This Tumwater High School football team looks a lot like the one responsible for a few late-game miracles during last year’s Class 2A playoff run.
Proudly trumpeting their famous “never give up, never never give up” slogan, the T-Birds did what they so often do Friday night at Bellevue High School — they found a way to win a football game.
“It’s going to go down as one of the big ones for us,” Tumwater coach Sid Otton said.
With two seconds remaining, quarterback Noah Andrews rolled to his left, slightly off-balance, and heaved a prayer into a crowded end zone. Cade Otton leaped, surrounded by several Bellevue defenders, and hauled in the 26-yard pass as time expired.
Tumwater’s sideline, and its cheering section, erupted as the T-Birds silenced Bellevue, 15-13, in the Wolverines opener. The game was, arguably, one of the toughest on Tumwater’s schedule. Bellevue (12 state titles) and Tumwater (five) have collected 17 state championships between the two of them.
“It’s not over ‘til it’s over — some little catcher said that for the Yankees years ago,” Sid Otton said, smiling.
“I thought they improvised really well, because we usually do that play to the right. He put it up there, and the big guy latched it out of the sky.”
Tumwater was reeling with less than two minutes left to play, and hadn’t scored since early in the second quarter. A missed field goal attempt, an interception return for a touchdown, and several series came up short in the second half.
Cade Otton, who, along with several other Tumwater players, has been sick most of the week, spent significant time during the second half on the sideline feeling dehydrated.
“It was a great game, we fought the whole way,” the University of Washington commit said. “Never gave up. It was just a great team win.”
Tumwater struck first on a 15-yard pass from Andrews to Otton early in the second quarter, as Bellevue continued to misstep.
For much of the game, the Wolverines did not look like the football team that rolled to 11 state championships between 2001-13. Multiple sanctions were placed on the Bellevue program — including a two-year postseason ban — prior to the season. Mark Landes, formerly the Wolverines’ special teams coach, replaced head coach Butch Goncharoff earlier this year.
While the T-Birds — who have outscored opponents 141-55 through three weeks — look primed to make another run at a state title, Bellevue, which was playing its first game, appears to be searching for direction.
Bellevue fumbled into the end zone on its fourth drive — it went three-and-out on its first three — after marching 59 yards down the field. Tumwater stopped the Wolverines short of the goal line twice before Isaiah Infanse, a former Thurston County Youth Football League player, lost the ball stretching for the goal line.
Andrews scooped it up for Tumwater in the end zone, forcing a touchback.
The T-Birds went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, but Bellevue, again, fumbled the punt return, and Tumwater regained possession.
On two successive drives in the second half, the Wolverines were forced to settle for field goals after penalties pushed them to fourth-and-long. Thomas Monaghan connected for two field goals of 31 and 42 yards to give Bellevue a late advantage. The Wolverines recorded 11 penalties for 79 yards.
Bellevue’s touchdown came on a 35-yard interception return by Ifanse early in the third.
With one minute, 31 seconds remaining, Bellevue went three-and-out, and, backed up to its own goal line, took a safety. That led to Tumwater’s 66-yard scoring drive, and Cade Otton’s game-winning catch.
“I came in the huddle and said, ‘We’re doing this together,’ ” Andrews said. “We drove all the way down and scored. Two seconds left? It doesn’t get better than that.”
The win happened to fall on the night of Sid and Marjean Otton’s 50th wedding anniversary. Sid Otton, 72, will retire this season as Washington’sall-time winningest high school coach.
“That’s really special to get this done today, and hopefully we’ve got 11 more on the way,” Cade Otton said.
Tumwater 0 7 0 8_15
Bellevue 0 0 10 3_13
T — Cade Otton 15 pass from Noah Andrews (Nathan Seaman kick)
B — Isaiah Ifanse 35 interception return (Thomas Monaghan kick)
B — Thomas Monaghan field goal
B — Thomas Monaghan field goal
T — Otton 26 pass from Andrews