The News Tribune’s All-Area football team has become an annual Thanksgiving Day tradition, highlighting the season’s best players from the South Sound – a region comprised of more than 60 schools and nine leagues – ranging from Class 4A to 1B.
The team is carefully selected with help from coaches. This year, 21 different South Sound schools are represented with players and coaches on the All-Area first team. The 30 spots, including the player of the year, broken down by leagues are 4A SPSL (9), 4A NPSL (6), 3A PCL (6), 2A SPSL (6), 2A Evergreen (2) and 3A SSC (1).
Over the years, many of the players on the TNT All-Area team have gone on to play major-college football and also in the NFL.
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ALL-AREA PLAYER OF THE YEAR
All -Area player of the year and running back, 6-0, 190, senior
Here’s all you need to know about Wedington’s athleticism: Has 13 touchdowns of more than 35 yards this season, either by rushing, receiving or returning a punt or kick. Had a touchdown of 50 yards or more in each of the first seven games before separating shoulder. In the games he’s had at least 10 carries the past two years, he has rushed for more than 100 yards.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my support system, the Sumner community and all my family and friends. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Running back, 5-10, 185, senior
One of the best running backs to ever come out of Olympia High School. Speed and power allowed the 4A SPSL co-offensive player of the year to rush for 1,892 yards and 36 touchdowns this season. Gunther didn’t beat Bellarmine Prep with his four rushing TDs, but with his 89-yard kick return TD in the third quarter and the go-ahead 35-yard receiving TD.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family.”
Quarterback, 6-1, 195, senior
Set the state 11-man record for passing touchdowns in a game (10) against South Kitsap. And set the 4A SPSL record for passing yards and total offense, which had stood since Lakes Drew Miller lit up the area in 1995. Holcomb finished 247-for-434 for 3,649 yards with 42 touchdowns and nine interceptions in taking the Vikings to the district playoffs.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family. My grandparents and my mom and dad. They have really pushed me to success and given me the layout for everything that I’ve earned this year.”
Multipurpose, 5-9, 175, senior
What a fun player to watch. Two-time league MVP scored touchdowns throwing the ball, running it, returning an interception, returning a punt and returning a kick. All over the field, one of the most amazing seasons this area has seen. Completed 128 of 214 passes for 2,473 yards and 32 TDs and ran for 1,473 yards and another 19 TDs. Accounted for 59 total TDs.
Thankful for in 2016: “My support system throughout my life. And God blessing me with the talents I’ve been given, and everyone around me who supports me in everything I do.”
Running back, 6-0, 190, junior
Missed all of his sophomore season with a knee injury. So what did he do this year? Smith ran ragged on the 4A SPSL, finishing the year as the South Sound’s leading rusher with 228 carries for 2,034 yards and 26 touchdowns. His breakaway speed combined with a dominant offensive line made for an electric Graham-Kapowsin rushing attack.
Thankful for in 2016: “The support I get from my family and my coaches. I’m also thankful to be able to play the game that I love with my brothers.”
Marques Hampton Jr.
Wide receiver, 6-0, 195, senior
Not only the Sentinels’ go-to receiver, Hampton was also a lock-down cornerback, finishing as a 2A SPSL Sound first-team wide receiver and defensive back. But he’ll go to Eastern Washington University thanks to his quick burst and smooth route running. Set school record for receiving yards last season and caught 73 passes for 969 yards and 13 TDs this year.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my mom, my dad, my little sister, my coaches and friends who have helped me get to this moment.”
Tight end, 6-2, 215, senior
Lindsay is a two-time All-Area selection for the Lancers after leading them to the state playoffs two consecutive years. Was slowed this year by a preseason hamstring injury but was still a first-team 3A Pierce County League tight end and the front-seven player of the year. He led Lakes in tackles and will head to Eastern Washington University as a linebacker.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family and my friends and the opportunity to play this game.”
All-purpose, 6-0, 185, junior
What didn’t “Jiggy Jo” do this year? Finished with 1,919 all-purpose yards, starting games as the Royals’ running back, wide receiver, kick returner, defensive back and punt returner. Had 783 receiving yards (11 TDs), 540 kick-return yards (3 TDs), 395 rushing yards (3 TDs) and had six interceptions (2 TDs). Selected as the 4A NPSL Cascade DB of the year.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family, coaches and to play the game of football.”
Wide receiver, 6-4, 175, senior
Coach Sheldon Cross called Thurber “the most explosive WR in the state.” Hard to disagree with that considering Thurber finished the year with 53 catches for 1,205 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging more than 22 yards per catch. The three-sport athlete caught six passes for 209 yards and four touchdowns in a Week 7 win against Tahoma.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family, friends and the support from the Lancers.”
Ulumoo “MJ” Ale
Offensive lineman, 6-6, 320, junior
Ale was a three-time Australian Golden Gloves heavyweight boxing champion before he moved to Washington and began playing football. He had tried to request a waiver to play without a helmet so it would be just like he’s playing rugby (it was denied). Was the 2A SPSL Mountain’s defensive lineman of the year and a first-team offensive lineman.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family and friends who have been there for me. My coaches and my teammates.”
John Blasco Jr.
Offensive lineman, 6-6, 290, senior
Had more than 55 pancake blocks this season for the Tigers, who reached the playoffs for the first time in the 100-plus year history of the school. Blasco paved the way for the 3A Pierce County League’s top offense and “was the unequivocal leader of our football team,” Stadium coach Thomas Ford Jr. said.
Thankful for in 2016: “My family, my friends for supporting me and helping me get to where I’m at. I’m thankful for God for blessing with the ability that I have. And Wingstop on 38th street. It’s a big part of my life.”
Offensive lineman, 6-7, 310, senior
It’s probably going to be a long time before there is another offensive lineman in this state as gifted as Sarell. Was so impactful as a left tackle (and even playing some defense) that he was voted co-MVP of the 4A SPSL alongside Sumner’s Connor Wedington. Paved way for Graham-Kapowsin to rush for 2,000 yards as a team in each of his four years as a starter.
Thankful for in 2016: “Having the great support of my family and friends, having a healthy body and having the opportunity go to the next level to play football.”
Offensive lineman, 6-1, 275, senior
Vise earned the 2A SPSL Mountain’s offensive lineman of the year, but was also a first-team defensive lineman for the 2A SPSL champion Cardinals, leading the team in tackles with 65. Franklin Pierce would even line him up in the backfield in goal-line situations (four of his seven total carries were touchdowns) and was also the team’s backup punter and placekicker.
Thankful for in 2016: “I just thank God for giving me the opportunity to play football and for my support system for supporting me throughout the whole year.”
Offensive lineman, 6-4, 305, senior
This left tackle was part of the winningest senior class in Lincoln history. He won 38 games in his four years at the school, with Lincoln winning at least a share of a league title in all four. The 3A Pierce County League’s offensive lineman of the year, who committed to play football at WSU, helped pave way for Tristian Kwon’s 1,502 rushing yards.
Thankful for in 2016: “My mom, my support system and God.”
Punter, 6-2, 185, junior
Alfrey pinned opponents inside their own 20 nine times this season, but it was more his threat to take off for a first down that kept defenders on their toes. Alfrey was the 4A NPSL Olympic’s all-purpose player of the year. He threw for 1,051 yards filling in at quarterback, ran for 581 yards and had 221 receiving yards. Also led team with 61 solo tackles.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful for my family, my support system, the coaches and my teammates.”
Kicker, 6-2, 200, senior
Unanimous first-team 4A NPSL Olympic all-league selection at kicker. Converted 8 of 10 field goals, including three of more than 40 yards and 30 touchbacks. His season long was a 45-yard field goal and Auburn Riverside coach Bryant Thomas said Starkel’s two misses were because of bad snaps. Starkel is a standout goalkeeper for school’s soccer team.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my friends and family and coaches for supporting me all year and being at every game and encouraging me to perform.”
Defensive lineman, 6-4, 280, senior
All-Area offensive lineman last year. All-Area defensive line this year. Davis wreaked havoc for Bonney Lake’s No. 1 defense in the 3A Pierce County League, leading the league in tackles for loss (23.5) and sacks (12.5) to earn league MVP. “I think he is the best defensive lineman in the state,” Bonney Lake coach Jason Silbaugh said. “And a dominant offensive lineman.”
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful for my family. They are the ones who have been there through everything I’ve gone through. Through the hard times and the good times. I’m thankful for the coaches, too, for supporting me through everything I’ve done and teaching me to be a better person and a better leader.”
Defensive lineman, 6-3, 210, senior
Led the 4A NPSL with five sacks in an Olympic division with few pocket passers. Liulama-Mitchell also helped the Titans’ defense only allow a league-best 13.1 points per game during the regular season. “His first step as a defensive end and outside linebacker is as good as it probably gets,” Beamer coach Darren McKay said.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for God, family and my support system.”
Defensive lineman, 6-3, 295, senior
Few things were as intimidating to 4A SPSL quarterbacks and running backs as Matheney charging with his “Big Grill” facemask. He’ll be at Eastern Washington University next year after his 52 tackles, seven tackles for loss and two sacks this season, despite being double- and triple-teamed most games. “Very dominant force in the middle,” Olympia coach Bill Beattie said.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful for God for blessing me with the opportunities I’ve had. My family and my support system, my coaches and my team.”
Defensive lineman, 6-5, 235, senior
The last All-Area defensive end to double as his team’s quarterback? That was Tahoma’s Amandre Williams, who is now at the UW. Sanders is headed to WSU after earning the 2A SPSL Sound MVP. He threw for 1,304 yards on offense and had 21 tackles, four for loss, and two sacks on defense before leading the Hawks to the state quarterfinals.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful for the people who are in my life, helping me through hard times. I’m thankful for football, basketball and everything. Just life.”
Defensive back, 6-3, 190, senior
Boston’s size and athleticism caused big problems for receivers, and his speed to break toward underneath routes takes away the opponents’ short-passing game. Those same attributes also make him a dominant wide receiver, earning first-team all-4A SPSL honors after catching 69 passes for 859 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also returned a kick 92 yards for a TD against Puyallup.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family. All the support I’ve got from them. They’ve shown me love and support throughout my high school career and they’ve really helped me strive for anything I’ve wanted to do.”
Defensive back, 6-1, 195, senior
Earned the 3A South Sound Conference’s defensive player of the year in leading the Seahawks to the 3A state quarterfinals. Cantu was also a big contributor on offense, with 693 rushing yards and 108 receiving yards before the loss to Meadowdale. Also had three interceptions on a defense that only allowed 10.7 points per game, second fewest in Class 3A.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my friends, family and coaches for pushing me along the way and for helping me becomes the athlete that I am today.”
Defensive back, 5-11, 190, junior
How big of an impact can Tre Weed make? Just watch the tape of last week’s game versus Woodinville in the state quarterfinals. Weed’s 132 rushing yards gives him 1,110 for the season and his interception pushes his team-best total to seven. The only player that 4A SPSL coaches selected to the first team on offense and defense also has 613 receiving yards.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for God and family and football and my friends.”
Defensive back, 6-2, 185, senior
The 4A NPSL Cascade’s all-purpose player of the year transferred to 4A Mount Rainer after playing eight-man football at Seattle Lutheran as a junior. Young played quarterback this year and ran for 1,021 yards during the regular season — most in the 4A NPSL — and threw for 801 yards. As a safety, Young picked off four passes en route to leading the Rams to the playoffs.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for God putting me into this position to be at Mount Rainier this year. And playing with TJ (Grier). He’s been a brother since I was a little kid, so it was good to be back with him my senior year. And thank you to my family for supporting me.”
Linebacker, 6-0, 230, senior
Two-time All-Area linebacker and league defensive player of the year. Carter, a four-year starter, holds every school tackles record there is at River Ridge. “Plays downhill, and reads guards like no other linebacker I have ever coached in 25 years,” River Ridge coach Steve Schultz said. “Best football player I have ever coached.”
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m thankful for the support I got from my coaches, my teammates and my family. They are always by my side, behind my back, pushing me to do better.”
Linebacker, 6-6, 225, senior
The Hail Mary catch to beat Bellevue, then another late TD catch to beat Union. Otton came through when his team needed him most. The UW-bound senior had 820 receiving yards as a tight end and 123 tackles and three sacks as a linebacker. “He is a snap-to-the-whistle, sideline-to-sideline type of a player who never gives up regardless of the odds,” grandfather and coach Sid Otton said.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family and friends for all their support they give me, and just the opportunity to play sports and be successful. And also my teammates for making this year really special.”
Linebacker, 6-2, 215, junior
Wilson was great as a sophomore last year, but has been even better for the 4A state-semifinal bound Spartans this season. Had 169 tackles and nine sacks for Sumner’s dominant defense. The 4A SPSL’s defensive player of the year, who his coach says is the area’s most violent player, also was the No. 4 hitter for the Sumner baseball team.
Thankful for in 2016: “I’m most thankful for my family and my friends for supporting me throughout the entire season. And the community and the coaching staff for pushing me to play to my full potential.”
ALL-AREA COACHING STAFF
Coach of the year
Winning and losing is important, but winning in life is what’s really important, and that’s what Otton prepares kids for. The principal who hired Otton said that about the coach who is retiring after 49 years after accumulating more wins (394) than any coach in this state. Otton made Tumwater a perennial state contender; the Thunderbirds went 10-2 and advanced to the state quarterfinals this season.
Thankful for in 2016: “My wife and my children and grandchildren and that’s what I’m most grateful for is them. Then the experience of having all these years of being able to play the game. I think it’s been the past 59 years where the fall (season) has been about football and coaching and the relationships that you form. Those are the things that at this time I am really, really grateful for.”
Thomas Ford Jr.
Offensive coordinator of the year
In his three years as Stadium’s coach, Ford, who also doubles as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator, has taken the program from zero wins to the playoffs for the first time in school history. That’s mainly to do with Stadium’s offense lighting up the scoreboard. It led the 3A Pierce County League averaging 507.2 yards and 40.1 points per game.
Thankful for in 2016: “For the brotherhood that our program was able to produce this year. Having a bunch of guys who bought into one common goal, and that was to do something this school has never done. It was really incredible ... to take two years ago, an 0-10 team, to be 6-4 and go to the playoffs for the first time.”
Defensive coordinator of the year
Ledbetter said this was going to be his final year. But before retiring he got to witness Bonney Lake earn its first two state playoff victories in school history — its first coming last season against unbeaten Lincoln, and then replicating those efforts this year against unbeaten Squalicum. The Panthers had the No. 1 total defense in the 3A PCL and the top scoring defense.
Thankful for in 2016: “The fact I got to coach with the same coaching staff the past five years, and I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with. It made it fun to go to work every day. Not only that, but our kids were amazing to coach every day.”
Quarterback: Christian Moore, Bellarmine Prep, senior; Hunter Wendling, Stadium, junior
Running back: Jamon Chambers, Stadium, senior; Kenny Easton, Peninsula, senior; Anthony Hathaway, Timberline, senior; Tristian Kwon, Lincoln, junior; Melvin Miller, Lakes, senior
Wide receiver: Izaijha Byrd, South Kitsap, senior; Austin Carder, Cascade Christian, senior; Terrell Grier, Mount Rainier, senior; Noah McFadden, Puyallup, senior; Max Novak, Stadium, senior; Tallon Yerbury, Puyallup, senior
Tight end: Corbin Hartsock, Olympia, junior; Joe Tryon, Hazen, senior
Offensive line: Hayden Baumann, Eatonville, senior; Alex Emery, Gig Harbor, senior; Christian Duenas-Palatia, Kentwood, senior; Matt Gotel, Lakes, senior; Cody Kanouse, Peninsula, senior; OL Brandon Kelley, Kentlake, senior; OL Terrell Moffitt, Auburn Riverside, senior; Alexx Schmidt, Todd Beamer, sophomore; Matt Shook, Graham-Kapowsin, senior; Chase Skuza, Sumner, senior
Multipurpose: Joey Sinclair, Lincoln, senior; PJ Talen, Tacoma Baptist, senior
Defensive line: David Ainuu, Capital, sr.; Xavier Banner, Lakes, senior; Jaelen Bush, Timberline, senior; Marcus Hamilton, Bonney Lake, senior; Juan Lomeli, Steilacoom, senior; Logan Mayer, Sumner, senior; Ethan Porter, Graham-Kapowsin, sophomore; Giovonni White, Lincoln, sophomore
Linebacker: LB Brandon Becker, Graham-Kapowsin, senior; Chase Chandler, Bellarmine Prep, junior; Viliami Hansen, Graham-Kapowsin, senior; Anthony Leiato, Steilacoom, senior; Devin Ridge, Kentwood, senior; Kuma Scanlan, Todd Beamer, junior; Teshawn Seu, Lincoln, senior; Bitner Wilson, Auburn Mountainview, senior
Defensive back: Christian Brown, Bellarmine Prep, senior; Jason Day, Bonney Lake, senior; Eddie Edwards IV, Kentlake, senior; Jack Filkins, Peninsula, senior; Darius LuBom, Kentwood, senior; Tre’vonne Dorfner, River Ridge, senior; Tyson Rainwater, Sumner, senior; Che’ Rogers, Lakes, junior
All-purpose: Alex Bing, Franklin Pierce, junior; Wes Nixon, Fife, senior
Kicker: Alek Greenleaf, Wilson, senior
Punter: Ben Gaoteote, Kennedy Catholic, senior