TUMWATER – Andrew Brown always has help on the Tumwater High offense, but his unusual skills dictates his name is called early, often and to devastating effect.
Brown’s totals were relatively modest – 12 carries for 152 yards – and, boy, did he have help.
Junior running back Christian Cummings scored four touchdowns, the T-Birds’ defense got another, and the streaking Thunderbirds thumped Steilacoom, 45-22, in a first-round Class 2A state playoff game.
“I thought our kids responded well to some situations,” Tumwater coach Sid Otton said. “I was quite pleased. You have to be, you’re going on.”
Steilacoom finished its season at 6-5.
“Making the playoffs is always your No. 1 goal, and we did that,” Steilacoom coach Brian Koch said. “Tumwater is definitely one of the better programs we’ve ever faced. Their No. 2s and No. 3s are phenomenal football players.”
Brown didn’t score the first Tumwater touchdown, but on the T-Birds’ first possession he gained 20 yards from punt formation on fourth down and caught a pass for 20 yards from quarterback Jayden Croft.
Another talent in Tumwater’s stable of running backs, junior Hunter Moore, carried 29 yards to the 1-yard line, and yet another – the junior Cummings – carried it in from there for the game’s first points.
On Tumwater’s next series, the fleet senior Brown had carries of 16 and 27 yards before capping the 59-yard, eight-play drive with an 8-yard scoring run.
Brian Thomas’ 31-yard run was the big play in a 77-yard Steilacoom drive in the first quarter that yielded points on a 4-yard TD run by Michael Mack.
Tumwater’s Cummings would score twice more in the first half, from 17 yards and 1 yard out, and Elijah Hill, perfect on four first-half extra points, six in all, booted a 32-yard field goal as the Thunderbirds took a 31-6 lead into halftime.
Tumwater senior Jose Jimenez recovered a fumble by the struggling Sentinels in the end zone early in the second half to bump the T-Birds’ lead to 38-6.
Then, Brown almost single-handedly bailed out the ’Birds after a bizarre set of circumstances – fumbles recovered, unrecovered and recovered again, penalties, and sacks – gave Tumwater a third-and-goal play from their own 29, a third-and-71.
Brown got almost all of it back with a 66-yard burst, and after yet another penalty against Steilacoom moved the ball to the 3, Cummings took it in for his last score.
Mack got his second touchdown for the Sentinels on a 3-yard run after a long, fourth-quarter drive. It was Mack pounding it into the end zone on the two-point conversion to make it 45-14.
The Sentinels climbed back to respectability with their final touchdown, a 40-yard keeper by Brendan Raschke, who also ran in the two-point conversion to make it 45-22.
Cummings carried 10 times for 51 yards as the T-Birds rolled on the ground, with nine different runners carrying the ball.
Tumwater advances to a second-round game against Archbishop Murphy, which downed Bremerton, 45-21, on Friday. This is the third consecutive season Murphy and Tumwater have met in the playoffs, with the T-Birds winning in the state title game in 2010 and being ousted from the playoffs by Murphy last season.
“Last year we didn’t show up,” Otton said. “They have some key players back. It will be a 48-minute battle, that’s for sure.”