Sumner High football coach Keith Ross began hearing rumors about DeJon Lynch last winter.
Ross was told a big, fast teenager was set to join his stable of running backs at Sumner.
But Ross has heard lots of rumors over his 10 seasons as coach, and figured the fuss was over another overhyped transfer who would eventually not pan out.
On the first day of practice, Lynch showed up. It did not take long for teammates to tag him with a nickname: “Canadian Ghost.”
“He comes walking out and he is 6-foot, 200 pounds, muscular, lean and thick,” Ross said. “Then we got him out there and saw he could run like that we just looked at each other and smiled.”
But why the nickname?
“Well, he is from Canada,” Sumner running back/safety Brandon Tuilaepa deadpanned. “And once he finds that open hole, he is gone.”
Lynch has lived up to the billing while helping lead Sumner to first place in the SPSL 2A.
He has rushed for 407 yards, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. He has scored five touchdowns, sharing backfield duties with Lokahi Kamau and Tuilaepa.
Before arriving in Sumner, Lynch lived with his mother and two sisters (ages 14, 13) in Canada, and attended John Barsby Secondary School in Nanaimo, B.C.
When his father moved from Bremerton to Sumner, Lynch decided to live with him – and moved to the United States.
He admitted he was very cautious once he came out for football with the Spartans.
“I just wanted to get to know everybody at first and find a role,” Lynch said. “It was a little weird and a little awkward coming in at first, but everyone was really nice and helping me learn everything.”
Lynch had the Sumner coaching staff gushing over his potential from the moment he walked on the field.
“Whenever there is somebody in your backfield like that – a home-run hitter – that you have to worry about every snap, it makes things frightening as a defensive coordinator,” Ross said.
First, Lynch had to make a few adjustments by learning a new offensive system. At Barsby, he was a wing back in a wing-T attack for three years. He didn’t know how to get in a three-point stance in a backfield or block a defender. Sumner’s two-back system requires its running backs to do both.
Ultimately, talent won out. And in the season opener, with the game against Auburn Mountainview tied 7-7, the “Canadian Ghost” was unleashed in a big way.
In the third quarter, he took a handoff and sprinted 65 yards for his first touchdown. Lynch finished with 108 yards on 11 caries in the Spartans’ 20-7 win. It was Lynch’s touchdown that turned his coaches and teammates into believers.
“We just stared at each other,” Ross said. “I’ve been coaching for 19 years and that is the fastest I’ve seen a running back go.
“We then saw the referees later that night getting pizza and they made the comment to us, ‘Oh, my gosh, who is that No. 33? He might be the fastest kid I’ve seen in years.’ ”
Lynch is the change-of-pace back to go with Kamau and Tuilaepa. They give the Spartans a strong running attack.
“They already had two really good backs when I came in, so it really means a lot that I could come in and they would trust me with the ball,” Lynch said. “If we can give multiple people the ball, that is going to make us a dangerous team.”