Although it wasn’t the result the Yelm Tornados were ultimately hoping for, head football coach Jason Ronquillo said the team’s two losses to Skyview (33-13) and Tumwater (54-27) to start the season were ultimately successful tests of the mettle needed to see how this young team will pull together.
And while a number of players made noticeable strides, the first couple games might have left the Tornados with more questions than they feel comfortable with.
“The first two teams, we were sort of in search of our identity. If we really wanted to win football games, I wouldn’t have scheduled Skyview and Tumwater,” Ronquillo said.
Of course, Ronquillo said he believes the boys gave a better showing in the second game against Tumwater, which ultimately ended in Yelm losing a narrow 13-12 lead early in the second half and faltering to the Thunderbirds’ offensive power.
“Week two, I thought our special teams did really well … We stuck with them for a while,” Ronquillo said. “A lot of our players are going two ways. And going up against Tumwater’s platoon system definitely took a toll on the second half.”
As far as standouts thus far, Ronquillo said it’s still hard to review a player so early on when the team is still working on coming together.
“We’re all still on the same page. No one played perfectly, everyone’s still striving to do their best … I don’t want to single anybody out yet,” he said.
Without necessarily singling out a player, Ronquillo said he has noticed an improvement over the last two games from the quarterback position. Ben Hoffmann is progressing well and made strides against Tumwater.
“It becomes a long season,” Ronquillo said. “There’s a lot of games to play and we’re just hoping he can progress every game.”
Especially with every player, Ronquillo said the expectation is to keep seeing those incremental improvements that will likely prove crucial to the team’s success in conference play.
Yelm will face Central Kitsap (1-0) this Friday at 7 p.m. at home. The Cougars are coming off a hot 41-17 win against the Olympic (Bremerton) Trojans earlier this month, and they’ll be looking to damper the Tornados’ chance of momentum.
As for the conference, Ronquillo said he believes it’s wide open season for the top spot.
“I think there are a handful of teams that are going to be running for a playoff spot,” he said. “It’s going to come down to player leadership, being healthy at the right time and execution on Friday nights.”