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Lynden falls to Anacortes in low-scoring 2A NWC championship bout

Luca Moore's late interception seals 15-8 Seahawks win over Lions

Anacortes' Luca Moore intercepts a pass intended for Lynden's Brady Elsner with 1:36 left in the game Friday
Anacortes' Luca Moore intercepts a pass intended for Lynden's Brady Elsner with 1:36 left in the game Friday (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

LYNDEN — Anacortes’ Luca Moore intercepted Lynden quarterback Brant Heppner’s pass in the end zone with 1:36 remaining in the game and the Lions fell to the Seahawks, 15-8, in the 2A Northwest Conference championship on Friday, Oct. 27 at Lynden High School.

The game-sealing interception came less than four minutes after Anacortes regained the lead with 5:13 remaining in the game on a 1-yard touchdown run by the Seahawks’ junior running back Brock Beaner — capping a 53-yard drive that ate up more than four minutes of clock.

Anacortes (9-0, 7-0 NWC) earned its first win over Lynden (7-2, 6-1 NWC) since 2003, and the Lions suffered their first loss to another Class 2A opponent since 2019.

“It’s a quality opponent,” Lynden head coach Blake VanDalen said. “If you had told me coming into the game that we were going to allow 15 points, I would have told you we won. So that tells you it falls on my shoulders.”

The matchup was also a rematch of last season’s title game. Lynden defeated the Seahawks 23-13 before going on to win its second straight 2A state championship, while Anacortes was eliminated in the state quarterfinals.

photo  Lynden’s Brant Heppner looks to pass to Cooper Moore. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Anacortes senior quarterback Rex Larson said the team had been waiting all season for a chance to exact its revenge on the Lions.

“It takes an entire team. It takes a coaching staff. It takes community. We work night and day, week-in, week-out,” Larson said. “We’ve been looking forward to this moment … Losing does a lot to your head.”

Larson finished the game 13-for-20 passing with a touchdown and an interception, outdueling Heppner in a battle of two of the league’s premier signal callers. Heppner completed 6 of 22 passes for 75 yards and an interception.

“Some adjustments needed to be made, and I didn’t make them quick enough or efficiently enough,” VanDalen said. “I’ll put this one on my shoulders and say that I’m going to do better. Our kids played their butts off.”

Anacortes struck first, as Larson found junior wide receiver Rylin Lang for a 17-yard, toe-tapping touchdown with 10:26 left in the second quarter. The Seahawks took a 7-0 lead into halftime.

Heppner didn’t play most of the second half after sustaining an injury during the game’s opening drive. VanDalen inserted senior running back and backup quarterback Charlie Ayres at the start of the third quarter, largely running designed quarterback runs to compensate for an ineffective night passing the ball.

photo  Lynden quarterback Charlie Ayers pumps his fist after scoring a two-point conversion to put the Lions up 8-7 in Friday’s game. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Ayres finished as Lynden’s leading rusher with 18 carries for 67 yards, all in the second half, and added Lynden’s only touchdown on a 2-yard dive with 4:48 left in the third quarter. VanDalen opted to attempt a two-point conversion, and Ayres went untouched into the end zone to give the Lions their first lead of the game, 8-7.

Beaner, who finished with 57 rushing yards on 18 carries, gave Anacortes the lead for good two drives later. Heppner re-entered the game for Lynden’s final drive, but Moore shut down the Lions’ hopes of a come-from-behind victory.

“Hopefully the [state] seeding committee will realize that we had the ball on the 30-yard line, and I guarantee if we had scored, we were going for two,” VanDalen said. “If that interception is a touchdown, you know, we’re one play away from, in my opinion, winning the game.”

The total yardage was nearly identical for both teams. Anacortes narrowly outgained Lynden 211-202, and the Seahawks’ defense — which entered the game allowing 6.1 points per game — wound up being the difference.

Both offenses performed well below their standard, as both groups entered the contest averaging more than 35 points per game.

Lynden sophomore running back Maximus Assink carried the ball 13 times for 45 yards, while senior wide receiver Brady Elsner caught two passes for 25 yards.

Anacortes senior wide receiver Landon Schafer finished with four receptions for 29 yards, and fellow senior wideout Cooper Barton caught three passes for 28 yards.

Lynden and Anacortes will now head into a bye week before receiving their 2A state tournament seeds on Sunday, Nov. 5. The tournament begins with first-round games on Friday, Nov. 10.

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