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Bracket Breakdown: WIAA 3A state football tournament semifinal previews, stat leaders, game picks

Can the next Yelm-Eastside Catholic chapter live up to last year's epic Class 3A title game - a Tornados' final-minute 20-13 victory?
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It will be hard to top last season’s Class 3A state football championship game between Yelm and Eastside Catholic.

It was an instant classic - a bang-bang, last-minute 20-13 Tornados' victory in Puyallup.

Can the sequel, albeit in the state semifinals Saturday, top the original version?


"It’s going to be a great matchup and I think a very physical football game," said Yelm coach Jason Ronquillo of the rematch. "We’ve got two of the best defenses in the state of Washington. They always say, ‘Defense wins championships.’ On Saturday you will see very good performances from both defenses. I guess the game plan is to figure out which offense can crack the code.

"It’s going to be a battle."

Last season’s game-turning play in the 3A title game gained national recognition and left the Crusaders stinging.

The Tornados scored late on an improbable pass connection.

The difference was a 54-yard touchdown pass from Damian Aalona to Kyler Ronquillo, who turned what initially looked like a potential game-sealing interception by Eastside Catholic’s Tyson Weaver into a quick six points with 52 seconds remaining. Ronquillo, now graduated and playing at Princeton, raced the final 28 yards into the end zone to turn the tide in Yelm's favor.

Points will be at a premium when the Tornados (12-0) and Crusaders (9-2) square off again Saturday at 6 p.m. at Spanaway’s Art Crate Stadium. Eastside Catholic will be looking to flip the 2022 outcome.

"I think it’s easy to say that one play cost us the game or whatever, right?" said Eastside Catholic coach Dominic Daste, who has 50-plus players back from the 2022 squad. "But we had a lot of other opportunities to put points on the board and execute and things of that nature. That (Yelm) kid made a helluva play and he did a great job.

"But there’s no one play that dictates a game."

Daste knows that his squad will be facing a similar one to last season’s Tornados, who return seven starters on offense and six on defense.

"I think there’s some staples in their program, and it’s just how they live life in terms of effort and how they play the game with a physicalness," Daste said. "That’s just part of Yelm’s program and it’s ingrained in their everyday life.

"They are a physical brand of football and well-coached."

The leader for Yelm is Oregon-bound Brayden Platt, who sets the tone with his physical play at linebacker and with his bruising running style at running back.

"We’re going to be aware of where he is," Daste said of the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Platt. "He’s probably one of the best linebackers in the state of Washington, if not the West Coast. He’s a playmaker and he disrupts so much (on defense)."

Ronquillo is glad he has a once-in-a-lifetime talent in Platt.

"He means the world to us," he said. "We love Brayden Platt, you know his personality, the way that he plays the game, the way he appreciates the game and the way he prepares for every single game we have.

"All he’s done over the course of the last four years is get bigger, faster and stronger. It seems like he just continually gets faster and faster. It’s amazing at how somebody, that’s that big of a person, can actually be that fast of a human."

Platt, who covered 100 meters in 11 seconds as a junior in track and field, might appear super-human at times.

The Crusaders will be ready.

"We don’t like to lose to anybody," Daste said. "Our kids who return from last year, they obviously kind of want to even the match at one apiece."

Ronquillo sees some similarities on video between the two teams’ defenses.

"Just watching Eastside Catholic on tape, they remind me of us," Ronquillo said. "They are super physical and pursue to the ball really well. They are very sound tacklers on defense. Their secondary is very gifted. They’ve got a lot of athletes in their secondary. And, they are going to make it very difficult to run the ball."

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 3A football semifinal matchups.



Central Catholic Oregon vs Bellevue Washington football September 2 2023 Ken Waz 77

2 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Seattle

Statistical leaders: For Bellevue – QB Lucas Razore (41-68, 880 yards, 15 TDs; 12 carries, 33 yards, TD), RB Max Jones (128 carries, 1,037 yards, 15 TDs), RB Blake Teets (76 carries, 697 yards, nine TDs; four catches, 77 yards), RB Carson Rubin (77 carries, 622 yards, six TDs), RB Matthew Reed (44 carries, 500 yards, four TDs), ATH Ryken Moon (40 carries, 408 yards, 4 TDs; five catches, 132 yards, two TDs; 39.5 tackles, 4.5 TFL on defense), RB Trevin King (17 carries, 185 yards, three TDs), TE Hogan Hansen (10 catches, 215 yards, four TDs; 32 tackles, three sacks, 9.5 TFL on defense), WR/RB Bryce Smith (seen catches, 160 yards, three TDs) and LB Leo Ryals (56.5 tackles, sack, TFL). For O’Dea – QB Antone Araujo (31-51, 553 yards, seven TDs; 29 carries, 181 yards, five TDs), RB Jason Brown Jr. (140 carries, 1,813 yards, 34 TDs; two catches, 52 yards, TD), WR Kyan McDonald (nine catches, 192 yards, TD), TE Zander Turner (six catches, 101 yards, two TD) and DL Paki Crawford (22 sacks).

What to watch for: Both teams' mantra: Run the ball and play tough, aggressive defense. Essentially, both teams will be looking at each other in the mirror. O’Dea has a home-run hitter in Brown Jr. while Bellevue has a cast of playmakers. Plus, the Irish are too rangy and physical with their front seven on defense - and coach Monte Kohler has seen the Wolverines’ Wing-T running attack and knows how to prepare for it. Bellevue’s only losses of the season are to state contenders from two different states – Lake Stevens (4A, Washington state) and Central Catholic of Portland, Ore. (6A). The Wolverines are peaking at the right time and getting some injured players back, but it won’t be quite enough against the Irish’s size and talent in the trenches.

Pick: O'Dea, 21-17.



2023 Washington high school football: Eastside Catholic at O'Dea

6 p.m. Saturday at Art Crate Stadium, Spanaway

Statistical leaders: For Eastside Catholic – QB Jake Tiryakioglu (96-152, 1,745 yards, 20 TDs; 26 carries, 142 yards), RB Jeremiah Burroughs (116 carries, 771 yards, eight TDs; six catches, 162 yards, TD), RB Nick Jones (62 carries, 319 yards, seven TDs), WR Asa Thompson (33 catches, 613 yards, nine TDs), WR Tyson Weaver (14 catches, 469 yards, four TDs), WR Jayden Reyes (27 catches, 298 yards, four TDs) and LB Cody Thumlert (57 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) and DL AJ Tanupo(44 tackles, 9.5 TFL, sack), and LB Wassie Lugolobi (56 tackles, 9.5 TFL, five sacks). For Yelm – QB Damian Aalona (141-206, 2,036 yards, 30 TDs), RB Brayden Platt (92 carries, 1,105 yards, 22 TDs; 88 tackles, 20 TFL, INT on defense), RB Anthony Kiamco (73 carries, 928 yards, six TDs; 14 catches, 183 yards, TD; 15 special-teams returns, 477 yards, four TDs; two INTs for TDs on defense), WR Marius Aalona (50 catches, 811 yards, 15 TDs), TE Jacob Tracy (16 catches, 209 yards, four TDs) and LB Isaiah Patterson (90 tackles, 17 TFL), DL Tracy (85 tackles, nine TFL, three sacks) and LB Onyx Carter (78 tackles, 11 TFL, six sacks, TD).

What to watch for: The rematch of last season’s Class 3A championship should be another epic showdown featuring stout defenses. The defending state champion Tornados give up just 9.7 points per game; Eastside Catholic yields only 6.7 points an outing. Something has to give as two of the most physical defenses in the state go toe to toe. The difference for Yelm could be the play of Oregon commit Platt on both sides of the ball as he'll throw around his 6-foot-2, 240-pound frame. Nothing will come easy for either offense and one area to watch will be the Tornados’ playmakers at running back and receiver against a talented defensive back crew for Eastside Catholic. One big play again could decide the outcome - and it just feels like the Tornados have one more playmaker on offense.

Pick: Yelm, 16-10.


(Featured file photo by Vince Miller)