LACEY — Andrew Paquin isn’t one to gloat about the attention he’s received from his Timberline High School peers in recent weeks, nor what’s he’s accomplished in his new role as a starting running back.
That’s not his style.
Few outside of Timberline knew of Paquin, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound junior, in September, but as the games have passed, he’s amassed some notable statistics: 704 rushing yards on 104 carries (117 yards per game average) with four touchdowns.
Not bad for a player who started September second on the two-deep depth chart.
With Paquin’s emergence, the Blazers (3-3 overall, 2-1 3A Narrows) have rebounded from a three-game losing skid, and can surge into a second-place league tie with a win Friday at Mount Tahoma (0-6).
After a sophomore season playing mostly junior varsity, Paquin has gotten up to speed quickly in his six weeks as a starter. His number was called late in the second quarter of the season opener against River Ridge when Asan Neil-Evergin went down with an ankle injury with Timberline leading 20-0.
Once he calmed his nerves, Paquin finished with a game-high 143 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.
“That was my first game of really getting (to play) in the first half,” Paquin said. “Once I got out there and starting running, it felt normal, like I had been doing it for a while.”
Since then, he’s had four more games of 100-plus rushing yards.
Blazers coach Nick Mullen appreciates his attitude: “He’s taken the opportunity and is not letting it go. It’s worked out for the best.”
A slew of injuries depleted the Blazers after their Week 1 win, leading to a three-game slump during which they were outscored, 106-33.
To make matters worse, Neil-Evergin,
one of the team’s most explosive players, was diagnosed with a torn spleen following his ankle injury, prompting Mullen to shut the senior down for the season as a precaution.
Yet Neil-Evergin, who recently gave a verbal commitment to play football at Eastern Washington, still finds ways to motivate and help the Blazers, particularly Paquin.
What’s Neil-Evergin’s best advice for a teammate learning to craft his own style? Stay humble.
“Always try to do better and never accept mediocre,” Paquin said.
Mullen is pleased how he and his staff have this managed this season’s travails, the most challenging in his seven years as coach. Players such as Paquin have emerged in reshuffled starting roles, and the big turning point was a 26-20 win over Lincoln on Oct. 4.
The Blazers control their playoff destiny. Since league play began, Timberline’s defense has surrendered a total of 150 rushing yards.
“Under the lights,” Mullen said, “they’ve started to show up.”firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/ south-sound-sports-blog @megwochnick