Yelm and Tumwater high school football teams headed into the WIAA state championship football games at Husky Stadium in Seattle capturing second-place trophies for both teams on the weekend of December 1-2, 2023. Both teams held undefeated records moving into the championship game but Yelm fell to Bellevue 0-14 on Friday evening and Tumwater lost to Anacortes 30-60 Saturday afternoon.
Yelm (13-1) entered the 3A final as the defending state champs and the #1 seed. They also came into the final with a 27-game winning streak and were favored against #6 Bellevue (11-2). Bellevue was ready for the battle having lost in a close semifinal battle last year. The game started fast and furious with both teams playing aggressively.
The crucial and shocking play of the game occurred in the first quarter around the five-minute mark with Yelm trying to get a first down on Bellevue’s 37-yard line. The Tornadoes handed the ball to star Oregon commit Brayden Platt, who plays running back and linebacker. Trying to achieve the four yards needed, Platt was stood up in a rough tackle that knocked off his helmet. Bellevue seemed to surround Platt, a scuffle escaped and Platt reacted by punching one of the Wolverines who had his helmet on. The referees met and then ejected Platt.
The ejection shocked the crowd and energized the Wolverines who went on to win 0-14 and capture its 12th state championship. Bellevue rushed for 339 yards, challenging a Yelm defense missing its core linebacker. The loss of Platt also affected Yelm’s offense, as they only rushed for 48 yards and a team total of 206 overall yards, the lowest for the year. Three turnovers also limited Yelm’s momentum as they drove in the second half looking to tie the score.
After the game, Yelm head coach Jason Ronquillo, told his team to focus as a team on taking care of each other after falling short of the goal of winning the game. “It hurt (losing Platt) but I thought our kids responded well and played like champions,” Ronquillo noted. “I am proud of my team and our seniors.”
Tumwater entered the 2A state final as the first seed taking on the second-seed team, the Anacortes Seahawks. The T-Birds scored first when running back Cash Short rushed 26 yards untouched along the left sideline. Unfortunately, it would be Tumwater’s only lead and they would not score again until the third period.
Anacortes unleashed a killer tri-weapon offensive with strong efforts from quarterback Rex Larson and wide receiver Rylin Lang. Larson threw for 346 yards and connected on four touchdowns without throwing any interceptions. Tailback Brock Beaner ran for three touchdowns and returned a second-quarter blocked punt for a touchdown.
Tumwater seemed at times unable to stop Anacortes’ shifting offensive and was often beaten on third down passing plays to Lang and fellow receiver Landon Schafer. Lang caught five passes for 143 yards and two long touchdowns along the right sideline.
Tumwater senior quarterback Ethan Kastner was 8-19 with 99 passing yards in the game for the T-Birds. For Kastner the outcome was disappointing but after the game, he reflected on an amazing season and career. “They were just a better team but I’m still proud of our team as we worked incredibly hard and grew so much as a program,” Kastner stated. “Tumwater football is the foundation of me as a man. It has taught me so many life lessons and I’m forever grateful for that and the bonds I’ve made.”
The title was Anacortes’ first state championship and they became the first team in state history to score 60 points in a 2A title game.