It’s not that Tumwater High School doesn’t have reliable star players.
Sophomore running back Dylan Paine rushed 32 times for 176 yards Friday night at Tumwater District Stadium, bringing his season total to just shy of 1,400 yards.
Nathan Seaman, one of the most reliable kickers in the South Sound, connected on three field goals.
And, for the second straight week, Connor Clark lit a spark for the No. 2 T-Birds with a dramatic kickoff return.
But, leading by two points with less than five minutes to play, and needing to tally a decisive touchdown to put away Lynden, the T-Birds showed their depth by calling on a running back who had yet to carry the ball in the playoffs.
Senior Raushaun Tate answered, sweeping 5 yards into the right corner of the end zone, to give the T-Birds a two-score advantage that helped them hold off the Lions, 23-21, in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs.
“We work on situations like that a lot in practice,” Tate said. “It’s not hard to be ready, especially with our offensive line.”
Tumwater coach Bill Beattie can pick and choose from a deep corps of backs that has gained more than 3,500 yards rushing this season.
“We knew Raushaun would cut it up and get into the end zone,” he said. “The great thing about our team this season is whoever gets called on, steps up.”
During the first half it was Lynden — a traditional powerhouse with eight state titles that has ended Tumwater’s season three times in the past decade — that appeared to have the momentum.
After Seaman got the scoring started with a 31-yard field goal on Tumwater’s first drive, Lynden marched 73 yards in nine plays to score on a 1-yard run by quarterback James Marsh.
On the first play of the second quarter, Marsh — who has passed for more than 1,000 yards since taking over at quarterback midway through the season — found Aaron Weidemaar streaking down the middle for a 60-yard touchdown.
The Lions looked in control with a 14-3 lead.
That’s when Clark, who returned the opening kickoff of last week’s district-playoff win over Washougal for a touchdown, struck. He returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to Lynden’s 5.
Zane Murphy scored on a 1-yard keeper two plays later to trim Lynden’s lead to 14-10.
Tumwater ran several snaps out of the Wildcat formation, some to Murphy, but most to senior running back Jacob Holbrook.
“It’s something we ran a lot early in the season,” Beattie said. “Not so much recently, so we thought it would give them a look they hadn’t prepared for as much.”
With Paine doing much of the work, Tumwater drove twice more into Seaman’s range, and he connected both times give the T-Birds the lead before Tate’s insurance touchdown.
Beattie praised his team’s second half defense. Aided by a few “tweaks” from coaches, Tumwater held Lynden scoreless until Marsh — who finished with 221 yards passing — gave the Lions a last gasp of hope.
He connected with Grady Vanderyacht on a 46-yard touchdown pass three plays after the T-Birds’ final score.
Tumwater (9-2) hits the road next week to play the winner of Saturday’s first-round game between Othello and Steilacoom in the quarterfinals.
NO. 2 TUMWATER
T – Nathan Seaman 31 field goal
L – James Marsh 1 run (Marko Samukovic kick)
L – Aaron Weidemaar 60 pass from Marsh (Samukovic kick)
T – Zane Murphy 1 run (Seaman kick)
T – Seaman 32 field goal
T – Seaman 24 field goal
T – Raushaun Tate 5 run (Seaman kick)
L – Grady Vanderyacht 46 pass from Marsh (Samukovic kick)