh’s run in the second quarter kicked off scoring for the Lions in what would eventually become a 31-0 victory over the Trojans. The Lions are now 13-6 all-time in semifinal games and have won nine straight state games against teams from Pierce County.
A 75-yard reception by Kobe Elsner from junior Brock Heppner in the second quarter extended the Lions lead to 14-0.
Before the pair of big plays by the Lions, both teams were moving the ball offensively, but had nothing to show for it as their defenses were able to make timely stops.
“We knew it was going to take awhile to get used to a different wing-T than Tumwater,” coach Blake VanDalen said. “It was going to take awhile to get used to their size versus Tumwater’s speed. Everything was an adjustment.”
Senior receiver Grant VanderYacht fumbled the ball in the first half, but said the team was able to bounce back and focus on the next play.
“I think we take whatever momentum we can find,” said VanderYacht, who finished with two catches for 38 yards. “I think we were outplaying them even when the game was close.”
This was the second straight week the Lions have faced a wing-T offense after beating Tumwater last week in a 28-27 thriller. VanderYacht said facing the same kind of offense two weeks in a row was a huge advantage in their game preparation.
The Lions took a 14-0 lead into halftime and the adjustments they made during the break showed in the second half as the game slowly turned into a blowout.
Lynden drove 77 yards down the field to open the second half where Marsh found senior Kobe Elsner in the back of the end zone for a 15-yard score.
Elsner finished with a game-high 132 yards receiving and 2 TDs on 3 catches.
VanDalen said the team was frustrated with some of the mistakes made earlier in the game, but knew they could and would eventually play better as the game went on.
“We were happy to let [Fife] run a lot of plays because we felt like we had an advantage in the endurance category which showed in the second half and the second quarter when we were able to punch those two [touchdowns] in,” VanDalen said.
Staying patient and figuring out what Fife was doing on both sides of the ball was key to the Lions taking control of the game.
“We knew that they would come out defensively a little different than they had [before] because it’s the playoffs,” VanDalen said. “Nobody is just going to line up the way they always do. They have some very good football players and we were able to not run toward those guys and that was huge early on.”
Fife quarterback Gannon Ginnis threw interceptions to senior Brendan Kleindel and VanderYacht in the second half which helped the Lions secure momentum and run away with the game.
The win gives the Lions their first trip to the state final since 2014.
“Nothing has been given to them,” VanDalen said. “We’ve had the hardest schedule we’ve probably had in school history. They knew that all along and tackled it one game at a time and found a way. We haven’t had a lot of blowouts, but we’re battle tested and now we get a shot at the ultimate opponent.”
Vanderyacht said making it to the state final was the ultimate goal and that he didn’t have the words to describe how it felt.
“It’s crazy and so exciting,” Vanderyacht said.
Marsh led the Lions with 125 yards rushing and 1 TD on 13 carries. He went 4-of-5 passing for 49 yards and a score. Brock Heppner went 3-of-4 passing with 121 yards and a TD. He also had 7 carries for 22 yards and a score.
Lynden will play in the state championship at 1 p.m. on Dec. 1 at the Tacoma Dome against the winner of Liberty vs. Hockinson.