Every high school football game to watch in the state quarterfinals in Thurston County and beyond this weekend.
Note: Ranking numbers are seeds as assigned by the WIAA state playoffs seeding committees.
NO. 12 YELM TORNADOS (8-3) VS. NO. 3 BELLEVUE WOLVERINES (11-0)
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1 p.m. Saturday, Bellevue High School
About the Tornados: Yelm has already made history. This Tornados team is first to advance to the state playoffs since the program’s only other appearance in 1987. But, no Yelm team has ever made it out of the quarterfinals. QB Kyle Robinson (131 of 240, 2,149 yards, 25 total TDs) and a sure-handed receiving corps led by WR Kodee Gifford (55 catches, 1,087 yards, 11 TDs) look to lift the Tornados to that next historic mark. Yelm’s defense is also in a favorable spot. The Tornados played Tumwater’s version of the wing-T earlier this season, and gave the T-Birds their closest game of the season — Tumwater won, 17-14 — excluding a loss to rival Black Hills.
About the Wolverines: No surprise here — Bellevue is usually still around at this juncture. The Wolverines are 10-time state champions — 12 if you count the titles they vacated for recruiting violations — and have lost just twice in 18 appearances in the quarterfinals. Coach Michael Kneip, a former Bellevue and Washington Huskies player, has the Wolverines’ vaunted wing-T back in shape and averaging 349.2 rushing yards per game. RB Alex Reid (207 carries, 1,328 yards, 13 TDs) leads the way, and has rushed for 100-plus yards in eight consecutive games. Bellevue has attempted just 21 passes this season.
The Olympian pick: Bellevue, 31-14
NO. 8 TIMBERLINE BLAZERS (9-2) VS. NO. 1 EASTSIDE CATHOLIC CRUSADERS (9-1)
7:45 p.m. Friday, Memorial Stadium, Seattle
About the Blazers: Timberline remembers its last meeting with this 3A powerhouse. It was just two seasons ago in Lacey when the Blazers entered halftime tied with Eastside Catholic, only to have the Crusaders shut them out in the second half and roll to a win. The trip north against this year’s Eastside Catholic team could be even tougher, and the Blazers will need veteran QB Hunter Campau (105 of 162, 1,458 yards; 222 carries, 1,366 yards; 34 total TDs) at his best to make a run at the two-time state champions (2014 and 2015). Timberline hasn’t been in the semifinals since 1975.
About the Crusaders: Eastside Catholic is the top-ranked team in the state, regardless of classification, and No. 172 nationally on MaxPreps. RB Sam Adams (59 carries, 753 yards, 13 TDs) has 29 offers from FBS schools, and leads a team that has the biggest group of Division I prospects in the state. But, the quarterfinals doomed the Crusaders last season — Garfield beat them in a 13-10 upset — snapping a streak of five consecutive wins in this round. Eastside Catholic advanced to the 3A championship game in four consecutive seasons between 2012-15, winning titles in 2014 and 2015, but hasn’t been back since.
The Olympian pick: Eastside Catholic, 35-17
NO. 6 TUMWATER T-BIRDS (10-1) VS. NO. 3 LYNDEN LIONS (10-0)
4 p.m. Saturday, Civic Stadium, Bellingham
About the T-Birds: The road only gets tougher for Tumwater, but that has been true for the T-Birds in the state playoffs in most recent years. Last season, they turned a path that included 2A juggernauts Lynden and Archbishop Murphy into a runner-up finish in 2A. But, this time, the T-Birds have a three-hour bus ride to Lynden standing between them and the program’s 16th appearance in the semifinals. The T-Birds have been to the title game nine times, and won in it all in their first five appearances — Tumwater’s most recent title came in 2010 — but has lost in their last four. RB Dylan Loftis (109 carries, 1,251 yards, 18 TDs) is the rushing leader in Tumwater’s wing-T offense.
About the Lions: Seems these two storied programs have met a lot over the years — five times in the state playoffs to be exact, and the Lions hold a 3-2 series advantage. Like Tumwater, Lynden is plenty familiar with this stage of the season — of the program’s eight state titles, six have come in 2A since 2006. When QB James Marsh (52 of 90, 830 yards, 10 TDs) hurt his ankle in September, the Lions put QB Brock Heppner (40 of 64, 691 yards, six TDs) behind center. Now, they rotate. WR/DB Kobe Elsner (19 catches, 374 yards, five TDs) caught a scoring pass from each QB last week, and recorded his school-record tying seventh interception.
The Olympian pick: Lynden, 24-21
NO. 7 FIFE TROJANS (10-1) VS. NO. 2 BLACK HILLS WOLVES (11-0)
7 p.m. Friday, Tumwater District Stadium
About the Trojans: Fife is on a 10-game winning streak behind longtime coach Kent Nevin’s ground-and-pound offense that averages 250.9 rushing yards per game, and 6.2 yards per carry. The 2A SPSL champions have six backs who have eclipsed the 100-yard mark this season, and no player has been more consistent than QB Gannon Ginnis (146 carries, 927 yards, 28 total TDs), who was dubbed the 2A SPSL Mountain MVP. Fife is making its fourth trip to the quarterfinals, but has never advanced out of this round.
About the Wolves: Can Black Hills, which was heavily rewarded by the seeding committee for its undefeated run through the 2A Evergreen Conference, keep this historic season rolling? The Wolves are in the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history after making first-round exits in each of its first eight appearances — including the past three years. Black Hills is averaging 42.3 points per game — the third-best average in 2A — while allowing an average of just two touchdowns. The Wolves’ 48-8 drubbing of Burlington-Edison last week was the widest margin of any 2A opening round game. RB/DB Taylor Simmons (145 carries, 1,149 yards, 21 TDs), the 2A Evco MVP, is the Wolves’ top two-way threat.
The Olympian pick: Black Hills, 34-24