YHS football celebrates signing day; six seniors sign letters of intent


Family, friends, classmates and teammates gathered in the Yelm High School commons on Wednesday, Feb. 7, to celebrate six college-bound Tornados, who signed their national letters of intent (NLI) to continue their football careers at the college level.

Damian Aalona, quarterback, and his twin brother, Marius Aalona, wide receiver, signed their NLIs to play football and study at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Oregon. Tyler Blevins, left tackle, signed to continue his football career and study at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while his teammate on the offensive line, guard Kyle Kaaiwela, signed to continue playing football and study at Oklahoma Baptist University, in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive tackle Landen Barger signed to play at Montana Technological University in Butte, Montana. His teammate Onyx Carter, outside linebacker, inked his signature to continue his football and education at Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota.

Prior to Feb. 7, Brayden Platt, University of Oregon, Isaiah Patterson, University of California, Los Angeles, Kenji Scanlan, University of Idaho, and Arlo Henderson Jr., Southern Oregon University, signed to their respective universities.

“It’s pretty incredible for a high school football team to have 10 boys sign on to play at the next level. This year was pretty extraordinary,” Yelm High School Athletic Director Rob Hill said. “Every one of these guys up here, yeah, they can play football, but on top of that, I’d let any one of these guys house sit for me, watch my dogs. These guys are all phenomenal kids, young men, and I’m glad you guys represented the Y so well.”

Head coach Jason Ronquillo said the players signing are “living the dream” by committing to their respective universities. He said he’s very excited for each of the college-bound athletes because they’ve accomplished “one hell of a goal” during their Tornado tenures.

“What you’ve done and accomplished while you’ve been here has been an absolute miracle,” Ronquillo said to the players. “It’s been a huge dream for the entire community, but now it’s your turn to dream on your own.”


Damian and Marius Aalona

Eastern Oregon University

Twins Damian and Marius Aalona committed to Eastern Oregon University. Damian will continue playing quarterback, while Marius was recruited to play wide receiver after serving as a two-way starter at Yelm.

“We really appreciated our visit,” Damian said. “The hospitality was awesome, and you can’t beat their prices. The facilities are nice, too. We felt that we could fit in there. No matter what, I’ll do whatever it takes for the team to win. Whether it’s handing the ball off or making a big throw, I’ll do what I need to do.”

Marius added, “I think the fit was the biggest part. It feels good to call Eastern Oregon University home. No matter what, we’re here to win.”

The twins both said it was incredibly special to them to sign with their teammates and in front of friends and family on signing day.

“We grew up with all of these guys up here, and it’s really special to share this moment with them,” Damian said. “It means a lot to us to be able to do it together as a team, like we’ve always done.”

Marius added, “It means a lot to see all of them sign and grow as individuals and as athletes. I think it makes me more happy to see them going to the next level too.”


Onyx Carter

Minot State University

Outside linebacker Onyx Carter committed to Minot State University on Jan. 26 and described his upcoming journey to Minot, North Dakota, as a big opportunity.

“I think the education piece led to my commitment. They have good professors and a good professor-to-student ratio. All of the coaches there are very hospitable. It’s a big opportunity,” Carter said. “I’ve always had the dream since I was a little kid that I’d get to play ball somewhere. Maybe a big school, maybe a small school, but who cares. I get to keep playing ball.”

Carter said that it meant a lot to him and his five teammates to share the signing day experience.

“All six of us are going to the next level. It’s really special,” he said. “It’s a big opportunity for all of us, and we’re going to ball out wherever we go.”

Tyler Blevins

University of Pennsylvania

The offensive lineman Blevins committed to the University of Pennsylvania on Dec. 15 and said it was worth the wait to sign with five of his teammates.

“I think it’s a huge accomplishment for the Yelm program,” Blevins said. “The fact that not only we have four D-I kids signing, but 10 total to programs across the country. I think it’s huge and says a lot about what we have here with our program. I’m proud of all of these guys.”

He added that it was incredibly special to sign with two of his “brothers on the offensive line,” Barger, who will play defensive tackle in college, and Kaaiwela.

“I think signing with them was really fun. I’m happy they’ve both found homes that they’ll love. I think both of those places fit them really well,” Blevins said. “With Barger going to Montana, that dude is country as heck. He is all country. With Kyle, he has family down in Texas, and I think he’ll fit in down in Oklahoma. I’m glad we got to share the table.”


Kyle Kaaiwela

Oklahoma Baptist University

Kaaiwela committed to Oklahoma Baptist University on Jan. 20 after playing on the Yelm offensive line for three seasons. Like his teammates, Kaaiwela was thankful for the opportunity to sign with his “brothers.”

“It’s really exciting to be here signing with five of my teammates. It feels great to celebrate all of the work we’ve put in until this point,” Kaaiwela said. “It’s truly a blessing to share this moment with Landen and Tyler, too. We’ve worked together since we were young, training with the older guys. To be able to get to this moment where we dreamed, going to college and getting that education, it’s definitely special for us.”


Landen Barger

Montana Tech

Barger committed to Montana Tech on Sept. 20 and said he postponed signing so he could do it with teammates.

“It’s definitely a pretty special moment. I wanted to wait to sign, because I committed early, so I could let my teammates decide where they were going to go. This moment is something I’ve looked forward to since I started high school,” Barger said. “It’s a little surreal. I’m ready to embrace what’s coming next. I’ll embrace this opportunity and step right into my future.”

Barger also thanked Yelm football fans for their support throughout his four years as a starter.

“Thank you to the community for everything you’ve done,” Barger said. “Thank you for supporting me and the Yelm team on our journey to do everything we’ve accomplished. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without them.”