LYNDEN — In the end, the Lions were kings of the gridiron Friday night.
The team from Lynden demonstrated aerial mastery in their 41-0 rout of the South Whidbey Falcons — Lion quarterback Tate Dallas threw 24 passes and connected on 18 for 124 yards.
In their final game of the year, the Falcons could not stop the defending 2A state champion’s pass offense.
Even so, the Lions were wary.
“Their coach said they changed the whole offensive scheme because our defense is pretty good,” Falcon coach Mark Hodson said.
“They used a 5-2 defense that managed to shut down the run and they had the players to carry it out,” he said.
Falcon running back Levi Sawyers agreed.
“Tell me about it,” he said. “I hate that 5-2 defense; there was a lot of chaos on the line. Our blocking was there, just not enough holes for us to penetrate.”
“They were very effective against our running game,” Sawyers said.
South Whidbey’s first drive was stopped on downs and TJ Russell was forced to punt.
Less than seven minutes into the quarter, the fittingly-named Brady Bomber caught a Dallas pass for the Lions’ first score.
Operating out of the shotgun (meaning the quarterback stands back from the center and takes the ball after a short hike), Dallas connected three more times before the first break.
But every time they tried the run, the Falcon Blue Wall stopped them. And when Parker Barnett recovered a Dallas fumble, things started to look up.
Not for long.
A minute into the second quarter Dallas found Ryan Gaylord in the clear for their second TD. The point after failed and it was 13-0.
The Lions then turned up the pressure. Falcon quarterback Kyle Hoch was sacked and every effort to break the gridlock on the line came to naught.
It was a night when even a busted Lion play turned to Lynden’s advantage as a holding call nullified a Falcon gain and a Sawyers’ run for a first down was a first-half highlight.
Lynden’s offense resembled a metronome; Dallas winding up and throwing, the pass caught and the scoreboard recording the butcher’s bill. Over and over again.
At the half, it was 27-0.
The Falcons continued their downhill slide in the second half — Dallas hit Bomber again with seconds gone on the clock and the score was 34-0.
The high point for South Whidbey came on the ensuing kickoff. Special teams linebacker Nick Tenuta caught the ball and brought it back 70 yards to the Lion 21-yard line.
After three short runs and a failed field goal attempt, the game moved into defense mode for both sides.
With a final TD pass to Dane Johnston, Dallas was brought out and the Lion JV team took over.
On the final play, Hoch handed off to Hunter Hawkins for a first down, the last play for both in high school football.
“You never know what to expect,” Lion coach Curt Kramme said. “We prepared our best and won the game. South Whidbey just didn’t have what it takes to keep us down.”
Falcons special teams player Jackson Engstrom said the team wanted to compete for the seniors.
“Lynden could throw and catch and it was tough defending a great passing team,” he said. “The best moment was when Nicky ran the ball back on the kickoff return; it brought our spirits up. We should have scored on that.”
Hodson brought the team together midfield when it was over.
“It’s tough going into that last locker room after the final game,” he said. “Take a moment now to say goodbye to our seniors. They won’t be back next year.”
For the season, Sawyers had 203 carries for 1,411 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hawkins carried the ball 92 times for 988 yards and nine TDs.
Sawyers averaged 6.7 yards per carry; Hawkins 6.3 yards.
Hoch attempted 83 passes, connected on 51 for 661 yards and six TDs passing and four rushing. He was intercepted four times.
For the defense, Hoch made 55 tackles and Barnett had 44 followed by Robert Boenish (32), David Monell (30), Hunter Rawls and Danny Zuver (26 each) and Sawyers with 23.
Hoch’s father Glenn invited his brothers from Idaho for the game and was understandably disappointed.
“It’s been a good ride, though,” he said.
Indeed, the team had an epic winning season — capping this year’s campaign at 7-3 — made it to the playoffs and set the stage for good years ahead.
Despite the loss of nine seniors, the Falcons have a solid line-up ready to take their spot in the sun.
“We know what we need to do next fall to field a serious contender,” Hodson said.
Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or sports@southwhibey