Vikings fall one drive short of a state title

The North Kitsap Vikings fell to the Lynden Lions 31-24 in a heartbreaking state title game Dec. 3.

The game saw a bunch of gut-punching plays and huge momentum swings from the opening kickoff to the final kneel-down.

NK took advantage of Lynden fumbling the kickoff by recovering the ball at the Lions 11-yard line. However, Lynden’s defense held the Vikings to a field goal to make it 3-0.

A few plays later, NK defensive back Logan Sloman intercepted Kaeden Hermanutz of the Lions and returned it to Lynden’s 31-yard line. But again Lynden’s defense held NK to a field goal – attempt anyway.

“The worst thing would have been they get the ball at the 20-yard line,” Viking coach Jeff Weible said of his decision to try a 45-yard field goal.

But that wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. Lynden blocked the field goal and ran it back for a touchdown.

“It went from us being up 6-0 to down 7-3, and that changed the whole momentum,” Weible said.

Lynden built on that momentum by targeting Alex Hitchings on multiple third-down passing situations. The Lions ended up taking a 17-3 halftime lead with a 23-yard field goal and a 1-yard quarterback run by Campbell Nolte.

Held to a field goal in the first half, NK’s offense came alive in the third quarter with three touchdowns.

On the opening drive of the second half, after a handful of successful passes, Benen Lawler rushed into the end zone to cut the margin to 17-10.

Lynden returned the ensuing kickoff to the endzone before it was called back for a holding call. However, the Lions continued to pounce with a touchdown drive that took less than two minutes.

“We got the momentum, and they steal it back,” Weible said of the different swings in the contest.

Down 24-10, the Vikings persevered as running back Lawler found the endzone again on a Wildcat run to cut the margin again to 24-17.

NK scored soon after as Lawler caught a 5-yard pass to make it 24-24 after three quarters.

But Lynden would not be denied and put a stop to NK’s comeback by driving 90 yards, taking up much of the last quarter, and finally scoring with a minute remaining. Their best defense in the second half was keeping the ball away from NK’s offense. During Lynden’s final drive, the Lions capitalized on three fourth-down conversions.

“I give them all the credit in the world because they drove down the whole fourth quarter,” Weible said.

The Viking coach said his team gave it their all.

“The kids scratched and clawed,” Weible said. “If we stopped them on the last drive, we had an opportunity to go down and kick a field goal or score. We were moving the ball great.”

Unfortunately, the Vikings could not answer one last time. Cole Edwards fumbled with 54 seconds left while scrambling around the pocket.

Although the Vikings fell a few plays short, they are ready to flip the switch next season. Lynden has won the title the last few years, beating NK in the semifinals last year.

“We got a great team coming back with many young kids,” Weible said. “We took another step this year, and now it’s time to win.”

North Kitsap took a 3-0 lead after recovering the opening kick fumble.

North Kitsap took a 3-0 lead after recovering the opening kick fumble.