Head coach Jason Ronquillo has preached to his team all season that defense wins championships, and on Saturday, Nov. 25, Yelm came one step closer to achieving that goal after shutting out Eastside Catholic, 7-0, to earn a spot in the 3A football state championship game.
As a defensive unit, the Tornados allowed just 19 yards in the semifinals against the Crusaders, shutting down Eastside Catholic’s pass game and the run game in the process.
“It was great to see that our kids were dialed in against Eastside Catholic. They were focused on doing their jobs and doing one thing at a time,” Ronquillo said. “We were very content but not satisfied because that was only our second goal we’ve met. Our first goal was to practice on Thanksgiving. Our second goal was to get to Husky Stadium. That’s what we did. We relished that moment on Saturday, and we’re excited to play this Friday to work for our final goal.”
The Tornados’ defense forced five Crusader three-and-outs during the contest and made the opposition punt eight total times. The Tornados’ front seven totaled eight sacks and pressured the Crusaders’ quarterback all night long, while cornerbacks AJ Henderson, a senior, and Mo Williams, a freshman, combined for zero allowed catches.
“My teammates are my brothers,” Henderson said. “We’ve progressed so much, and I’m so proud of how far we’ve come. It means everything to me to have this upcoming opportunity at Husky Stadium, and we’ll have to give our community a show.”
Like Henderson and Williams, a plethora of Tornado defenders shined last week. Senior defensive end Kenji Scanlan followed up a career-best performance against Mount Tahoma with an even better showing against Eastside Catholic. The University of Idaho football commit totaled three sacks, nine total tackles and one tackle for loss. In addition, Scanlan applied constant pressure on Eastside Catholic’s quarterback.
Yelm linebackers Brayden Platt, Isaiah Patterson and Nathan Ford combined for four sacks throughout the game, while junior defensive end Jacob Tracy added a sack of his own.
Despite just scoring seven points, Yelm’s offense totaled 296 yards. The Oregon football commit Platt had one of his strongest showings as a Tornado. With a state championship opportunity on the line, the All-American carried the ball 27 times for 219 yards and the only touchdown of the game.
Platt’s score occurred midway through the third quarter when he took the direct snap and followed a convoy of Yelm blockers upfield and outran three Eastside Catholic defenders to the end zone for a 54-yard rushing touchdown. After a successful point-after-touchdown (PAT) kick by junior Jameson Patin, Yelm led Eastside Catholic 7-0.
After the Tornados’ score, Yelm’s defense handled business for the remainder of the contest. Eastside Catholic’s offense totaled just one first down to three punts, including a three-and-out.
With limited time remaining and the Crusaders pinned deep in their own territory, Yelm’s defense sacked Eastside Catholic’s quarterback twice and forced an incompletion, leaving the offense no choice but to punt.
After picking up one first down, Yelm needed another to clinch a spot at Husky Stadium. Facing fourth-and-one, Yelm turned again to Platt, who plunged through Eastside Catholic defenders to ice the contest.
Fans of Yelm’s football program packed the home visiting stadium at Art Crate Field and served as a loud and involved group throughout the contest. Their support of the program and of the boys hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“This win was because of y’all,” Henderson said in reference to the fans at Yelm’s victory over Eastside Catholic. “We fight this hard because of the community. If our town didn’t show out at the game today like they did, I don’t know if we would’ve won.”
With the victory, the Yelm Tornados will play the Bellevue Wolverines at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 1 at Husky Stadium in Seattle. Yelm and Bellevue previously met in the 2022 state semifinals, where the Tornados defeated the Wolverines, 28-27.
Tickets to the 3A state championship contest can be purchased at GoFan.Co.