Saints can’t solve powerful Lynden Lions; eliminated after 34-0 loss

Interlake picked a bad time to have it’s worst off-night of the year.

Interlake picked a bad time to have it’s worst off-night of the year.

For the first time all season, the Saints failed to reach the end zone and an experienced Lynden football team handed Interlake a season-ending 34-0 loss in the first round of the Class 2A state tournament on Saturday night at Civic Stadium in Bellingham.

The Lions - owners of two state titles and 3A state championship appearances in 2001 and 2002 - thwarted the Saints offense all night and forced Interlake sophomore quarterback Matt Malos to throw a season-high five interceptions.

“Every single thing that could have gone wrong did,” said Saints head coach Sheldon Cross. “Everyone on our team took their turn playing uncharacteristically tonight.”

Starting with a defense that had trouble handling the overpowering Lions (9-2) all night.

Led by 6-foot-2 quarterback Jordan Hastings and 6-foot-4 running back David Gaylord, the Lions opened the game with an eight-minute, 14-play drive that capped off when Gaylord picked up Hasting’s fumbled snap and plunged into the end zone from two-yards out.

On the ensuing Saints’ drive, Interlake faked a punt from its own 30-yard line, but Matt Mwangi was pulled down inches short of the first down marker. Hastings scored five plays later on a 13-yard run to make it 14-0 Lynden.

“The game really unfolded to our advantage,” said Lynden coach Curt Kramme. “We were up 14-0 quickly and that’s hard for a lot of kids to overcome psychologically.”

All night Interlake’s drives had a consistent theme - the Saints would move the ball well before making one mistake that unraveled it all. After the Saints made their deepest drive into Lynden territory at the Lynden nine-yard line - what would be their deepest all night - Malos overthrew a wide-open Brett Kirschner in the end zone on fourth down.

“They did a good job of not giving up the huge play, and when we had the chance, we couldn’t get it done,” Cross said. “We were inches away all night.”

Lynden responded by all-but wrapping up the game with a 12-drive effort that ended when Hastings hit 6-foot-5 wide receiver Ryan Seto in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown over the head of the undersized Mwangi.

“We found some mismatches,” Hastings said of the touchdown pass. “Seto’s a big receiver and their defensive backs weren’t that big so that was a good mismatch for us.”

Interlake’s next six drives ended in either a Malos interception (five total) or a Kirschner fumble (one) that gave the ball back to the Lions. Malos finished 22-of-41 with 208 yards and the five picks.

“It was by far not Matt’s best night,” Cross said. “But he’s got many more nights to come. No one’s feeling worse than him for his performance. But he’s going to bounce back.”

Hastings threw two second-half touchdowns to tie up the Lions scoring; a 74-yard bomb to Blair Bomber and a 19-yard score to Jordan Weeks. The junior finished the game 10-of-15 for 170 yards and three touchdowns as Lynden’s defense preserved the shutout.

The Lions move on to face Blaine (7-4), who beat Mark Morris 49-25 in the first round.

Interlake ends the year 6-5. It was their first trip to the state playoffs since 1985.

“The future is bright,” Cross said, whose team returns its three most potent playmakers: Malos, Kirschner and junior wide receiver Dylan Amell. “We’re going to have a dang good football team. I’m going to leave this field tonight knowing our program has come so far.

“This was a year where we passed expectations big time.”

Joel Willits can be reached at 425-453-5045 or at jwillits@bellevuenews.us.