The Tornados football team punched its ticket to the 3A state championship game after a 28-27 victory over Bellevue.
Junior quarterback Damian Aalona scored on a QB sneak to give Yelm a last second lead during the game on Saturday, Nov. 26.
“It just doesn’t feel real. I feel like I’m a little kid right now,” junior Brayden Platt said following the game. “It feels so surreal. After seeing all of my brothers (Austin, Derrick and Logan Platt) come up through the program and help get Yelm closer and closer each year, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Fans from both teams flocked to Bethel High School’s Art Crate Field for the semifinal game, which was a first for Yelm.
To kick off the game, the Tornados methodically drove the field before junior Platt punched in a one-yard touchdown. Senior Kyler Ronquillo found the endzone for a successful two-point conversion, securing an early 8-0 lead for Yelm.
Bellevue’s offense responded with a scoring drive of its own on its first offensive possession of the game. The Wolverines put together a strong nine-play drive and found the endzone on an 18-yard touchdown. After a successful point after touchdown kick, Bellevue cut Yelm’s lead to one point as they trailed 8-7.
After over 10 straight plays from scrimmage, the Tornados faced fourth and medium deep in Bellevue territory. Aalona kept the ball on a quarterback run, but was tackled short of the first down marker where the Wolverines took over possession.
It took Bellevue just six plays to drive the length of the field, led by a long run up the middle on their first play of the drive. Bellevue scored on a four-yard rushing touchdown and took a 14-8 lead during the second quarter.
In response, Yelm continued its strong offensive ways as they put together another long drive, ending with a one-yard score from Platt. After a failed two-point try, Yelm and Bellevue were tied 14-14.
Coming out of halftime, Bellevue’s offense took the field first. The Wolverines put together an 11-play drive, which ate over seven minutes of the clock, before finding the endzone on a 13-yard rushing touchdown. After a successful PAT kick, Bellevue led 21-14.
The Tornados then put together a nine-play drive before Platt once again found the endzone for his third touchdown of the game. His number was called again for a successful two-point try, which gave Yelm a 22-21 lead.
The Wolverines put together a 16-play scoring drive. The Tornados forced fourth down several times on the drive, but Bellevue’s offense was able to convert each time. Following a touchdown by the Wolverines, Yelm’s defense forced a critical stop on Bellevue’s two-point try. A Bellevue running back took a handoff to the right, before being met by Platt in the backfield as Bellevue led 27-22.
With five minutes remaining, the Tornados started their last offensive drive of the game on their own five-yard line.
After driving 94 yards, Yelm faced fourth and goal inside of the one yardline. Aalona took the snap from under center, and pushed ahead to emerge into the endzone. Offensive linemen Kolby Henry, Landen Barger and William Snodgrass led the push upfront for Aalona, who also received a strong push from fullback Ray Wright. After an unsuccessful two-point try, Yelm led Bellevue 28-27 with less than 30 seconds left in the game.
After several plays of desperation by Bellevue, time ran out on the Wolverines and Yelm officially punched its ticket to the 3A state championship game.
Platt, who finished the contest with three touchdowns and 174 all-purpose yards, soaked in the moment following the team’s victory. He said the team’s emotions ran high after they secured the win. Platt was grateful for Aalona, who scored the game winning touchdown, and happy for the team knowing they “pulled it off.”
Aside from Platt, Yelm’s offensive attack featured a heavy dose of Ronquillo, who finished the contest with 11 touches for 85 all-purpose yards. Other offensive stats for the Tornados include Aalona, who went five of eight for 68 yards through the air, and six carries for 22 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Junior Onyx Carter also caught a pass for 24 yards. Overall, Yelm’s offense finished with 365 yards of total offense, which included 297 rushing yards.
Defensively, Wright led the Tornados in tackles with 13, followed by Isaiah Patterson, Ronquillo and Platt who each had nine. Junior lineman Barger finished the contest with seven tackles, followed by William Carreto and Carter who each had six.
Up next, the Tornados will make their state championship debut against the Eastside Catholic Crusaders at noon on Saturday, Dec. 3. The game will be played at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup at 601 Seventh Ave. SW.
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