The Yelm Tornados moved to 2-0 on Sept. 8 after the team’s commanding 62-34 victory over the Union Titans in the reigning 3A state champion’s final non-conference matchup of the regular season.
Fans packed Yelm’s stadium, which debuted its new visiting fan section behind the opposing sidelines, for the Tornados’ home opener. It wasn’t a typical Friday night football contest, as the Seattle Seahawks organization had a strong presence throughout the entire evening.
The Blue Thunder drumline performed often throughout the night, while the Seahawks dancers welcomed the Tornados to the field with the school’s cheerleaders and local youth football team participants. Former Pro Bowler and All-Pro Seattle Seahawk linebacker Lofa Tatupu assisted with the pregame coin toss and helped Yelm Community Schools President Bill Hauss raise the Seahawks’ 12th Man flag.
Following the 62-34 victory, Yelm’s offensive coordinator Bryan Irion said, throughout the week leading to the game, team members, specifically offensive players, challenged themselves to improve after an 8-7 win the week prior.
“We learned a lot about ourselves after only scoring eight points [Sept. 1],” Irion said. “As a group, we wanted to show that we could fill it up. The kids responded and worked to get better in practice all week.”
Once the action was underway, the Tornados lit up the scoreboard early and often. Junior running back Nathan Ford scored Yelm’s first touchdown of the night with a 17-yard rush, giving Yelm a 6-0 lead after a failed two-point try.
Union’s next drive was capped off by a punt, but Yelm’s special teams had more magic in them after the game-winning block the previous week.
A bad snap left Union’s punter scrambling and trying to get off a kick, but senior linebacker Anthony Kiamco caught the punt off the punter’s foot and scored after a 35-yard return. Yelm led 12-0.
The Tornados first-quarter offensive explosion continued when senior quarterback Damian Aalona connected with his twin brother, Marius Aalona, on a 21-yard touchdown pass.
“We played football growing up together. The connection has been there our whole life, and it showed tonight,” Damian Aalona said. “It’s awesome having Marius out there scoring touchdowns for the team.”
The brothers connected on two more passing touchdowns in the second quarter, from 16 and 5 yards.
“It was evident early in the game that Damian was in a rhythm, and we put the ball in his hands,” Irion said. “Him and Marius have a special connection, and it showed in the game.”
Damian Aalona finished his contest with four passing touchdowns, finding his twin for three and senior Onyx Carter for his fourth.
Ford scored his second touchdown of the game after a 1-yard dash into the end zone late in the first quarter. The junior running back scored his third rushing touchdown of the contest later in the third quarter, from 1 yard out for the second time.
Irion said Ford and Kiamco played big parts in Friday’s victory over Union.
“Kiamco and Ford complement each other well. They have different running styles but are both very effective in the run game,” Irion said. “They both had a great spring and summer, and it’s showing on Friday nights.”
The Tornados final touchdown of the game came from running back Ethan Owens, who scored from 5 yards out. The final score of the game was 62-34, in favor of the Tornados.
Union’s first touchdown went for 47 yards through the air at the end of the first quarter, but the Titans trailed 26-7. They later scored again in the second quarter on an 89-yard passing touchdown and on a 67-yard passing touchdown. Despite scoring 21 points in the first half, the Titans trailed, 48-20, at the break.
Senior quarterback Damian Aalona said a lot of mental work and effort off the field went into the team’s preparation for its victory over Union.
“We watched a lot of film coming into the game tonight. We watched a lot of film and worked on perfecting our craft in the short game and on deep balls,” he said. “Going forward, we’ll keep our heads in film and stay locked on. We’ll keep that going all season.”
Up next for the Yelm Tornados is the team’s first South Sound Conference matchup of the season. Kicking off at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15, the Tornados will square off against the Central Kitsap Cougars at Central Kitsap High School, 10140 Frontier Place NW in Silverdale.