PUYALLUP – Cade Slayton is a valuable secret weapon.
The Lynden High School football team’s backup quarterback clearly proved his worth to the team in the final weeks of the season. Slayton, who has battled a significant injury to his throwing shoulder, is no longer a relative unknown.
Slayton, big and physical at 6-foot-2, 215-pounds, rushed for 88 yards and three touchdowns as the Lions brought the fight to top-seeded Tumwater, 21-7, on Saturday evening in the Class 2A state championship game at Sparks Stadium.
"The fun part of the story is Slayton can’t throw," said Lynden coach Blake VanDalen, the fifth-year leader who earned his first title at the helm. "I think he’s going to have to have shoulder surgery. I think if teams knew that, they might play us a little differently. Those are things you kind of keep close to your chest.
"He’s a really great quarterback in his own right. It was kind of 'Let’s just out of you what we can.'"
Lynden (12-1) collected the school’s first state title since back-to-back crowns in 2012 and 2013 in 2A. The Lions downed Tumwater, 41-7, in 2012 and beat the Thunderbirds again, 38-28, in 2013.
Slayton directed the go-ahead scoring drive in Lynden’s 15-10 state semifinal win over North Kitsap last week.
The Lions will bring home the school’s ninth state title in football, thanks to stout defense and ball-control offense. After falling behind on the opening possession of the game 7-0, Lynden took control of the game with defense.
"I think if you ask people about Lynden, they’ll tell you that 'they hit really, really hard and they’re really fundamental,'" VanDalen said. "You saw the second half. We Tumwater-ed Tumwater, right? It was unbelievable. We run the spread and people think we can throw it around, but Xs and Os this was just a heart-of-a-lion type of a game."
The Lions limited the Thunderbirds to just 3 yards of offense in the third quarter - and only 64 in the second half total.
Lynden’s Collin Anker had a pair of interceptions and the Lions’ defense limited a high-powered running attack of Tumwater (10-3). The Lions roared back with 21 unanswered points.
Here are four observations from the Lynden-Tumwater game:
LYNDEN TURNED MORE PHYSICAL WITH SLAYTON AT QUARTERBACK
When Slayton entered the game at quarterback late in the first quarter, the Lions’ style almost immediately turned smash-mouth, suiting Slayton’s powerful running style.
Down 7-2, Lynden cashed in on Anker’s first interception of the game to go ahead, 9-7. Slayton led a short 22-yard scoring march and capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown run with 10:55 to go in the second quarter.
"Once again, with that trust factor and buying into the program, when (coach) asks you to do something, you’ve just got to do it to the best of your capability," said Slayton. "I don’t know exactly what’s wrong, but I just played through it. We have a lot of guys hurt. Guys just played through it."
Slayton had a 2-yard scoring run for a 15-7 lead with 1:45 remaining before halftime. Then, he drove the final nail with another 1-yard touchdown run at the 6:14 mark of the third quarter.
That drive took 14 plays, 62 yards and 5 minutes, 38 seconds off the clock - which effectively also took the heart out of any Tumwater comeback.
LIONS WANTED TO PROVE WHO WAS CHAMPIONSHIP-WORTHY
On the Tumwater Football Twitter account, it simply lists the Thunderbirds' state championships in the profile portion, and among them is the year 2020. That was the pandemic-scrapped postseason year.
That simple listing drew the ire of Lynden players and coaches. It provided some extra motivation against Tumwater, which won the 2A state title in 2019.
"I also have got to thank Tumwater," VanDalen said. "They gave themselves a 2020 state championship last year on their Twitter and our kids … the last time we checked, Tumwater never played us last year."
LYNDEN’S RESPECT FOR TUMWATER PROGRAM WAS HUGE
The amount of respect that Lynden had for Tumwater’s tradition-rich program was fuel Saturday and helped with a more determined week of preparation.
"I love their program and we have so much respect for them, that this was actually the easiest week of prep because our kids respect that program so much," VanDalen said of the Thunderbirds, who have six state titles. "We look at them like a brother. And, you know how it is when you’re going against your brother. In this situation, they kept calling us the little brother.
"I don’t think too many people picked us to win. And, that was just a beautiful thing for our kids. We don’t always get to be the underdogs."
LIONS’ STOUT SECOND-HALF DEFENSE WAS THE DIFFERENCE
The Tumwater offense is used to moving the ball with the ground game. But when that started to sputter in the second half, the Thunderbirds resorted to the passing game.
That didn’t work out well as Tumwater finished with 141 yards of total offense, and just 64 yards came in the second half.
The Lions shut down the Thunderbirds in the third quarter, allowing them just three yards in that 12-minute span. Tumwater quarterback Alex Overbay connected on just four of 18 passes for 31 yards with three interceptions.
"I love these kids," VanDalen said. "They gave us everything. They’re so selfless. You saw how many players we were moving positions. Then, we come out here and take that juggernaut like that (on the opening possession).
"That was on us. One kid made a mistake and they got a touchdown (on a 21-yard Payton Hoyt run). We knew what the mistake was and we didn’t make another one defensively."
(Featured photo by Vince Miller)