Tumwater’s Andrew May wasn’t sure the play would be called a fumble or simply an incomplete pass. So he saved the referees from having to make the determination.
Pressured under a swarm of Thunderbirds defenders, Washington quarterback Martin Mendiola was hit almost immediately as he dropped back to pass, popping the ball loose.
The ball appeared destined for the turf before a streaking May caught it in stride and raced 20 yards for a score.
The play capped an overwhelming first half for Tumwater and led to a running clock.
Jakob Holbrook and Trayten Rodriguez each scored two rushing touchdowns, Cade Otton added a short TD run and the Thunderbirds opened the Class 2A state playoffs with a 44-7 victory over Washington on Friday at Tumwater District Stadium.
“It’s just nice the playoffs are finally here,” May said. “This is why we played the schedule we played this year. This is why we played teams like Bellevue and Union. We wanted to be tested before the playoffs.”
Tumwater (10-1) nearly notched its third consecutive shutout, but the Patriots (7-4) were able to get on the board late in the fourth quarter long after the T-Birds emptied their bench.
“The last six weeks or so the defense has played very well,” said Tumwater coach Sid Otton, who improved his career state playoff record to 47-19. “The offense looked crisp tonight as well.”
Tumwater, which improved to 20-5 all-time in the first round of the state playoffs, will host Archbishop Murphy in the quarterfinals. The Wildcats, who have had five wins by forfeit this season, improved to 11-0 by defeating previously undefeated North Kitsap, 34-0, in the first round.
“Archbishop Murphy is definitely a good football team,” Sid Otton said. “We’ve played them here (in the playoffs) before and in the (Tacoma) Dome. They got us a few years ago, but it always seems to be a good matchup.”
The quarterfinal game will be the fifth all-time meeting between the programs, with the T-Birds holding a 3-1 advantage. Tumwater cruised to victory in the inaugural contest between the state powers, posting a 34-14 win in the 2A state championship game in 2010.
The Wildcats easily won the rematch the following year, 41-6 at Tumwater, but have dropped the last two against the T-Birds, including a 24-21 nail-biter in the 2015 state semifinals.
Quarterback Noah Andrews, who was on the receiving end of the winning 10-yard touchdown pass with 75 seconds remaining in last year’s playoff game against Archbishop Murphy, directed Tumwater’s offense to near perfection against Washington.
The T-Birds, making their 25th state playoff appearance, scored on all five of their first-half possessions, including a 37-yard field goal from Nathan Seaman late in the second quarter, to post a 44-0 lead at the break.
Andrews completed all three of his pass attempts in the first half for 56 yards, including a 35-yard pass to Cade Otton that set up Rodriguez’s second TD run. Andrews added 57 rushing yards on two carries, helping the T-Birds outgain the Patriots, 306-28, before the break
Holbrook scored on runs of 1 and 3 yards, while Rodriguez scampered in from 44 and 3 yards out.
Cade Otton opened the scoring with a 1-yard plunge.
Tumwater 44, Washington 7
Washington 0 0 0 7 - 7
Tumwater 14 30 0 0 - 44
T-Cade Otton 1 run (Nathan Seaman kick)
T-Trayten Rodriguez 44 run (Seaman kick)
T-Jakob Holbrook 1 run (Seman kick)
T-Holbrook 3 run (Seaman kick)
T-Rodriguez 3 run (kick failed)
T-Andrew May 20 interception return (Seaman kick)
T-Seaman 37 FG
W-Martin Mendiola 31 pass from Xavier Alefaio (Peyton Hilliard kick)