The Lindbergh Eagles had three different chances inside Lakewood’s 10-yard line to score Friday night at Lakewood Stadium (Arlington). Those points could have made a difference in Lindbergh’s first round 43-13 playoff loss, ending the Eagle’s season at 6-4.
Lindbergh’s defense wasn’t much more successful against the Lakewood (10-1) running game, allowing Donovan Evans 219 yards rushing on 24 carries and two touchdowns and Christian Melton 174 yards rushing on 21 carries and two touchdowns.
Even before Friday’s game, Lindbergh coaches, players and fans were preparing for the worst, traveling to Lakewood with a grass field and uncovered visitor-side bleachers. Fans brought their own easy-up tents to shield themselves from the weather and some football players went out and purchased new shoes to handle the wet, muddy grass. The only bright spot for Lindbergh fans were the warm bathrooms.
Lindbergh coach Pat O’Grady was seen talking to Northwest District officials before the game as to how the stadium met the required criteria for hosting a first round playoff game. Earlier in the week the West Central District representing Lindbergh and officials from the Northwest District representing Lakewood met to discuss concerns to play at Lakewood’s grass stadium. Both sides were unable to come to terms and the had to step in to mediate. The WIAA sided with Lakewood as it met requirements according to the Everett Herald.
According to the 2010-2011 Bound for State Football Regulations, the WIAA home district (Northwest District 1) will pre-select three to five sites to be named for each classification and submitted to the WIAA office each year. Sites are determined based on suitability of the facility and to maximize revenues. Suitability is determined based on the following criteria:
- condition of playing field;
- ability to control admission for ticket sales;
- adequate seating for anticipated crowd – both home and visitor (for Western Washington sites covered seating is preferable);
- availability of conveniently located locker rooms/meeting rooms and restrooms for both teams;
- availability of conveniently located restrooms for both home and visitor spectators;
- equal access to press box facilities (when available) for both teams
- adequate parking for anticipated crowd; and
- availability of emergency medical treatment.
Based on the criteria, the stadium did meet requirements; however, it's unknown if Lakewood Stadium was on the Northwest District list sent to the WIAA, as officials on site did not know.
On Nov. 7, the West Central District Executive Board approved to create a committee to review the “Approved Stadium Venues for Post Season for football and soccer.” This will only include stadiums within the West Central District (South King, Pierce, Kitsap, Jefferson, and Clallum counties).
Additional concerns surfaced after the game when Lakewood coach Dan Teeter mentioned in a post-game interview he knew of Lindbergh’s speed on the turf. "They have some phenomenal athletes," he said. "But we got to feel them out a little bit on the first scoring drive and after that we kind of did bend, but don't break. And eventually their drives broke down more often than not, so it was a great effort on the defense's part."
Teeter would not directly comment whether moving the game to grass was part of their game play. “I give credit to our ground crews for preparing the field for the game, including pumping 500 gallons of water off the field before the game,” he said. Rain and wind hammered the stadium between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. leaving .38 inches of rain according to the national Weather Service station at the Arlington Airport.
The week prior Lakewood played Burlington-Edison in district playoffs at Marysville’s Dick Cardinal Stadium, a turf surface. Lakewood will most likely return to that stadium next week against WF West (another grass team) since the condition of their football field was poor down the middle.
Lakewood’s opening drive only took 48 seconds to score with Evans’ first touchdown from 30-yards out. Lindbergh responded two minutes later when Matt Stuart connected with Cameron Callen for a 19-yard touchdown to tie the game after Lindbergh’s two point conversion was unsuccessful.
Lakewood scored 31 unanswered points until the fourth quarter when Lindbergh’s Quincy Butler recovered a fumble for a 30-yard touchdown with seven minutes left in the game. Lakewood ran the clock down before scoring again and ending the game.
Lindbergh's Stuart passed for 226 yards, surpassing 2,000 yards for the season and more than 5,300 yards in his three years at quarterback.
“It slowed us down without a doubt. The one advantage we had was our speed and they took that away by putting us on a grass field,” said O’Grady. “What they saw on film we were faster and they put us on a slow track, it took away the one competitive advantage we had. The WIAA has a responsibility to protect us from unfair conditions.” The changing conditions on the field caused injuries to Lindbergh players, mostly ankle sprains.
“It’s interesting that this is the one week in the playoffs they are going to play on grass against a team who is faster, yet they played on turf last week and will next week,” O’Grady said. “It’s interesting strategy; I am disappointed the WIAA allowed them to get away with it.”
Despite the field or stadium conditions or the game’s outcome, O’Grady is already looking to next year. In the team's huddle after the game he pointed out to the seniors just how fast four years goes by and for the seniors their message to the underclassman was simple, “Play hard and don’t give up.”
Lindbergh returns junior QB Matt Stuart, junior WR/P/K Derrick Holt, junior WR/DB Cameron Callen, junior WR/DB Craig Yamaguchi, sophomore Daniel Wiitanen. O’Grady has a young offensive and defensive line of sophomores who now know what it will take to return to the 2A playoffs for another year.
Lkwd -- Donovan Evans 26 run (kick failed)
Lind -- Cameron Callen 13 pass from Matt Stuart (run failed)
Lkwd -- Evans 2 run (Justin Peterson run)
Lkwd -- Brandon Stott 40 pass from Peterson (pass failed)
Lkwd -- Christian Melton 6 run (Randy Anaya kick)
Lkwd -- Peterson 1 run (Anaya kick)
Lkwd -- Anaya 35 FG
Lind -- Quincy Butler 39 fumble return (Derrick Holt kick)
Lkwd -- Melton 3 run (kick failed)