When talking about their football team's best players, Tumwater coach Sid Otton and Capital coach J.D. Johnson can't find enough kind words to say about Kyle Warner and Tyler Sundberg, respectively.
The similarities between Warner and Sundberg don’t end there.
They were targets of opposing defenses because of their prolific play, and they still were tough to stop.
The two earned the top honors in their leagues – Warner was MVP of the Class 2A Evergreen Conference, and Sundberg was MVP of the 3A Narrows League.
Now their play has been recognized on a state level, too. Warner and Sundberg were named The Associated Press’ state players of the year in Class 2A and Class 3A, respectively, on Tuesday.
In all, 14 South Sound players earned first-team all-state honors, led by Capital’s eight and Tumwater’s three.
Warner, a do-it-all player for the Thunderbirds, guided the team to its first state championship in 17 years with a 34-14 victory over top-ranked Archbishiop Murphy in the 2A title game. He excelled in all three phases of the game, amassing 1,633 all-purpose yards and scoring a team-high 29 touchdowns. He also had a school-record three kickoff returns for touchdowns, including an 85-yarder on the season-opening kickoff against Olympia.
Warner has interest from multiple college programs, including Eastern Washington, which plays in the Football Championship Subdivision title game Jan. 7.
“He is very talented young man who is an all-time competitor and got all of the other kids right on with him, and that’s what helped us this year,” Otton said.
Otton compares Warner to Scott Gurnsey, whom he called his most valuable player in his 37 years coaching at Tumwater. Gurnsey was an all-state player on Tumwater’s 1989 state championship team who went on to play at Montana.
“The impact they both had on all three phases of the game is just pretty special,” Otton said.
Warner was one of five all-state players for Tumwater, joining Easton Hargrave (first team defensive line), Joe Aulabaugh (first team defensive back), Brady Grondel (honorable mention linebacker) and Zach Wimberly (honorable mention tight end).
Capital’s Sundberg flirted with the state’s single-season rushing record before a calf injury in a 13-12 quarterfinals victory over O’Dea ended his season. He finished with 2,475 yards rushing (9.5 per carry) and scored 29 touchdowns.
In a 49-28 win over Olympia on Sept. 10 10, Sundberg rushed for a school-record 304 yards.
Capital had five first-team all-state selections in Class 3A. Along with Sundberg, the other honorees were linebacker Jay Maiava, defensive back Greg Hibbard, offensive lineman Taylor Crabill and kicker Jeff Tran.
Johnson said Sundberg’s strong points include his work ethic and team-first mentality.
“His biggest thing always is about the team,” Johnson said. “His character and charisma are going to leave that legacy to work hard and follow suit.”
Several schools, including Central Washington and Portland State, have shown interest in Sundberg as well as other Capital players. Sundberg could remain in the backfield in college or switch to linebacker.
No matter where Sundberg goes or what position he plays, Johnson said he will be a good fit for his college team.
“Wherever you put Tyler on the field, the kid will make a difference because of his tenacity and effort,” Johnson said.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com www.theolympian.com/prepsportsblog