If you were to add up all the catches Kodee Gifford has made over the last decade, whether the reception occurred in a game, at a practice, or simply in the backyard tossing around the football, the total would be some ridiculous, unfathomable number.
We’re easily talking four figures, maybe even five once everything is tallied up. Gifford admits he has no clue what the final number would be. How could he? He was too busy focusing on making the catches instead of counting them.
What the 2019 Yelm High School graduate can tell you is that the overwhelming majority of said catches came from a throw courtesy of Kyle Robinson.
“We’ve been playing together since third grade,” Gifford said. “I’ve only really caught the ball from Kyle. He’s been my quarterback from the start.”
This fall the two long-time friends and teammates will be on opposing sides of the gridiron for the first time ever as Griffin is heading to Linfield College, while Robinson will play at rival Pacific Lutheran University. The two programs will meet in Puyallup on October 26.
Before they begin their college careers, where they will be rivals for the next four seasons, Gifford and Robinson will play one last time together as both will be members of the East roster during the annual 3A/4A East-West All-State high school football game.
Gifford, Robinson, and Yelm teammate Derrick Platt were three of 68 players selected by the Washington State Coaches Association to play in the game, which will be on Friday, July 12, at Central Washington University’s Tomlinson Stadium in Ellensburg.
“We had such a great last season and now it’s all culminating with this final game,” Robinson said. “It’s going to be awesome.”
Leading the East squad will be Yelm coach Jason Ronquillo, who led the Tornados to their first 3A state playoff appearance since 1987 this past season.
“I was excited to hear I was playing,” said Robinson, who exits Yelm’s as the program’s all-time leading passer, “but I think I was even more excited when I heard Coach was going to be coaching us.”
Yelm went 8-4 in 2018, defeating Bishop Blanchet, 24-14, in a state district playoff game to secure its first trip to the state playoffs in 31 years. The Tornados defeated Lakes, 15-14, in the first round before losing 37-20 to Bellevue in the state quarterfinals.
“It’s a great honor to be coaching this game and to be coaching the level of athletes that are going to be in this game,” Ronquillo said. “For me, it’s a first. So, I am super excited. I’m bringing a few (Yelm) coaches with me. It will make the practices and the transition easier. We get four days and then were playing a game. It’s going to be crazy fast.”
Robinson finished his senior season with 2,530 passing yards, completing 159 of 294 attempts, with 17 touchdowns. In addition to holding the school record for career passing yards and touchdowns, he also set the school single season record for passing yards this year, while finishing with 2,846 total yards of offensive and 26 touchdowns in 2018.
“Kyle is always the hardest working athlete on the field,” Ronquillo said. “Whether in practice or in games, the level of intensity, focus and finish he brings to the table is what makes him exciting to coach.”
Robinson will move to safety at PLU, marking the last time he will line up at quarterback.
“I’m definitely going to be playing favorites,” said Robinson when asked if Gifford would be getting some extra looks during the game – a smart decision given their history together.
Gifford capped his high school career by hauling in a school record 67 catches for 1,223 yards and 10 TDs. A first-team all-conference wide receiver, Gifford also registered nearly 900 return yards to push him over 2,000 yards of total offense in 2018.
“Kodee had the surest hands on the team,” Ronquillo said. “If the ball was in the air anywhere near him there was a good chance he was coming down with it.”
Platt, who was the 3A South Sound Conference defensive MVP, rounds out the list of Yelm players. The linebacker set single season school records this year for total tackles (111.5), sacks (15), and tackles for loss (21), while scoring two defensive touchdowns.
“What stands out about Derrick is how fast he plays the game,” Ronquillo said. “From sideline to sideline, he’s one of the fastest defensive players I’ve ever coached. His instinct and nose for the football is what sets him apart.”
Platt will play at Central Washington University.
“The all-state game just tops the entire season off. We had a really great season,” Gifford said. “We were able to make a good run in the post season and did outstanding in the regular season we also did outstanding. There’s an expectation around here now.”
Joining the three Yelm players on the East roster for the all-state game will be Timberline’s Jamin Fa’alogo and Pele Maiava.