In a hard-hitting game against an unbeaten opponent Friday at South Sound Stadium, Tumwater was special on special teams.
The Thunderbirds rode two kicking-game touchdowns to their fifth straight win, 28-12, over North Thurston, which lost for the first time this season.
In a non-league game that both coaches saw as a gauge of their teams’ progress heading down the stretch, Tumwater scored on a punt return and a blocked punt, and the Thunderbirds’ sure-tackling defense made yardage hard to come by for North Thurston’s fleet of running backs.
“From Game 1 (a loss to Shelton) to Game 6, it’s 100 percent improvement,” Tumwater coach Sid Otton said. “We beat a really good football team tonight.”
After a promising North Thurston drive fizzled near midfield late in the first half, David Durden blocked the punt. The ball fell into the hands of the T-Birds’ Trevor Davis, whose 38-yard return gave Tumwater a 14-6 halftime lead.
Special teams and the special talent of Andrew Brown got the T-Birds another kicking-game touchdown early in the second half. Brown fielded a Rams punt on a bounce, sidestepped the nearest defender, found space along the left sideline and made the last defender miss on the way to a 78-yard TD.
Tumwater took the game’s opening kickoff and drove 61 yards in 11 plays, with 6-foot-2, 255-pound defender Jaimie Bryant lining up at fullback from the 2 and packing it into the end zone.
Early in the second quarter, Brandon Belisario broke free for a 23-yard gain around left end to the 4. Two plays later, Hayden Maliska took it in from a yard out as the Rams made it 7-6.
North Thurston got it to 21-12 late in the third quarter. Rams wide receiver Tru Hicks ran for a 12-yard gain on the first play of a 64-yard drive that ended on a 10-yard scoring pass from Ryan Mets to Hicks. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
The Rams’ momentum didn’t last as Tumwater quarterback Jayden Croft answered with a 26-yard TD pass to Brown.