Before the football is in the air on a punt or a kickoff, Andrew Brown is already thinking ahead: He wants a touchdown.
But will the opposing team kick to Brown, Tumwater’s do-it-all player, and perhaps the most dangerous return man in the state? Or will they choose to squib kick or simply kick it out of bounds and take the penalty to avoid Brown and his jet-like speed trying to run for another special-teams score?
More times than not, Brown, The Olympian’s All-Area football player of the year, gets the ball and puts on a show.
Brown has set multiple school records this season, including the marks for most punt returns for touchdowns in a season (four) and the longest interception return for a touchdown (100 yards). He also has two kickoff returns for touchdowns, giving him six total special-teams touchdowns through 12 games.
He’ll be the first to tell you he gets a lot of help from his teammates along the way.
“I have a lot of trust for the other 10 guys to block,” Brown said. “I know they’re going to be right there if we go right or left.”
The 2A Evergreen Conference’s MVP has
had a breakout season, as the Thunderbirds prepare for their 2A state semifinal game at 5 p.m. Saturday against Prosser at Lampson Stadium in Kennewick.
He is responsible for 24 touchdowns this season: He rushed for 13, passed for one, caught three TD passes and returned an interception for a score, in addition to his six special-teams TDs. He’s the team yardage leader in rushing (1,196) and receiving (343).
Brown’s success in track and field has translated well to the football field. As the two-time defending 2A state champion in the 400 meters, his blistering speed makes it difficult for defenders to catch him in the open field.
“I don’t stop running,” Brown said. “I keep that speed and it’s helped me tremendously. All the track training doesn’t go away.”
Tumwater coach Sid Otton puts Brown in a select group of athletes he has coached. It includes Scott Gurnsey, a member of the 1989 Tumwater state title team who held the state’s career punt-return record; and Kyle Warner, a do-it-all player from Tumwater’s 2010 state title team and the 2A state player of the year. Otton said Brown sparked the team from the start, especially after its 42-21 season-opening loss to Shelton.
“The reality is, we would’ve struggled early,” Otton said. “He provided a lot of things that enabled us to get on the winning track.”
Brown calls his leadership role a change from his 2011 season. Coming into this year, Brown was looked to as a leader on a young Tumwater team that returned just four starters – including Brown – from last season’s 7-3 team that lost in the first round of the 2A state playoffs.
Now, the team is on an 11-game winning streak and one win away from playing for the 2A state title at the Tacoma Dome for the second time in three years.
“That first loss kicked us in the butt a little,” Brown said. “After that loss, I remember everyone came out and worked hard at practice. Since then, we’ve been rolling.”
Defensive line, 6-3, 200, sr.
Coach Bill Beattie said Knight’s motor never stopped. With 53 tackles (nine tackles for loss) and five sacks, he helped lead a Bears defense that was one of the best in the 4A Narrows League, allowing just 13 points per game in league.
Defensive line, 6-6, 250, sr.
One of the most versatile linemen in the area, Cox has excelled on both sides of the ball. On defense, he has 62 tackles and a team-best six sacks.
Defensive line, 6-3, 250, sr.
Hart was a quarterback’s worst nightmare. His quickness off the edge led him to 14 sacks of his 70 total tackles. Hart also is the defending 3A state wrestling champion at 220 pounds.
Defensive line, 6-5, 260, sr.
Not many teams had success running the ball against this University of Washington commit. The 2A EvCo’s defensive MVP racked up 33 solo tackles (35 assists) and also had eight total touchdowns (five rushing, two receiving, one interception return).
Defensive line, 6-1, 215, sr.
Whether it was getting after the quarterback or stopping the run game, Wilson did it all. He anchored a strong and speedy D-line for the Rams that held opponents to 12.5 points a game and had three shutouts.
Defensive back, 5-11, 170, jr.
Labeled as the best pure defensive back in coach Bill Beattie’s 18-year tenure, Fettig set the tone weekly by shutting down the best receiver on the opposing team. He tallied 59 tackles, eight pass deflections and five interceptions.
Defensive back, 5-10, 175, sr.
It wasn’t too often that Swilley wasn’t on the field during a game. The 4A Narrows League offensive MVP also was a first-team defensive back, totaling 79 tackles (six tackles for loss) and forced four fumbles. He tied or broke 14 school records, including single-season rushing (1,686 yards) and career rushing (3,743 yards) and career tackles (229).
Defensive back, 5-11, 160, sr.
Hicks was a multifaceted forced on offense and defense, and was sneaky quick in the secondary. He also was the go-to receiver for Rams quarterback Ryan Mets.
Defensive back, 5-8, 185, sr.
Cone played bigger than his 5-8 frame, and was part of a big 1-2 punch at strong safety for the Blazers. He tallied 54 tackles (12 tackles for loss) and had four interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.
Linebacker, 6-1, 205, sr.
Few could match Wetzel’s intensity at middle linebacker. The 3A Narrows League defensive MVP racked up 121 tackles (20 tackles for loss), had six interceptions, four forced fumbles (two recoveries) and seven pass break-ups.
Linebacker, 6-0, 210, jr.
A two-way starter at linebacker and tight end, Racimo is one of the team’s leading tacklers. So far, he has four sacks and two interceptions. On offense, he is the Cougars’ leader in receiving yards (276 yards, four TDs).
Linebacker, 6-1, 170, sr.
Durden, a junior varsity player just a season ago, leads Tumwater in many defensive categories this season – including solo tackles (62) and assists (53), and also has four sacks and three forced fumbles.
Punter, 5-10, 205, sr.
He didn’t have to punt much, but when he did, Woods was effective. He had an area-best average of 47 yards per punt on 32 punts.
Coach of the year
With just four starters returning for the 2012 season, Otton and his staff were able to shape the Thunderbirds into a team that won the school’s third straight 2A Evergreen Conference title and has a berth in the state semifinals for the second time in three seasons. Tanner Gueller
Quarterback, 6-2, 210, jr.
In his first season running the Bearcats’ offense, Gueller displayed the arm strength and speed to take over games. He completed 58 percent of his passes (127 of 219) for 1,613 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also had 559 yards rushing on 139 carries and three touchdowns.
Kai Van Sickle
Running back, 6-0, 190, sr.
The 2A EvCo’s offensive MVP already has single-season school records in rushing yards (2,599) and touchdowns (38), and could become the state record holder for rushing yards in a season during Friday’s state semifinal against Lynden. He needs 83 yards to break the mark of 2,681 set by Interlake’s Jordan Todd in 2011.
Running back, 5-9, 200, sr.
A lot of the Blazers’ offense went through Crump, the co-offensive MVP of the 3A Narrows League. He rushed for 1,145 yards, scored 15 touchdowns, and also had 376 receiving yards to help lead Timberline to the 3A Narrows title.
Running back, 5-11, 205, sr.
As the workhorse in Shelton’s high-powered ground game, Kinne, the 3A Narrows MVP, had a record-setting season that included school marks for most rushing yards in a single game (359) and in a single season (2,224). He scored 28 touchdowns in 10 games, leading Shelton to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Wide receiver, 6-0, 170, sr.
Known for his eye-popping, how-did-he-catch-that receptions, Coats had a breakout season in his final year with the Hawks. He had 1,024 receiving yards on 54 catches with 11 touchdowns, and also set a school record for blocking percentage (93 percent).
Wide receiver, 5-10, 170, sr.
Few could handle Harris’ speed, no matter where he was positioned on the field. The three-time all-area honoree had 1,227 receiving yards on 81 catches with 15 touchdowns. He also rushed for 595 yards and five touchdowns on 72 carries.
Tight end, 6-5, 240, sr.
Ajamu, who gave an oral commitment to Washington last week, was equally known for his blocking as he was for his down-field receptions in the Highclimbers’ run-oriented offense. He gained 177 yards on his 10 receptions and scored two touchdowns.
All-purpose, 6-0, 180, sr.
Wallace has been a thorn in the side for opposing coaches in all phases sides throughout his high school career. This season, he rushed 121 times for 912 yards and 11 touchdowns. He added 21 pass receptions for 387 yards and four touchdowns. As the team’s punter, he kicked for an average of 40 yards and had five punts downed inside the 10-yard line.
Offensive line, 6-3, 265, sr.
Someone had to help open the creases for co-3A Narrows MVP Spencer Crump, and Mikaele delivered. Mikaele also had a team-best 28 pancake blocks.
Offensive line, 6-2, 290, jr.
The Rams’ two-year starting center made all of the team’s line calls for the Rams’ powerful running game (234 rushing yards per game), which helped North Thurston land a spot in the 2A state quarterfinals for the first time since 2000.
Offensive line, 6-2, 250, sr.
Labeled as the Highclimbers’ top offensive lineman by coach Matt Hinkle, Anderson helped open up gaping holes for running back Ralph Kinne to have a record-setting season.
Offensive line, 6-2, 250, sr.
The T-Birds’ center anchored an offensive line that opened mammoth holes and rarely gave up sacks. Shaner was a big reason for the T-Birds’ success in the rushing game.
Offensive line, 6-4, 290, sr.
No matter who was carrying the ball for the Cougars, Buma helped make sure the back had room to run and helped keep quarterback Derrick Becker out of harm’s way.
Kicker, 5-10, 190, freshman
Parker had a high school debut to remember, nailing 5 of 6 field goals attempts, all longer than 32 yards, including a school-record 43-yard field goal. He also made 35 of 37 point-after kicks and had 15 kickoffs for touchbacks.
All-area player of the year
Running back, 5-11, 175, sr.
Brown has proved to be dangerous every time he touches the ball – on offense, defense and special teams – thanks to his speed. The 2A Evergreen Conference MVP is the team’s leader in rushing yards (1,196), receiving yards (343), and has six special-teams touchdowns (four on punt returns, two on kickoff returns). He also set school records with a 100-yard interception return for a TD and a 96-yard punt return for a touchdown.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick