In the opening round of the 3A state playoffs, the Yelm Tornados hosted and defeated the Marysville Pilchuck Tomahawks, 38-13, on Nov. 11. Though the victory for the No. 1-seeded Tornados wasn’t necessarily pretty, the defending 3A state champions advanced and will host Mount Tahoma on Friday, Nov. 17 in the 3A quarterfinals.
The Tomahawks gave the Tornados all they could through the first 28 minutes of play and found themselves leading 13-10 early in the third quarter. Trailing for the first time all season, Yelm turned to its All-American workhorse Brayden Platt — who found the end zone for a 47-yard score. Leading 17-10, Yelm never looked back.
“I thought our effort was very low in the first half,” Yelm’s head coach Jason Ronquillo said after the game. “Part of playing a league schedule with easy competition gives you the impression of what hard work looks and feels like, and we were under the impression that we could get away without working hard in the first half, and they smacked us in the face.”
Despite Ronquillo’s description of the first half, Yelm scored the first touchdown of the contest when senior linebacker Isaiah Patterson, a UCLA commit, scored on a fullback run from 4 yards out. After a successful point after touchdown (PAT) kick by Jameson Patin, Yelm led 7-0.
Both teams struggled to put up points in the first half. Marysville Pilchuck scored the next points of the contest in the second quarter after a 1-yard touchdown run. Senior Tornado Anthony Kiamco blocked the PAT, and Yelm led 7-6 after the Tomahawk touchdown.
Toward the end of the quarter, the Tornados found themselves running a “hurry-up” offense to try to score before halftime. Yelm moved the ball deep into Marysville Pilchuck territory, which allowed the junior kicker Patin to boot a 24-yard field goal before the half. At the break, the Tornados led the Tomahawks, 10-6.
“The message at halftime was to come out fast, physical and strong and to stick to the game plan,” Patterson said. “We did everything we could to get this ‘W’ and continue moving forward in the state championship race.”
The Tomahawks received the ball coming out of halftime and made quick work on the first possession of the third quarter. Marysville Pilchuck moved the football across the midfield line into Yelm territory and eventually scored on a 41-yard touchdown pass where Yelm’s defensive backs had a coverage break. After a successful PAT, the Tomahawks led 13-10. From that point forward, however, Yelm successfully shut down Marysville Pilchuck’s offense.
On the Tornados’ next possession, the Oregon commit Platt went to work on the Tomahawks’ defense. After Yelm’s offense crossed midfield, Platt carried the ball for 47 yards and into the end zone to give Yelm a 17-13 lead.
Yelm’s defense flexed its muscles on the following drive, forcing a four-and-out and turnover on downs. After the Tornados marched the ball inside the 10-yard line, quarterback Damian Aalona connected with his twin brother, Marius Aalona, for a 9-yard touchdown, extending Yelm’s lead to 24-13 after a successful PAT.
Yelm’s defense continued to make big plays as senior AJ Henderson caught his fifth interception of the year on the second play of the next drive to set the Tornados’ offense up deep in Tomahawk territory. Six plays later, Patterson punched in his second rushing touchdown of the game, this time from 2 yards out, to extend Yelm’s lead to 31-13.
“It felt awesome being able to score twice. I’m a defensive guy, and my heart will always be there, but I’m willing to help the team in any way possible. Whether it’s playing linebacker, or blocking, or running the ball, I’m going to give it my all,” Patterson said. “It means the world that I could help this squad, this family, win.”
Junior Nathan Ford scored the final points of the contest on a 35-yard touchdown run where he ran over a Marysville Pilchuck safety before finding the end zone. After another successful PAT, Yelm led 38-13.
“In the second half, we were focused on execution,” Ronquillo said. “We were focused on doing our jobs at full speed, one play at a time.”
The Tornados, 11-0, will next host the Mount Tahoma Thunderbirds, 8-3, at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17.
“This will be the best team we’ve played all year,” Ronquillo said. “They’re tough, physical and fast. We’re going to need to be on our A game from start to finish.”
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