YELM – Kyle Brownell’s home on the football field is, well, whatever fits best. That can change from season to season or even game to game. He is football’s version of a utility player.
“If I need to be (an offensive) guard, I’ll play guard,” the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Brownell said.
The Yelm High School senior has played just about every position for the Tornados – from starting wide receiver and defensive back as a sophomore to starting quarterback and linebacker as a junior.
This season, in Yelm’s newly installed single-wing offense that heavily relies on the run with as many as four running backs in the backfield, Brownell’s now primarily a running back.
Tonight, Yelm (4-4 overall, 2-3 Narrows 4A) plays host to Olympia (3-5, 3-2) in a crucial game for both teams. If the Tornados win, the outcome of tonight’s Central Kitsap-South Kitsap game dictates where Yelm goes. A win could set up either a three-way tie for second place – if Central Kitsap beats South Kitsap – or Yelm would take the final playoff spot outright, should South Kitsap beat Central Kitsap. It would be Yelm’s first playoff berth since 2006.
“If we win this game,” Brownell said, “it’s going to be a big impact on my high school career … to finally make the playoffs. We have a chance to beat any opponent that comes on the field if we play to our potential.”
Yelm wouldn’t be fighting for a playoff spot if not for a second-half comeback last week at home against Gig Harbor – a 17-12 victory, led in part by Brownell.
The Tornados, trailing 12-3 at halftime, scored 14 straight points in the third quarter, including a 74-yard touchdown run by Brownell that gave him his second 100-yard-plus rushing game of the season. He goes into the game tonight with a career-high 611 yards and four touchdowns on 76 carries. But that doesn’t mean last year’s quarterback hasn’t attempted a few passes. He has thrown for 71 yards on 8-of-19 passing accuracy.
“He always is going to give you 110 percent,” Yelm coach Randy Swilley said. “He will do everything he can within his power.”
Since Swilley took over the Yelm program in 2008, he primarily has run the spread offense. But toward the end of last season, he transitioned to the single-wing, a rugby-style offense that has a lot of misdirection and deception.
The Tornados feature a three-running-back offense; the fourth player in the backfield is a fullback behind one of the guards.
In fact, no quarterback is listed on the roster. The words Swilley uses to describe the offense are “power” and “deception.”
“That’s what we hang our hats on,” Swilley said. “You can’t find the ball half the time.”
“It fits us really well,” Brownell said. “This is the fastest team we’ve had, and that’s why it works.”
Yelm averages 307 yards rushing a game. Depending on the formation, Brownell could line up behind the center and take the direct snap or line up as a slot receiver. Besides Brownell in the backfield, there are senior Jacob Swilley (1,234 yards, 193 carries, 17 TDs), who is the program’s all-time leading rusher, Anthony Allred (200 yards, 31 carries, four TDs) and Tanner Page (17 yards, five carries).
Page has started the past two games in place of Quentin Buck (379 yards, 33 carries), who suffered a knee injury in Yelm 45-3 loss to South Kitsap in Week 6.
Last Friday’s win over Gig Harbor snapped the Tornados’ four-game skid after they started 3-0 for the first time since 2004.
Brownell knows a win over an Olympia team that has made the playoffs each of the past seven years will not only be special for the players and a program that lacks a playoff tradition, but also for the community.
“It’s definitely going to give us more pride,” Brownell said. “Now, people show up at games expecting we can beat (a team).”Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick