TACOMA - It's been 17 years since Tumwater last played for a state title in football, but coach Sid Otton gets a similar feeling about his Thunderbirds each time they reach this stage.
“I’m really happy for our team to be here and have this opportunity,” Otton said after the T-Birds’ 63-27 semifinal victory over East Valley of Spokane at the Tacoma Dome on Monday afternoon. “It’s been a long time. Each one is unique.”
Tumwater is 4-0 in state title games – winning titles in 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1993.
The T-Birds will play for number five against Archbishop Murphy (13-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Tacoma Dome in the Class 2A state title game. The Wildcats defeated Mark Morris, 42-18, last Saturday.
“I’ve dreamed about this since I was in second grade playing Pee Wee football,” said tight end Zach Wimberly, who had touchdown catches of 48 and 25 yards. “It’s exciting.”
Moments after the final whistle blew Monday, Tumwater players and coaches joined their fans in the post-victory ritual of chanting the school’s fight song – but no chant was louder than this one. The 2A Evergreen Conference champion T-Birds put on a show for the crowd, excelling in all phases of the game – as they have all season.
The T-Birds found the end zone on every offensive possession in the first three quarters – rushing, receiving, and even on defense when Kyle Warner returned an interception of a Taylor Watkins pass 59 yards to give Tumwater a 21-7 lead with 2:55 remaining in the first quarter. Warner scored three more touchdowns – two rushing, one receiving – and had four catches for 109 yards. Tumwater needed eight plays to score its first three touchdowns. By halftime, the T-Birds had 354 yards of total offense and a 49-21 lead.
“Our offense came out jacked up,” said quarterback Daniel Hinkle, who threw for 192 yards and three touchdowns. “We knew if we could come out and play hard, we could take care of business. That’s what we did.”
The 63 points set a Tumwater playoff record. East Valley kept it close for a while, trialing 21-14 after a double-reverse flea-flicker ended in a 57-yard touchdown pass to Ronnie Jarvis.
The T-Birds (12-1) kept East Valley (7-6) from keeping pace because, simply, they stopped the Knights from running. Tailback Adam Talley, who ran for 241 yards and scored four touchdowns in East Valley’s 48-28 quarterfinal win over Prosser, was held to 70 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. His longest run was a 19-yard gain near the end of the first half.
Tumwater’s running game was paced by Ronnie Hastie (116 yards, 1 TD), Christian Bush (72 yards, 1 TD) and Payten Olson (62 yards).
Monday’s game was originally scheduled for Saturday at Spokane’s Joe Albi Stadium, but snow left the field unplayable, so the teams relocated to Tacoma.
That gave the Knights their fourth consecutive playoff game on the road, after wins at Ellensburg, Clarkston and Kennewick.
To date, Tumwater’s offense has put up 21, 49 and 63 points in three playoff games.
Saturday’s title game will mark Archbishop Murphy’s third playoff against a team from District IV. The Wildcats defeated Chehalis, 28-14, in the first round of before beating Mark Morris in the semifinals.
“This is a great feeling,” Hinkle said. “It’s a big win, and it was a lot of fun. We’re excited to play Archbishop Murphy.”
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com