With input from coaches, each year The Olympian selects its All-Area football team that traditionally publishes on Thanksgiving Day.
This year, 12 schools are represented by players and coaches selected to the All-Area first team.
The 30 spots, broken down by leagues, are 3A South Sound Conference (10), 2A Evergreen Conference (nine), 2A South Puget Sound League (six), 4A South Puget Sound League (four) and 2B Central/Pacific League (one). All published statistics include every game until the beginning of the state playoffs, unless noted. River Ridge stats include nine games, as the Hawks had a Week 8 bye.
Player & coach of the year
Player of the year, 6-6, 225, senior
He started as the T-Birds’ long snapper his freshman year. The UW commit, and 2A EvCo’s MVP, finished his senior season as a starting tight end (39 catches, 733 yards, 13 TDs) and linebacker (107 tackles, 10 for losses, three sacks). Tumwater’s most reliable playmaker caught game-winning passes against Bellevue and Union, and now owns several of the program’s career receiving records (95 receptions, 1,705 yards, 33 TDs). Yes, he was also the long snapper all four years.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family and friends for all of their support they give me, and just the opportunity to play sports and be successful, and also my teammates for making this year really special.”
Coach of the year
He retires as the winningest high school football coach in Washington state history, with Meridian’s Bob Ames and O’Dea’s Monte Kohler several seasons away from catching up. Through 49 years, at three high schools, Otton compiled a 394-131 (361-112 at Tumwater), and won six state titles. This year, he led the T-Birds (10-2) to an undefeated 2A EvCo record, and a state-playoff berth, for the seventh consecutive season.
Thankful for in 2016: “This Thanksgiving it’s two things that go hand in hand. My faith and my family. My wife, and my children, and grandchildren — that’s what I’m most grateful for is them. Then, the experience of having all these years of being able to play the game. I think it’s been the past 59 years where the fall has been about football, and coaching, and the relationships that you form. Those are the things that at this time I am really, really grateful for.”
Known for earning respect from his players, Zilla piloted an offense that averaged 44 points per game, exceeded the 40-point mark six times, and reached the state quarterfinals for the first time since 1998. River Ridge finished the regular season with 3,410 offensive yards (2,232 rushing, 1,178 passing). Head coach Steve Schultz says Zilla is a mentor to players, helping them mature by teaching life lessons through football.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful for my family, and my wife, and the love of Jesus. I’m thankful for a great many things. As far as football goes, I’m very thankful to be at River Ridge High School teaching and coaching with a great staff, and wonderful kids, and I’m excited about a bright future there.”
Turned a Timberline team that went 4-6 in his first season as the head coach, to one that finished 8-3, and advanced to the 3A state playoffs, this season. And, oh yeah, the Blazers also won the inaugural 3A SSC title, too, silencing Peninsula with a thrilling goal-line stand in the final seconds.
Thankful for in 2016: “The group of young men I had this year is what I’m most thankful for, especially the senior class.”
Quarterback, 6-5, 230, senior
The bigger the moment, the better the Washington State commit plays. He’ll head to Pullman as a defensive end (where he was an Olympian All-Area, and all-state honorable mention selection last year), but put together one of the more impressive seasons in the area this season in his first year at quarterback (63 of 115, 1,117 yards, 18 total TDs). River Ridge’s energetic, competitive leader was also the 2A SPSL Sound Division’s MVP.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful for the people that are in my life, helping me through hard times. Thankful for football, basketball and everything, just life.”
Running back, 5-11, 190, senior
Without a doubt, one of the most dominant running backs the Bears have ever had. Once the 4A SPSL’s co-offensive player of the year got loose, he was gone. Led the area in rushing (242 carries, 1,892 yards, 36 total TDs) for the second consecutive season.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family.”
Running back, 5-10, 200, senior
He runs angry. He punishes defenses. That’s how coaches and teammates characterize the 3A South Sound Conference’s most valuable player. The Blazers’ relentless workhorse exceeded the century mark in eight games this season, and finished with 1,524 yards on 262 carries and 10 rushing TDs.
Thankful for in 2016: “Being league champs. Being No. 1.”
All-purpose player, 6-0, 180, senior
Tumwater’s most versatile athlete, and the 2A EvCo’s most valuable offensive player, is a quarterback, halfback, wingback, cornerback, kick returner and punter. Averaged triple digits per game passing (63 of 106, 1,011 yards, 11 TDs), and was just as elusive on the ground (62 carries, 386 yards, eight TDs).
Thankful for in 2016: “Friends, family and the brotherhood that I’ve gained through Tumwater and the football team.”
Multipurpose player, 5-9, 160, senior
Was Capital’s leading receiver before taking over at quarterback (63 of 115, 1,055 yards, eight TDs) for an injured teammate. Trumpets the “next man up” mentality, and averaged more than 140 yards in seven games. The Cougars’ captain was a ground threat, too, adding 387 rushing yards.
Thankful for in 2016: “My friends, my family, my teammates, and everyone in my life.”
Offensive lineman, 6-1, 300, senior
Mature and sharp, the Blazers’ veteran center made all of the blocking calls, and was the go-to long snapper. A two-time Olympian All-Area selection, and 3A SSC first-teamer, blocked for a rushing attack that averaged 241 yards per game (2,413 total), and 24 rushing TDs.
Thankful for in 2016: “My coaches, my teammates, and my family.”
Offensive lineman, 6-2, 300, senior
Opposing teams double-teamed, or completely ran away from him, but that didn’t stop the Wolves’ two-way lineman from putting together a stellar season. A front man for a backfield that finished with 2,724 yards and 39 TDs. Was also the 2A EvCo’s defensive co-MVP, and led Black Hills with seven sacks.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for the underclassmen and the younger guys that really stepped up in key positions this year, because we graduated 20 seniors last year.”
Offensive lineman, 6-2, 245, junior
The area’s top heavyweight wrestler is also the only two-way tackle the T-Birds have. He blocked for an offense that averaged 42 points per game, and outscored opponents 419-128. Was a 2A EvCo first-team selection on defense, had 46 tackles, and contributed to a defense that limited opponents to 2.3 yards per rushing attempt.
Thankful for in 2016: “I am most thankful for my family, my little brother, and my friend Gavin, who always push me, and my football brothers.”
Offensive lineman, 6-2, 270, senior
Has strength, speed, and size. River Ridge’s power run game, which rushed for more than 2,400 yards this season, centers around his mobility. Coach Steve Schultz says the two-way starter has a “motor that does not quit.” Was a 2A SPSL first-team selection as an offensive lineman.
Thankful for in 2016: “Obviously, my family. My mom’s been a big supporter … she’s always been there. Definitely my dad, he’s been with me my 10 years in football, he’s always been my coach. My siblings. … I’m thankful on the field for my brothers who play with me, and my coaches who always give their time to help us play.”
Offensive lineman, 5-10, 200, senior
Tumwater’s right guard, a 2A EvCo first-team selection, blocked for a backfield that averaged 7 yards per carry, and finished with 2,847 rushing yards and 42 TDs. Was a leader on the line, and a key component to an offense that finished with 3,926 total yards.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful for my family, my friends, and the endless amount of opportunities I am given throughout my four years of high school.”
Wide receiver, 6-3, 200, senior
Two-way starter for the Highclimbers, and it’s a toss-up as to whether he was more valuable as a wide receiver or defensive back — he was a 3A SSC first-team selection at both positions. The high-flyer led the league in receiving (56 catches, 627 yards, seven TDs) and interceptions (eight).
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family, my friends and coaches, and the opportunity to play football.”
Wide receiver, 5-10, 180, sophomore
Led the area in receiving (43 catches, 734 yards, seven TDs) this season, and he’s only a sophomore. Was a 3A SSC first-team selection at wide receiver, but was pivotal for the Cougars in every phase, as a defensive back, returner, kicker and punter. Scored 80 — or, more than 30 percent — of Capital’s 259 points.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for playing with everyone this whole year and seeing them every day for the past few months. It’s been a long ride, and fun.”
Tight end, 6-4, 220, junior
The 4A SPSL first-team selection is a big, dynamic target to throw to (15 catches, 264 yards, two TDs) and just as essential as a blocker. Bruising on the other side of the ball, too. Tallied 66 tackles (18 for losses) and six sacks as a defensive end.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my team that I got to play with, team No. 112 of the Olympia Bears, mainly because it was a brotherhood and we all played together.”
Defensive lineman, 6-0, 255, senior
He’s a big-time rugby player — he plans to to play collegiately — which only made the 3A SSC’s lineman of the year more dominant. Was a two-way starter for the Cougars, and racked up 53 tackles (eight for losses) and eight sacks. Lined up at fullback to score Capital’s final TD of the season on a 7-yard charge.
Thankful for in 2016: “My family. If it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have played. I’m a big rugby person, and I’m currently pursuing that, but if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be playing, and wouldn’t have finished the season off.”
Defensive lineman, 6-7, 225, senior
Long player — long arms, long legs, towering presence. Blocked eight passes this season (17 in his career with the Blazers) as a defensive end. Quick and smart off the line, the 3A SSC first-team selection also led the league in tackles for losses (15), and added seven sacks.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful that we had a close team this year. Last year we didn’t do as much team bonding, and this year, it actually felt like a family. When we’d come together at the end of a game and put our hands together and say, ‘We are family,’ or, ‘We are Timberline,’ it actually felt like that.”
Defensive lineman, 6-3, 305, senior
Eastern Washington commit was a dominant force up front for the Bears. The 4A SPSL first-team selection anchored Olympia’s defensive line, compiled 52 tackles (seven for losses) and blocked a kick. Was a three-year starter for the Bears.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful for God blessing me with the opportunities I’ve had, my family and my support system, my coaches and my team.”
Defensive lineman, 6-1, 230, senior
The 2A EvCo’s defensive co-most valuable player helped the Bearcats post three consecutive shutouts in October. Versatile and determined, the three-year starter played every position on the offensive and defensive line during his career, and finished this season with 49 tackles (24 for losses), 18 assists, eight sacks and forced three turnovers.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful for the opportunity to get to play football with all of my friends.”
Linebacker, 6-0, 200, senior
The leader of the Rams’ defense and a two-time Olympian All-Area selection, he finished his career with 288 tackles and 9.5 sacks. This season, the 3A SSC first-team selection led North Thurston with 111 tackles, and filled in where needed for an injury-depleted offensive line.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my friends and family for supporting me through the entire way.”
Linebacker, 6-0, 230, senior
Has been the cornerstone of the Hawks’ defense for the past four years, and holds program records for tackles in a career (283), season (118) and single game (18). The 2A SPSL Sound Division’s most valuable player on defense had 71 tackles (four for losses), two sacks, two tipped passes and caused two fumbles.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful for the support I got from my coaches, my teammates and my family. They are always by my side, behind my back, pushing me to do better.”
Linebacker, 6-3, 225, junior
Was able to shed multiple blockers with size and strength, was a playmaker everywhere on the field, and the engine of Rainier’s team on both sides of the ball. A 2B Central/Pacific League Mountain Division first-team selection as a running back (89 carries, 853 yards, six TDs) and linebacker (59 tackles, including 11 for losses, eight sacks and three safeties).
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family and my coaches that have pushed me to where I’m at today.”
Defensive back, 6-0, 190, senior
Magnet to the ball, and consistently picked apart opposing teams in all three phases. A three-year starter, holds River Ridge’s career (nine) and season (five) interception records. The 2A SPSL Sound Division first-team selection had 27 tackles, and caused three turnovers this season at strong safety. Had 14 catches, 388 yards, five TDs as a receiver, and had an 83-yard kickoff return TD.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family, and my friends, and my coaches, and my teammates supporting me throughout the season.”
Defensive back, 6-0, 175, senior
Committed to Wyoming as a running back (147 carries, 1,051 yards, 34 total TDs), and was named to the 2A SPSL Sound Division’s first team as a running back, but is tough, hard-hitting, and has breakaway speed at every position he plays. Provided reliable coverage in River Ridge’s secondary, and closes in on the ball quickly. Returned both of his interceptions this season for TDs (76 and 32 yards).
Thankful for in 2016: “This year, I’m most thankful for family and friends, just having the opportunity to play football, play basketball and track, actually, just to be in the position I am.”
Defensive back, 5-8, 155, senior
Became the go-to guy for the Wolves after their starting running back’s season ended early with an injury. The second half of the season featured Nygren, a two-time 2A EvCo first team selection at defensive back, a lot more on offense. He cycled between running back (59 carries, 693 yards, seven TDs) and slot receiver (averaged 20.6 yards per catch).
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my friends, family and fans for supporting us this year, and for the coaches, because they put so much time, they had so much time invested in us this year, spending hours upon hours for months with us teaching us how to be better players and people.”
Defensive back, 5-9, 190, senior
Coaches had to game plan for this guy. The natural lateral movement, great hands and ability to turn on the afterburners made the 3A SSC’s first-team selection at running back (124 carries, 878 yards, 11 TDs; 33 catches, 234 yards, two TDs) a threat in all phases. Finished with 1,353 all-purpose yards, and added 24 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery at cornerback.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful for my parents who have supported me all four years, plus younger years, my coaches and my teammates.”
Kicker, 5-11, 180, senior
Broke Olympia’s school record for career extra points with 114 (including 49 this season). Tied the record for most field goals in a game with three against Sumner (40, 31 and 34 yards), and had four total this season. Played several positions for the Bears throughout his career, game knowledge makes him a “coach on the field,” Olympia coach Bill Beattie said.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful for the opportunity to finish my career at Olympia High School. I grew up in the program being a ball boy, and my dad was a coach, so I grew up around the program, and I’m happy to finish on such a high note.”
Punter, 6-0, 180, junior
Stunned W.F. West’s sideline when his 64-yard boot — his longest punt of the season — sailed over the returner’s head and landed in the end zone in the annual Swamp Cup rivalry game. The 2A EvCo first-team selection averaged 44.6 yards per punt (52 attempts), and had eight punts longer than 50 yards.
Thankful for in 2016: “My coaches and family pushing me to do my best.”
Quarterback: Miles Cannon, Tenino, junior; Tyler Giraldes, Shelton, senior
Running back: Austin Emery, W.F. West, senior; Ira Hartford, Elma, senior; Jakob Holbrook, Tumwater, junior
Wide receiver: Josh Braverman, River Ridge, senior; Noah Brewer, Black Hills, senior; Jace Griffis, Tenino, soph.; Kaleb Lunderville, Yelm, senior
Tight end: Chris Schnellman, Capital, senior; Taylor Toney, Shelton, senior
Offensive line: Justin Gudaz, Black Hills, senior; Jayson Haury, Tumwater, senior; Caleb Price, River Ridge, senior; Max Salcedo, Capital, senior; Logan Wood, Olympia, junior
All-purpose: Tariq Romain, Timberline, senior
Multi-purpose: Christian Williams, Black Hills, senior
Defensive line: Jack Burnham, Tenino, senior; Michael Crook, North Thurston, senior; Blayne Haderman, River Ridge, senior; Alizen Wilson, Timberline, senior
Linebacker: Zaiden Hernandez, Olympia, senior; Caleb Jelcick, Tumwater, senior; Nate Smith, Capital, senior
Defensive back: Zach Jones, Tumwater, senior; Guy Murillo, Tenino, junior; Devan Stancil, Rainier, senior; Trystin Wallerstedt, Tumwater, senior
Kicker: Nathan Seaman, Tumwater, junior
Punter: Wesley Krall, North Thurston, senior