Skip to main content

Bracket Breakdown: WIAA 2A state football tournament semifinal previews, stat leaders, game picks

Tumwater coach Willie Garrow has Thunderbirds right back where they're used to being in first year at helm

During his three-year stint as North Thurston's football coach from 2016-18, Tumwater coach Willie Garrow said he learned how to do a lot of things the wrong way.

Garrow's time at North Thurston didn't quite go as planned and he joined Tumwater's staff as an assistant in 2019.

With coach Bill Beattie stepping down following the 2022 season, Garrow threw his name into the hat to be Tumwater's just fifth coach in program history – a job he eventually was hired for.

Fast forward to present day and the Garrow-led Thunderbirds are undefeated, the top seed in the WIAA Class 2A state tournament and gearing up for a semifinal matchup with No. 4 seed North Kitsap this weekend.

"That first time (at North Thurston) I made a lot of mistakes," Garrow said.

Going into his second gig leading a program, Garrow gave a lot of the credit to the coaches he's worked with at Tumwater since 2019.

"I learned the importance of trusting the people you work with, having great assistants, having a system everyone believes in and having the ship pointed in the right direction," he said. "(Former) coach (Sid) Otton did a great job of building that foundation. I never got to work for him, but when I got the chance to work underneath coach (Bill) Beattie I saw how he was a fantastic leader and how he was able to really have great coaches and trust those guys and let them do what they do."

With such a strong foundation in place did Garrow think Tumwater would be the top dog in Class 2A this postseason?

No, he admitted, but he called Tumwater a unique community in the way it supports athletics and how much the athletes buy in, so, where the program is today isn't a total surprise.

"Anytime there is a transition at the top there's questions about what the program is going to do and if it will maintain its level of success," Garrow said. "Our kids worked really hard and embraced a few changes here and there. Our assistant coaches that we have are an incredible group and they stepped up and have shown they're committed to keeping Tumwater doing what its always done and that's competing at the highest level."

Going into this weekend's showdown with North Kitsap, Garrow said he and his team know they're not going to get the same type of game they got in the regular season from the Vikings - a 34-14 win for Tumwater.

Not at full strength back in Week 2, the Vikings are completely healthy now and Garrow is expecting a dogfight.

"(North Kitsap) has clearly improved over the course of the season," Garrow said. "They're dynamic, they've got playmakers all over the field and they're super physical up front. I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to be a four-quarter game without question."

Editor’s note: Here’s a game-by-game breakdown, including top individual performers, outlook and score predictions of this weekend’s 2023 WIAA Class 2A semifinal matchups.



2023 Washington high school football, Class 2A quarterfinals: Highline at Enumclaw

3 p.m. Saturday at Anacortes High School

Statistical leaders: For Enumclaw – QB Gunnar Trachte (110-165, 1,653 yards, 26 TDs), RB Tristan Donovan (133 carries, 979 yards, 14 TDs), RB Seamus Twohey (68 carries, 416 yards, 13 TDs), WR Karson Holt (48 catches, 619 yards, six TDs; 81 tackles, 18 TFL, eight sacks on defense) and LB Anthony Mills (89 tackles, one TFL) and DL Ryker Popke (94 tackles, 15 TFL). For Anacortes – QB Rex Larson (139-186, 2,023 yards, 21 TDs), RB/LB Brock Beaner (99 carries, 984 yards, 17 TDs; 234 receiving yards; 65 tackles, 11 TFL, six sacks, three FF, two INTs on defense), WR/LB Rylin Lang (40 catches, 510 yards, nine TDs; 66 tackles, seven TFL, three FF, one INT on defense), ATH Brady Beaner (441 rushing yards, 580 receiving yards, 11 TDs; 74 tackles, three TFL, two FF, nine PBUs on defense) and LB Tyler Olson (55 tackles, 11 TFL, two INTs).

What to watch for: Unlike the other matchup, the winner here advances to its first WIAA title game in school history. In fact, the Seahawks have never been to the state semifinals - until now. Brock Beaner is the engine on offense, but if teams load up to stop him, Larson can sling it to a cadre of perimeter playmakers, notably Brady Beaner and Lang. Does Enumclaw have those in-space athletes to match up? DB Dac Herrell is its best cover guy, but coach Mark Gunderson is high on Wyatt Neu, Alec Johnson and Drew Francis in the secondary as well. On offense, the Hornets will pound away with the run game - but the key is how effective and efficient Trachte is on timing throws against a ball-hawking defensive backfield when given the opportunity. They will need to be turnover-free to capture a road victory.

Pick: Anacortes, 35-28



2023 Washington high school football: North Kitsap at Mount Tahoma

5 p.m. Saturday at Tumwater District Stadium, Tumwater

Statistical leaders: For North Kitsap – QB Cole Edwards (154-230, 2,064 yards, 23 TDs), RB Carter Dungy (188 carries, 1,126 yards, 20 TDs), RB Morgan Paul (26 carries, 238 yards, three TDs), WR/DB Logan Sloman (55 receptions, 951 yards, 17 TDs; 41 tackles, 13 PBUs, six INTs on defense). For Tumwater – QB Ethan Kastner (70-95, 1,332 yards, 22 TDs), RB Kooper Clark (84 carries, 978 yards, 16 TDs), RB Logan Cole (61 carries, 626 yards, 15 TDs), RB Jaylin Nixon (50 carries, 576 yards, six TDs), TE Jacob Dillon (19 catches, 487 yards, seven TDs) and LB Beckett Wall (54 tackles, nine TFL, three sacks) and DL Malijah Tucker (46 tackles, 17 TFL, six sacks).

What to watch for: For a pair of champions in different leagues (Tumwater in 2A Evergreen; North Kitsap in 2A Olympic), they sure have seen each other often in the past 15 months. This will be their third encounter - with the Thunderbirds winning the previous two games, including a 34-13 second-week win in Poulsbo. The question is - how will the Vikings generate offense if Tumwater schemes to take away Sloman, the all-state wide receiver? Lelond Anderson, Ethan Guerra and Alex Hitchings have to beat aggressive coverage and make plays in the pass game for Edwards. In the first meeting in September, North Kitsap was down four starters, including Sloman, a two-way standout. This time around, there are no excuses - the team that comes out enjoys a free WIAA title-game ride to Husky Stadium.

Pick: Tumwater, 28-27