When the Tumwater High School football team needed it the most, their vaunted rushing attack came through.
The T-Birds churned out 214 rushing yards — paced by senior Dylan Paine’s 95 yards on 21 carries — and strung together a pair of long drives to burn out the clock in the fourth quarter, staving off a Bellarmine Prep comeback bid, to remain undefeated with a 27-14 win Friday night in Tacoma.
But, for most of four quarters, the Lions gave Tumwater’s usually methodical wing-T offense all it could handle.
“Bellarmine had a heck of a game plan,” T-Birds coach Bill Beattie said. “I’m proud of our kids, the way they battled back at the end. I’m glad to get out of here with a win.
“You’re seeing these guys pack our front so hard — which I can’t blame them, the way we run the ball.”
The Lions remembered last season’s Week 3 loss in Tumwater, when the T-Birds piled up more than 400 rushing yards, and were aiming to avoid defeats similar to Tumwater’s first two opponents this season. The T-Birds blew by both Timberline (55-0) and Yelm (54-27).
“Their offense is known statewide because it’s been so successful for years,” Bellarmine sophomore Tariq May said. “We watched film, for sure, and we found their week points. We had to be in the right place at the right time. That’s always the goal.”
“They came out strong,” Paine said. “They’re a tough team.”
Through the first two quarters, Bellarmine held Tumwater’s running backs to a combined 81 yards, though the T-Birds did ultimately score on three first-half drives, propped by a passing game that seems to become more prominent each season under Beattie.
In what turned out to be a balanced offensive attack, junior quarterback Cody Whalen completed 13 of 19 passes for 154 yards, mostly to sophomore tight end Austin Terry, who hauled in six passes for 116 yards.
“It was great being able to throw the ball, but it wouldn’t be (set) up without our run game,” Tumwater sophomore Austin Terry said. “Our run game is what sets everything up.
“Our great backs in the backfield are able to set up routes for me. It’s all them, and our great line giving protection for our quarterback to throw the ball.”
Whalen and Terry connected for a 22-yard gain on Tumwater’s first drive that set up Paine’s 2-yard touchdown plunge. Two drives later, the pair hooked up again on a 64-yard pass just before Turner Allen swept around the right side for a 9-yard score.
And, Whalen and Terry gave the T-Birds a seemingly commanding 20-0 lead on a 3-yard pass just before the first half expired.
Beattie said the added wrinkle of an increased passing threat wasn’t so much if the T-Birds want to throw more, but when they want to throw it.
“We’re trying to be strategic when we throw the ball,” Beattie said. “Not wait until it’s third-and-10 all the time.”
But, as exciting as taking to the air is, Tumwater won’t soon abandon what’s worked for four decades.
“Tumwater’s going to be a run-first team,” Beattie said. “That formula has worked for a long, long time, so we’re going to keep with it.”
The Lions were convincingly steady in limiting the T-Birds on the ground, though. They forced punts on each of Tumwater’s first three drives of the second half, and pulled within a single score in the third after managing just 40 yards of total offense before the break.
Bellarmine capitalized on its opening possession of the half, bolstered by a 34-yard pass from senior quarterback Marcus Stowers to May, immediately followed by a 44-yard burst from senior running back Derrion Summers — who racked up 68 yards, mostly in the second half, on 10 carries.
Stowers connected with Jahsiah Amouzou-Bedward for a 4-yard score over the middle two plays later for the Lions’ first score.
Their following drive, May — who had 177 all-purpose yards, including 109 on returns — ignited the sideline by ripping off a 51-yard punt return to quickly set the Lions up at Tumwater’s 24.
“It’s contagious,” May said of the energy the long punt return created. “It goes around to everybody. You could see the momentum switch.”
Summers eventually punched in a 3-yard touchdown as Bellarmine cut the lead to 20-14.
But, Tumwater’s defense locked up on the Lions’ final two drives in the fourth quarter, Paine added a second touchdown run of 4 yards to push the lead back to two possessions with 10:54 remaining, and Bellarmine didn’t get closer.
May can see progress following Bellarmine’s 0-3 start, though, which also includes losses to perennial 4A SPSL contenders Puyallup (28-3) and Graham-Kapowsin (21-10).
“I think there’s a lot of things we can build off of this game positively,” May said. “We played together. There was more communication. We played for one another at the end of the game.
“If that feeds on from week to week, you’ll seen an improvement in the team for sure.”
Meanwhile, Tumwater, which is again considered a serious 2A state title contender, will look to clean up some miscues — the T-Birds were flagged 12 times Friday — and roll through league play.
“We’re getting better, we’re getting smarter,” Beattie said. “Against a good team, you’re lucky to get out of here with a win, as many mistakes as we made. But, hats off to our kids staying strong. Defense came up big at the end. Our offense punched that last one in when they had all the momentum.”
“We’re feeling good through the first three,” Terry said. “We just want to keep it going, keep it rolling through league, into the playoffs, and hopefully make a good state run.”
TUMWATER 6 14 0 7_27
BELLARMINE PREP 0 0 14 0_14
T – Dylan Paine 2 run (kick failed)
T – Turner Allen 9 run (Nathan Vani kick)
T – Austin Terry 3 pass from Cody Whalen (Vani kick)
BP – Jahsiah Amouzou-Bedward 4 pass from Marcus Stowers (Daniel Lovejoy kick)
BP – Derrion Summers 3 run (Lovejoy kick)
T – Paine 4 run (Vani kick)
Passing: Whalen 13-19-0-154; Stowers 11-29-0-133.
Rushing: T – Paine 21-95; Allen 9-44; Jack Jones 3-26; Jaylen Clay 2-9; Whalen 4-8; Danny Goodburn 1-6; Grady Finney 1-3. BP – Summers 10-68; Stowers 4-8.
Receiving: T – Terry 6-116; Goodburn 3-15; Clay 1-11; Baker 1-6; Paine 2-6. BP – Tariq May 2-68; Diego Garcia 4-19; Sean Smith 1-18; Hayden Wisner-Sadler 2-15; Summers 1-5; Amouzou-Bedward 1-4.