'); } -->
MEG WOCHNICK; The Olympian |
LACEY - With a lot of new faces in new places, many figured the North Thurston Rams would be one season away from being a playoff-bound team.
But after their 27-12 win over Yelm on Thursday night, the Rams not only secured themselves a playoff spot, but they also remained one of three unbeaten teams in the hunt for the Class 3A Olympic Western League title. Capital and Timberline are the other two, and they’ll square off tonight at 7 at South Sound Stadium.
Lawyer Tillman rushed for 114 yards on 21 carries and scored two touchdowns to give North Thurston (6-1) its sixth consecutive victory.
The Rams (5-0 OWL) can finish no worse than third place. The top four teams in the standings earn playoff berths, and the first- and second-place teams will host preliminary-round games in Week 10.
“We got off to kind of a slow start,” North Thurston coach Rocky Patchin said. “But I was really proud of the way the players responded in the second half.”
Tillman scored both of North Thurston’s touchdowns in the first half as the Rams built a 14-12 halftime lead. The first came on a fourth-and-1 from the 23 on their third offensive series, as he avoided three defenders. The second came in the final minute of the second quarter on a 1-yard score.
North Thurston had 126 yards of offense in the first half, and 64 of them came from quarterback Jake Klumker. Two of his four completed passes came on consecutive plays in the Rams’ final drive. Facing fourth-and-10 from the 50, Klumker found Matt Lamolli for a 30-yard reception followed by Matt Reid’s 19-yard catch to set up Tillman’s go-ahead touchdown.
Klumker finished the game 6-of-11 passing for 71 yards and one touchdown – a 7-yarder to a wide-open Lamolli with 2 minutes, 19 seconds left in the third quarter to give North Thurston a 21-12 lead. Klumker also had a 1-yard rushing touchdown in the final minutes to increase the lead to 27-12.
For the Tornados, this was their first full game without running back Andrew Almeida. The 5-foot-10 senior injured his knee on the final play of the first half in the team’s 34-13 loss to Olympic last week.
Yelm coach Randy Swilley said earlier this week that an MRI revealed a torn meniscus. Almeida had surgery Thursday, and Swilley said the hope is for Almeida to return in time for the Tornados’ final regular-season game against Capital.
To date, Almeida has 1,412 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. He’s also Yelm’s alltime single-season leading rusher.
With Almeida out, Yelm spread the running game around to five backs – Tanner Stillwell, Alex Almeida -- Andrew's younger brother -- Kris Calapp, Branon Martinez and Justin Byrd. They combined for 173 yards on the ground. But it was in the second half that Yelm struggled offensively with only 69 yards of offense.
Stillwell scored both of Yelm’s touchdowns on runs of 16 and 4 yards in the first half and finished with 35 yards. The Tornados’ defense forced three first-quarter fumbles (recovering two), with one leading to Stillwell’s first touchdown.
Yelm, which has lost two of its past three games, is barely hanging on to the fourth and final playoff spot. The Tornados (3-4, 2-3) will need to win at least one of their final two games – against Timberline on Oct. 23 and Capital on Oct. 30 – and hope for losses by North Kitsap and Olympic to earn the final playoff spot.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473