All three sides of the Yelm Tornados football team — offense, defense and special teams — played big roles in the Tornado 59-7 blowout victory on Sept. 22 over the River Ridge Hawks. After a dominating performance, the Tornados’ South Sound Conference win streak moves to 22 consecutive games.
Despite just attempting 16 rushes in the contest, the Tornados totalled 251 rushing yards in the contest, with senior running backs Anthony Kiamco and Brayden Platt leading the way. Kiamco was the Tornados lead rusher in the contest with two carries for 110 yards and a touchdown. Platt toted the ball three times for 57 yards and two touchdowns, including the first two scores of the contest from nine and 37 yards out.
Junior Shane Creegan, Yelm’s 6-foot-3-inch, 295-pound starting center, has emerged as a force in the middle for the Tornados in the early 2023 season. He said as an offensive line unit, they love paving the way for the duo of Platt and Kiamco.
Creegan said, “251 yards in 16 carries is definitely a testament to our ability to be dominant in the run game. The five of us up front were able to clear the way for our running backs to make plays for our offense. As an offensive line, we’ve been able to mesh because of our ability to communicate at a high level and through the trust we have between one another. We know the teammate beside us will do their job to the best of their ability.”
Yelm offensive line coach Brian Foote said he has been impressed with how his five linemen performed in the ground game despite the ball being run just 16 times. The starting five linemen for the Tornados this season includes left tackle Tyler Blevins, left guard Landen Barger, Creegan, right guard Kyle Kaaiwela and right tackle Chris Hauss.
He said this group’s ability to work in teams of two in double teams and communicate prior to the snap have been major contributors to their success. He added the offensive line group has become more confident in identifying the defensive linemen and linebackers they need to block inside the box.
Foote also credits the Tornados’ offensive line success to a strong bench that features multiple capable backups ready to play on gameday. The coach said this allows his starters to “breathe a little easier” on Friday nights by having the backups ready to play. He pointed to seniors Damien Williams-Butler and Colin West and sophomore Jonah Smith as being contributors to Yelm’s offensive line, in addition to the starting five.
“(With our depth) you can give a guy a break if he needs it or maybe just a play off to discuss something in real time to correct a problem and get him back in,” Foote said. “I have complete trust in our backups, and they would be starters on any other team in our league.”
Foote added that Williams-Butler can play any position on the offensive line with no problem as he uses sound technique and “gets off the ball with a vengeance.” Smith, like Williams-Butler, is another Tornado lineman with the ability to play all five positions on the line. Foote said Smith gets “pretty good reps” during his time with the offense and loves being on the field. The sophomore will be a “major force” for the next few years, his coach said.
Foote described West, 6 feet, 2 inches and 315 pounds, as a senior who moves bodies with ease. He said, when teams match up on the defensive line, West is “up for the task” and keeps them moving forward.
Following Platt’s two touchdowns in the first quarter, Kiamco scored on the defensive side of the ball when he returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown. At the end of the first quarter, Yelm led River Ridge 22-0.
The Tornados had an explosive second quarter, scoring 31 points in the 12-minute period. The first touchdown of the quarter came through the air when Damian Aalona connected with his twin brother, Marius Aalona, for a 39-yard touchdown to put Yelm up 29-0. Platt, already with two rushing touchdowns on the night, scored his third total touchdown after he and Damian Aalona connected for a 35-yard touchdown. Yelm led 36-0 early in the second quarter.
Kiamco scored his second touchdown of the game, his first offensively, on a 54-yard rushing touchdown where he showed off his speed and outran the Hawks’ defense to the end zone. Yelm led 42-0. The final touchdown of the second quarter came through the air when Damian Aalona connected with junior tight end Jacob Tracy from 18 yards out, giving the Tornados a 49-0 lead.
Junior kicker and wide receiver Jameson Patin booted the first Tornados’ field goal since the 2016-17 season to give Yelm a 52-0 lead at halftime.
Junior running back Ethan Owens scored the final Tornados touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter, punching in a 5-yard score. Yelm extended its lead to 59-0.
The Hawks put together a touchdown drive in the final minutes of the contest when Kyler Hunkin scored on an 8-yard run. Ultimately, the Tornados clipped the Hawks’ wings in the form of a 59-7 victory.
Yelm’s special teams showed up and showed out yet again this season as Kiamco blocked a field goal attempt in the contest, and Tracy blocked a punt.
Up next for the Tornados (4-0), they’ll head to South Sound Stadium in Lacey on Sept. 28 for Thursday Night Lights against the North Thurston Rams (2-2). Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
“When our offense can have a great week of practice and then put up the amount of points we did, it just speaks to the preparation we put in during the week,” Creegan said. “This week, we’ll keep grinding in practice and treating every game as if it’s a state title game. We’ll keep playing to the best of our ability.”
Foote, who has served as the Tornados offensive line coach since the 2017-18 season, described his junior center as an “extremely coachable” athlete.
“He learns lessons on the field and exploits his opponent’s weaknesses,” Foote said. “(Last year) as a sophomore, he started in the Camas game and held his own against a very talented defense. He spent the off season in the gym with (Landen) Barger and got big! He is a solid player and doesn’t get rattled when things go sideways. Best part of all is he is only a junior.”
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