TACOMA –The little engine that could ran head-on into a Mack Truck at the Tacoma Dome on Monday.
No. 3-ranked Tumwater scored touchdowns on all seven of its first-half possessions and romped to a 63-27 victory over East Valley in a Class 2A state semifinal football game that was originally scheduled for Spokane last Saturday but was postponed because of unplayable field conditions and transported across the state.
Tumwater meets top-ranked Archbishop Murphy of Everett in the championship game this Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Dome.
The spunky Knights, armed with a six-game winning streak following a 1-5 start, had visions of completing one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Washington prep football history with a state title.
But it wasn’t to be.
“We were hoping for a storybook ending, but Tumwater was definitely the better team today,” East Valley coach Adam Fisher said. “Our kids battled, and we made some plays, but at this stage of the playoffs you’ve got to make more.”
Senior quarterback Dan Hinkle completed 7 of 8 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns and Evergreen Conference offensive player-of-the-year Kyle Warner scored three touchdowns in varying fashion for Tumwater (12-1).
The Thunderbirds amassed 493 yards of offense compared to 281 by East Valley (7-6).
Tumwater scored on the game’s third play when tight end Zach Wimberly snared a short hitch pass, shook off a pair of East Valley defenders and rumbled 25 yards up the right sideline to paydirt.
East Valley responded with an impressive, 67-yard, 10-play drive capped by Adam Talley’s 13-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 7. The drive was kept alive when Joey Strehlou hit tight end Jake Reynolds for 23 yards on a fake punt.
It was just one of several trick plays that Fisher pulled out of the bag Monday.
“We weren’t going to hold anything back,” he explained.
Tumwater was undeterred, however. On its third play from scrimmage after regaining possession, Hinkle hooked up with the speedy Warner on a wheel route 43 yards for a touchdown.
Then, just three minutes later, Warner intercepted an overthrown pass from East Valley quarterback Taylor Watkins and returned it 57 yards to the end zone.
The scoring frenzy was just heating up.
Following the kickoff, Fisher again reached into his bag of gadgets. Alex Rockstrom took a handoff from Watkins on an apparent reverse, but Rockstrom fooled the Thunderbirds by firing a 57-yard scoring strike to a wide-open Ronnie Jarvis that drew the Knights within 21-14.
The teams again exchanged touchdowns – East Valley’s score came on a 3-yard run by Talley – but then Tumwater scored the final 14 points of the half to grab a 49-21 advantage at the intermission.
The one time it looked like East Valley would force a punt in the first half, Warner made a leaping, 13-yard catch on a fourth-and-seven play, then made an even more spectacular one for a 24-yard gain to the East Valley 1. He scored on the next play.
“That’s why he’s their conference player of the year,” Fisher said.
Watkins had a reasonably strong performance, especially considering the fierce pass rush he faced throughout the game. The sophomore completed 11 of 24 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
“I felt like I got hit on every pass I threw,” Watkins said. “I’m a little beat up, but I’ll be OK.”
Jarvis finished with six catches for 106 yards and a touchdown, while Talley managed 61 hard-earned yards on 17 carries.