Anacortes 15, Lynden 8
(Lynden, WA) Flashback to 2019. The Anacortes Seahawks had to forfeit their entire season due to a lack of players turning out for the football team. In that same year, the Lynden Lions lost in the state semifinals to Steilacoom to end the Lions season just short of a state championship appearance. Since then, both teams have seen a whole lot of not just good, but great times in their programs
Back to the present, Anacortes headed into their regular season finale on Friday visiting the Lynden Lions with a chance to win the ultra-competitive Northwest Conference title. After not having the numbers to field a team four years ago, the Seahawks were getting their second straight crack at Lynden with the league title on the line. Meanwhile, Lynden had not lost a game to a 2A opponent since that 2019 loss to Steilacoom, including winning back-to-back state championships and ending the Anacortes dream of a league championship in 2022.
Everything ended up being worth the wait for the Seahawks. In front of a packed house at Rollie DeKoster Field, both Anacortes and Lynden put on one of the best high school football games in the state this year. Both squads had to dig deep and find a new gear that they might not have known that they had. With both sides facing plenty of adversity, it was Anacortes that was able to make one more play as the Seahawks celebrated when the clock turned to all zeros, as they had knocked off Lynden for the first time in 23 years and wrapped up the league championship, 15-8.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows on a cold night in Lynden for Anacortes. Brady Elsner started the game with a strong kick return for Lynden and the Lion offense was off and rolling. Brant Heppner and Max Assink ran their way into Anacortes territory before Lynden tried to test the Anacortes secondary a couple of incomplete passes led to a 4th down for Lynden and they would go for it. Another incomplete pass forced a turnover on downs as the Seahawk offense took the field for the first time. It would be a quick drive as Anacortes tried a wide receiver pass and it would be intercepted by Daniel Bowler to give Lynden the ball back in Anacortes territory.
The defense helped out Anacortes and a holding penalty forced another turnover on downs for Lynden after the takeaway. Anacortes then began to slowly and methodically march their way down the field. Brock Beaner was heavily featured on that Anacortes drive that killed the rest of the opening quarter. After setting up for 2nd and goal from the 7-yard line, back-to-back pre-snap penalties backed the Seahawks up to 2nd and goal from the 17. It did not matter for the Seahawks. Rex Larson floated a pass up into the back corner of the endzone where Rylin Lang was able to haul in the pass and get a foot down for a 17-yard touchdown. We finally had our first points of this one as Anacortes took a 7-0 lead.
Cooper Barton just got his fingertips on a Lynden pass that would have been a touchdown, but turned into an incompletion. After that, the Lynden drive ended on a fumble forced by Brock Beaner as Anacortes took back over on offense with a chance to go up by two possessions. The Lion defense then began to really dig in their heels as they forced a stop on 4th and one for a turnover on downs as Lynden got the ball back in Anacortes territory. Another turnover on downs was forced by the Seahawk defense but again Lynden got the ball back after a punt. The Lions had a look at points before halftime, but the Seahawks defense would force one more turnover on downs as we went to halftime with Anacortes leading Lynden 7-0.
It would be Seahawk football to start the second half but a penalty put an end to that opening drive and gave the ball back to Lynden. The Lion offense looked different as Brant Heppner was out of the game and Charlie Ayers took over at quarterback. The senior brought a different offensive look for Lynden. After a fumbled snap to start the drive, it was ground and pound, smashmouth football for Lynden. A very long, 13 play drive ensued with Ayers carrying the ball 11 times on the drive for 43 yards., including the final carry. A two-yard touchdown for the senior Ayers looked like it would tie the game. However, an offsides moved the ball to the one and Lynden opted to go for two. It was the right call as Ayers got across the goal line again for the conversion to give Lynden an 8-7 lead.
Anacortes then had to answer as they trailed for the first time all game. A good drive was stopped in its tracks on a tremendous defensive play by Isaiah Oudman. As Rex Larson rolled to his right looking for a receiver, the pass ended up being tipped by Oudman. As the ball hung in the air, Oudman quickly turned around and dove for the football as he hauled it in for an interception. An all around fantastic play by the junior linebacker gave the ball to the Lions with all the momentum on their side.
Lynden’s ensuing drive carried over into the 4th quarter, but a false start on 4th and one backed the Lions up to 4th and 6. That allowed Anacortes to get a stop and takeover at their own 47-yard line. A 53-yard drive seemed to be no problem for the Seahawks as Larson found receivers Rylin Lang and Cooper Barton on the drive but the Seahawk quarterback made the biggest plays with his legs. After being pressured by Isaiah Oudman, Rex Larson was able to just get around the linebacker and he picked up 10-yards on the scramble to keep the positive momentum rolling. Larson then tried to leap into the endzone as he was swarmed by Lions, but would be marked down at the one. That made the playcall easy for head coach Travis Anderson as the Seahawks let Brock Beaner finish off the drive with a one-yard score. Another great catch by Rylin Lang on the two-point conversion made it 15-8 Anacortes with just 5:13 left in the game.
Starting with the ball at their own 27-yard line, Lynden would be able to bring Brant Heppner back into the game at QB but also kept mixing Charlie Ayers in as well. When Heppner was in, the Lions were throwing. When Ayers line up in the gun, Anacortes had to guess which Lion was going to run the ball. The constant changes seemed to work for Lynden as Ayers picked up some nice gains, including a nine yarder while Heppner completed passes to Isaiah Oudman for 15 yards and Brady Elsner for seven. A deep shot from Heppner to Oudman would be hauled in on the near side for a 24-yard pick up to give the Lions the ball at the Anacortes 26. Lynden would try to get it all at once on a deep shot to Isaiah Oudman in the endzone. However, the strongest unit for either side all game long was the Anacortes secondary and they came up with one last play. Luca Moore turned, found the ball, and hauled in an interception in the endzone for the final dagger. The Seahawks milked the rest of the clock and then got to celebrate as Anacortes had defeated Lynden 15-8.
Both these teams will continue their seasons in the first round 2A State Tournament beginning on Friday, November 10th. Anacortes finishes the season a perfect 9-0 and 7-0 in the Northwest Conference and as the NWC league champions. The Seahawks have a very legitimate shot at claiming the #1 overall seed in the state tournament. Lynden drops to 7-2 and finish 6-1 in NWC play. There are no crossovers for the NWC so both teams will get next week off before the bracket is revealed on Sunday, November 5th.
Our Education as a Career MVP for the Anacortes Seahawks went to defensive back Luca Moore. In such a defensive battle, the award had to go to someone on defense and Moore led the charge in what was an absolutely dominant secondary. The sophomore was blanketing receivers all game long with multiple pass breakups. In his biggest play of the game, Moore intercepted the Lynden pass in the endzone to seal the win for Anacortes and it was a fitting conclusion with how good the Seahawk secondary was and Luca Moore was a big reason for that success.
Statistically for Anacortes, it was a pretty balanced showing for their offense. Rex Larson went 13/20 through the air for 112 yards with a touchdown and a two-point conversion completion. Larson also carried the ball three times for 20 yards but the rushing attack was led by Brock Beaner. The junior carried the ball 20 times for 60 yards and a touchdown. Brady Beaner also got involved in the run game on some wildcat looks with four carries for 17 yards. Receiving wise, Rylin Lang was the go-to guy for Rex Larson as he hauled in five catches for 58 yards with a touchdown and a catch on the two-point conversion. Both Cooper Barton and Landon Schafer tallied three catches for 26 yards and Brock Beaner also caught two passes for 14 yards.
For the Lynden Lions, Charlie Ayers stole the show, taking over at QB for the second half. Ayers was all about the run game however as he carried the ball 19 times for 67 yards and a touchdown with 18 of those carries coming in the second half. Max Assink tallied 14 carries for 27 yards and Brant Heppner had five carries for 20 yards. The passing attack never really got going as Heppner was 6/23 for just 73 yards against the dominant Anacortes secondary. Isaiah Oudman was another notable Lion as he had three catches for 44 yards as well as a very athletic interception on defense. Brady Elsner had two catches for 20 yards and Cooper Moore tallied one catch for nine yards. Daniel Bowler got involved on defense with an interception as well in the first quarter.
To watch the entire game on-demand, you can click the link below to the NFHS Network (Subscription Required)
Lang Touchdown Catch (via Todd Milles of Scorebook Live, @ManyHatsMilles on X)
— Todd Milles (@ManyHatsMilles) October 28, 2023
Ayers Gives Lynden the Lead
Oudman Highlight INT
Anacortes Retakes the Lead
Seahawks Game Sealing INT