DiLorenzo, Ayres, lead offensive attack
LYNDEN — Records don’t mean everything, as Lynden has proved the past three weeks.
The second-ranked, one-loss Lions have now knocked off three previously-undefeated ranked 2A opponents in consecutive weeks, capped by a 37-6 shellacking of No. 9 Lakewood on Friday at Rollie DeKoster Field.
The three-game stretch, which feels more like a deep playoff run than a regular-season slate, includes wins over then-second-ranked Archbishop Murphy and then-second-ranked Steilacoom.
The Lions (4-1, 2-0 2A Sky NWC) now have victories over two of the top-three teams in the 2A Sky Division and are the lone undefeated team in conference play with a one-game lead over Archbishop, Lakewood and Sedro-Woolley, all of which sit at 1-1.
Senior tailback Steven DiLorenzo led the offensive charge against the Cougars, rushing for 107 yards and 2 TDs on 20 carries, along with 70 yards receiving and 1 TD on three catches. Junior quarterback Baylor Ayres was 10-for-14 passing for 151 yards and threw touchdown passes of 37 and 8 yards in the win. Ayres also picked up 98 yards on the ground on 15 carries.
It was a different offensive approach for the run-heavy Lions. They planned to pound the rock with DiLorenzo, who entered as the county’s second-leading rusher with 613 yards rushing and five TDs.
“When you’ve got DiLorenzo, it’s hard not to just give him the ball every single time,” VanDalen said.
Lynden soon found out the Cougars planned to stack the box with eight men. That allowed Ayres to open up the passing game, who threw his second and third TDs of the year. He said the game has slowed down for him at this point in the season.
“At the beginning of the season it was super fast,” Ayres said. “Coach said it would take a couple weeks to slow down and it did.”
Lakewood got its first and only TD of the night on the opening possession of the game as QB Jared Taylor broke through for a 3-yard keeper on a five-minute drive.
Lynden answered right back, driving the field on its first possession, culminating in senior Brock Heppner’s 1-yard TD blast up the middle. Heppner finished with 48 yards on seven carries.
From then on it was all Lions. Lynden took a 17-6 halftime lead after Ayres’ 8-yard TD pass to junior Ian Jacob, then Marko Samoukovic’s career-long 44-yard field goal as the half expired.
DiLorenzo scored the final three TDs, all in the second half, on a 7-yard pitch, a 37-yard reception down the far sideline and 4-yard blast through the heart of the Cougars’ defense.
“The offensive line was blocking amazingly, like usual,” DiLorenzo said. “We figured out how to pass the ball more today and took what the defense gave us.”
The defense was lights out, as well, holding a high-scoring opponent to single-digit numbers for the second week in a row. The Cougars came in averaging 39.8 points per game, and their red-hot offense was silenced by the Lions’ stalwart defense.
“Our defense was tough as nails, just like they were last week,” VanDalen said. “I really commend Blake Witman and out defensive coaches because that’s two weeks in a row we faced an offensive team and our defense really came through.”
The win sets up a showdown in two weeks with Sedro-Wooley (4-1, 1-1 2A Sky NWC), which was shutout by Lakewood 27-0 last week. The road to the division title gets a little easier, with Burlington (1-4, 1-1 2A Sky NWC) next week and Blaine (1-4, 0-2 2A Sky NWC) in the regular-season finale in three weeks.
But there’s no weeks off in the Sky Division, VanDalen said, as the team will prepare to travel to Burlington next Friday. The Lions escaped with a 17-14 win over the Tigers last season on a forced fumble on the second-to-last play of the game.
“On any given night, any team is the best team in the Sky [division],” VanDalen said. “I just appreciate that our kids had the intensity and executed really well tonight.
“Our kids, what I love is how hard they worked in the weight room to put ourselves in a position to survive a grind like this. Right now, we’re five games in and the kids have handled it well.”