Nine months after winning the 3A state championship game in dramatic fashion, the Yelm Tornados football team pulled out yet another dramatic victory in the team’s opening contest of the season.
The Tornados moved to 1-0 after they defeated the Camas Papermakers 8-7 on Friday, Sept. 1, in a matchup where both defenses dominated opposing offenses. Late in the fourth quarter, with Yelm holding on to a one-point lead, the Papermakers drove deep into Tornado territory and drained the clock.
Trailing by one with roughly 30 seconds to go in the game, the Papermakers lined up for a potential game-winning field goal. Senior linebacker Anthony Kiamco, who led the Tornados in carries throughout the contest on offense, called game after he flew around the field goal unit’s edge to block Camas’s kick. Yelm’s offense took over on downs, and kneeled out the remaining time to secure its first victory of the season.
“I saw the play clock running down fast, and I just wanted to play like a champion. Once I blocked the kick, I really just wanted to celebrate, and I forgot to recover the ball,” Kiamco said. “It’s all Jesus, that’s it. It’s all God.”
Kiamco, Yelm’s feature back against Camas offensively, finished with 17 carries for 68 yards. Though Brayden Platt, the Tornados All-American workhorse, played a limited role in Yelm’s offense against the Papermakers, Kiamco was ready to carry a heavy workload for his team.
“It’s a good feeling. My mentality is that I’m going to score each time I get the ball,” Kiamco said. “Going forward, we’ll practice harder and keep our championship mindset. We worked as a team for this victory, and kept fighting out there to make it happen.”
Yelm’s head coach Jason Ronquillo told the Nisqually Valley News on Aug. 24 that he believes Kiamco would step up for Yelm in a big way for the upcoming season. It took just one game for the head coach’s statement to become a reality.
“I’ve always had trust in Kiamco, ever since he’s been a sophomore in the program. My whole message is like, ‘If you give him the ball 10 times a game, two or three times he’ll bust it for a large chunk.’ I trust him, he’s well-conditioned, and he’s a work horse. We’ll give him the ball as much as we can.”
After the contest, Ronquillo said, as the Tornados prepare for its upcoming game against Union, they’ll work to correct any execution and substitution mishaps they saw in week one.
“I think for both programs, the offenses were both struggling,” Ronquillo said. “I thought our special teams units really showed out when it was important. (Camas) missed one field goal because of the pressure package we had, and then we blocked one to end the game. Special teams came in big when we needed it.”
Platt put up the Tornados’ lone points as he scored a 30-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter. The Tornados followed the touchdown up with a successful two-point conversion, to take an 8-0 lead.
The Papermakers followed up the Tornados score with a rushing touchdown of their own from 4 yards out. Camas’s point after kick was successful and made the score 8-7.
In a contest dominated by two defenses, Tyler Blevins, Yelm’s senior and starting left tackle, made one of the biggest plays of the game after a third-quarter Tornado interception.
Blevins, 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, chased down the Camas defender who caught the pick and saved what would’ve been a Camas pick-six for a third-quarter lead. Offensive line coach Brian Foote said that Blevins’ tackle “kept us from losing the game.”
“On offense, you’ve always got to be prepared for an interception, even as an offensive lineman. Every position has a chance to save the game,” Blevins said. “Camas gave us a run for our money, but we secured the win, thanks to Tre (Anthony Kiamco), especially.”
Yelm’s defense had four goal line stands throughout the contest, the earliest resulting in Yelm taking over possession offensively on their own 2 yardline. Later in the game, senior defensive back Arlo Henderson Jr. made his first interception as a Tornado in Yelm’s endzone, forcing yet another Camas turnover inside the 5-yard line.
Yelm’s final goal line stand came within the final minute of the contest. Camas’s first play inside of Yelm’s 10-yard line was an incomplete pass, which freshman Maurice Williams broke up in the endzone. Williams was targeted often by Camas’ offense, but the young Tornado stood his own and thrived in pass coverage throughout the game.
The Papermakers completed a pass on second and goal, which brought the ball all the way to the 1-yard line. On third and goal, Camas’ Titan Brody was stuffed on a run up the middle by senior defensive tackle and team captain Landen Barger.
Facing fourth and goal, Camas’ field goal unit ran onto the field to attempt a go-ahead field goal with around 30 seconds remaining. Kiamco ran off the edge of Camas’ field goal unit unblocked, and easily blocked the Papermaker’s chip shot.
Yelm would kneel out the remaining time to win the season opener 8-7.
“We have a long way to go to be great. Right now we’re a good football team. We have good athletes and great coaches, but we have a long way to go to be a really good football team,” Ronquillo said. “We’ll take it week by week, and even though we won this game there’s a lot to learn from it.”
Up next for the Tornados is the team’s home opener against Union High School. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8 at Yelm High School.
Prior to the contest, members of the Seattle Seahawks organization will be at the school for the NFL team’s “Blue Friday Night Lights” program. According to Seahawks.com, the program will bring Blue Thunder, the Seahawks Dancers, Blitz, DJ Supa Sam and more.
Damian Aalona: 12/19, 110 yards, one int
Anthony Kiamco: 17 carries 68 yards
Brayden Platt: six carries for 51 yards, one touchdown
Isaiah Patterson: seven carries for 39 yards
Marius Aalona: five catches for 36 yards
Isaiah Patterson: two catches for 27 yards
Jacob Ford: two catches for 26 yards
Isaiah Patterson: 13 tackles (seven solo)
Brayden Platt: seven tackles (four solo), two tackles for loss
Maurice Williams: six tackles (four solo)
Onyx Carter: nine tackles (three solo), one sack, one tackle for loss
Arlo Henderson Jr.: five tackles (three solo), one interception
Landen Barger: four tackles (one solo)
Jordan Lasher: three tackles, one interception