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 with more than 60 schools and nine leagues, ranging from 4A to 1B.
The team is carefully selected with help from coaches. This year, 36 different South Sound schools are represented with players and coaches on the All-Area first and second teams. The 31 spots, including the player of the year, broken down by leagues are 4A SPSL (9), 4A NPSL (6), 3A PCL (6), 3A SSC (5), 2A SPSL (3), 2A EvCo (1), 1A Nisqually (1).
ALL-AREA PLAYER OF THE YEAR
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Wide receiver, defensive back, 6-2, 195, sr.
BYU commit could take over games from anywhere on the field, even against routine double teams. Was fifth in the state (all classifications) in receiving yards (1,081), despite missing a game with a sprained MCL, and was second in the state in receptions (68). He also had the fourth-most tackles in the 4A NPSL Olympic (87) and led AMV in rushing yards. Selected as the 4A NPSL Olympic all-purpose player of the year and defensive MVP.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “I was down on the field with a cramp and my trainers gave me some salty Gatorade to help. Coach Gerv came out and I was like, ‘Here, Coach, here’s some Gatorade.’ And he took a sip and he was like ‘Ah, that was nasty.’ ”
All-purpose, 6-1, 185, sr.
3A Pierce County League MVP was the defensive leader as a safety for Lincoln, which won its fourth consecutive league title this year. And Kwon ran for 1,099 yards, finished with 1,812 all-purpose yards and had 32 total touchdowns. Kwon ran for 1,580 yards for Lincoln as a junior when the Abes reached the state quarterfinals.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Playing at Husky Stadium against O’Dea. They’re a team we always go back and forth with and it was really exciting to play them again. We came up short and were hoping to play them again but it was exciting playing at Husky Stadium.”
Running back, 5-10, 195, sr.
In 10 games, no one in the state ran for more yards than Leiato’s 2,303. He averaged 11.9 per carry in the 2A SPSL Mountain, setting Foster’s single-season and all-time career rushing marks. Had season highs of 352 and 301 single-game rushing yards. “Blessing Leiato is easily the hardest-working football player I have ever been around,” Foster coach Elijah Ruhl said.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Ending my senior year. I had a lot of people tell me I wouldn’t play football anymore. Proving people wrong was a great moment. Doctors were telling me my shoulder was an injury (from eighth grade) that couldn’t be fixed. But ending this year, it proved a lot of people wrong.”
Quarterback, 6-1, 195, jr.
Being able to launch a ball almost 70 yards in the air is one thing. Leading your team to the state playoffs each of your three years as a starting QB is another. UW commit separated his shoulder Week 6 against Olympia, but still finished the season with 2,833 passing yards with 29 TDs, completing 67 percent of his passes. Earned 4A SPSL offensive player of the year. Threw for 363 yards vs. Sumner and 368 vs. Puyallup.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Beating Lake Stevens. My freshman year we lost to them in the state quarterfinals and I wanted that one back for a long time. We had an opportunity to play them again and we won. And it was a great feeling.”
Running back, 6-2, 200, sr.
Had at least 100 rushing yards every game – and needed fewer than 10 carries to do that in five games. The 1A Nisqually League MVP averaged 12.9 yards per carry during the regular season, finishing with 1,774 rushing yards and 28 TDs for the state-quarterfinal bound Cougars. Also had four games with at least 10 tackles as a linebacker. Father is former Seahawks/WSU center Robbie Tobeck.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Probably our first playoff game against Nooksack Valley. We had a great battle against those guys and they played hard and we played hard and we barely pulled it out in the end. That was awesome.”
Multi-purpose, 5-11, 225, sr.
What kind of athlete is Malietufa, who was the 4A NPSL Olympic offensive player of the year? The Ravens’ QB threw for 1,345 yards and ran for 1,002 yards. Was also a first-team 4A NPSL Olympic all-league linebacker. Helped lead the Ravens to the district playoffs. After back-to-back 1-9 seasons when he was a freshman and sophomore, team improved to 6-5 last year and 8-2 in 2017.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Winning the Fugate Trophy back (Auburn district championship). We haven’t had it since freshman year. And then we get it back my senior year.”
Tight end, 6-2, 215, sr.
He was Bethel’s No. 1 quarterback to open the season a year ago. This season? He asked to switch to full-time tight end and linebacker – because he saw the potential in junior QB Nate Hughes. He was Hughes’ most trusted target, catching 42 passes for 603 yards and five TDs as Bethel went from a 4-6 record to 9-2.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Probably Ferndale. I put up about 100 yards and two one-handed catches. I did everything I could and we made the state playoffs for the first time in 13 years. So that was pretty cool.”
ROBERT “TRE” MASON III
Wide receiver, 6-1, 185, sr.
As a junior, Mason had the eighth-most receiving yards in the 4A SPSL with 42 catches for 622 yards. This year? He almost doubled that, leading the SPSL with 66 catches for 1,162 yards and 11 TDs. Had season-high 10 catches for 238 yards against 4A SPSL champion Puyallup.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Against Sumner. Last year we lost to them in a close game and this year I was able to get the game-winning catch thrown by Dylan Morris to seal the game.”
Wide receiver, 6-1, 185, sr.
Arguably no receiver in the state was as explosive as the Lakes senior because no receiver with at least 800 receiving yards averaged as many yards per catch (23.9). Filled in at QB last year, but this year was a first-team all-PCL pick at receiver and defensive back. Had five catches for 251 yards and three TDs against Bonney Lake.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Putting up 250 yards on five catches and three touchdowns against Bonney Lake in our win.”
Wide receiver, 5-10, 185, sr.
4A NPSL Olympic all-purpose player of the year after earning the league’s offensive back and special teams player of the year as a junior. Use him as a running back, receiver, returner – however. Scored 37 TDs in two seasons, including 24 this year. Led the 4A NPSL Olympic in all-purpose yards for the second year in a row (1,651), and also has a 4.0 GPA.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Probably our overtime win against Enumclaw. We ended up beating them by one point and it was just a cool experience.”
ULUMOO “MJ” ALE
Offensive lineman, 6-7, 335, sr.
The massive UW commit and two-time All-Area selection was still learning the position a year ago after converting from rugby. But he took his game to an impressive level this year. Ale, Fife’s senior class president, earned 2A SPSL Mountain MVP, though he needed UW’s Kaleb McGary (a Fife grad) to help him find a new pair of size 18 shoes when his busted midway through the season.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “When Fife took the league championship undefeated. It had been a while but it’s just the start of some new beginnings for Fife.”
Offensive lineman, 6-4, 240, sr.
Warick earned the 3A South Sound Conference lineman of the year. Finished the season with 45 pancake blocks and allowed just one sack for a team that was undefeated until running into top-ranked Bellevue in the state quarterfinals. On defense, Warick had six sacks, 17 tackles for loss and he even scored a touchdown.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Definitely beating Kamiakin. Defending 3A state champions, that’s definitely who you want to play. And to win such and exciting game with a game-winning catch by JJ (Graham), it was probably the best feeling I’ve had, even over beating Peninsula last year.”
HECTOR JASSO III
Offensive lineman, 6-2, 290, sr.
It’s easy to notice his size and crushing blocks – which paved the way for more than 1,700 Lakes rushing yards. Coach Dave Miller said Jasso is one of the highest-graded linemen he’s ever had. But the first-team PCL offensive lineman was also Lakes’ inspirational leader. “He makes our team and school a better place,” Miller said.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Shutting out Bonney Lake. Coach Miller and the coach from Bonney Lake (Jason Silbaugh) have a good friendship and we wanted to play for Coach Miller. We expected a tough game and we came out and punched them in the mouth and we kept on piling it on them.”
Offensive lineman, 6-4, 250, sr.
The Hornets won their first league title in 21 years, winning the 4A NPSL Olympic. And they did that behind a punishing ground game that accumulated 1,958 rushing yards on its way to the district playoffs. Ulrich was the anchor at left tackle of that offensive line and he earned back-to-back all-league honors.
Most memorable moment of 2017: “Winning league. Our school hasn't done that in 21 years and last year when we lost in the district playoffs our goal was to win league this year and we fought hard in the offseason and we accomplished our goal.”
Offensive lineman, 6-3, 265, sr.
Thought he was just a dominant wrestler? How about 2A Evergreen Conference MVP of a team in the 2A state semifinals? Anchors Tumwater’s offensive line than has accumulated more than 4,000 yards. On defense he is double-teamed just about every play but still had 65 tackles entering last week’s quarterfinal win over Steilacoom.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “At camp, coaches said we couldn’t have our players-only meeting. So instead we threw a dance party in the dorm-room lobby. Somebody had a strobe light randomly and we just had a dance party. It was awesome.”
Kicker, 6-4, 180, sr.
Graham-Kapowsin had last made a field goal on Nov. 14, 2015 until Manners connected from 35 yards out on Oct. 5 of this season against Puyallup. Manners made 6 of 7 field goals this year and 55 of 57 extra points (the two misses were blocked). Coach Eric Kurle said his strong, lanky senior should be kicking in college next year.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Against Puyallup it was the first field goal we had attempted in a couple of years and I’m glad Kurle let us go for a field goal and put some trust in us kickers.”
Punter, 5-11, 180, jr.
Potter should be more known on the Seahawks’ state quarterfinal team for his standout work as a defensive back (with 55 solo tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3 INTs, 2 defensive TDs) and running back (128 carries, 667 yards), but to show how attentive Peninsula is to details he was also an excellent punter (10 for 310 yards).
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Probably beating Mountain View. That goal line stand we had against them and it was a great experience. It really brought our team together and showed what 11 as 1 was all about.”
Defensive lineman, 6-3, 285, sr.
Utah commit recently received an offer from UW and took his official visit to WSU. He was asked to do a bit of everything for the Jaguars, including play running back, tight end and offensive line, and always responded with “whatever is best for the team, coach.” “He is one of the most complete, unselfish and humble players I have ever coached,” Emerald Ridge co-coach Troy Halfaday said.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Definitely my senior night beating South Kitsap.”
Defensive lineman, 6-2, 285, jr.
Only one lineman has played full-time on both the offensive and defensive lines for Graham-Kapowsin the past three seasons. Tela-Porter, the 4A SPSL lineman of the year, got his first crack at offensive line as a freshman when now Stanford’s Foster Sarell was injured, but he has always excelled on defense as an athletic interior tackle.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Against Lake Stevens when I recovered the fumble and after that we scored a 95-yard touchdown. I think that was a big drive that contributed to our win.”
Defensive lineman, 6-3, 290, jr.
No lineman in the PCL had a more dominant season than the Abes’ junior two-way tackle. On offense, he helped pave the way for more than 2,000 rushing yards and 46 points per game. And on defense, White had 35 tackles, 12 for losses, two sacks and a recovered fumble that he ran in for a TD.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “It would have to be the touchdown I scored against Stadium. We had a stunt between me and Alex Gillies. I knew Gillies would get in there and pressure him so I trailed behind him to see if something would happen. And he stripped the ball and it popped out straight into my hands and I picked it up and turned on the burners and got loose.”
Defensive lineman, 6-4, 240, jr.
Broken ankle cost him what was shaping to be a sensational sophomore year. And this year he dislocated his shoulder, but the massive, athletic defensive end still finished with nine sacks, showing why he’s already been offered by Michigan, Oregon and Oregon State among others. Legg led a defense that didn’t allow a point until the fourth game of the season.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Probably beating Auburn and getting that Fugate Trophy. That was a big moment for us because we didn’t get it last year or the year before. Beating Auburn and getting the trophy was big for us.”
Linebacker, 6-3, 225, sr.
Of all the athletes on this dominant Timberline defense, which allowed just 14 points per game entering the state quarterfinals, Simeta stood out. Not only for his big frame and big hair, but the SSC’s defensive player of the year also had 91 tackles, 18 for losses, and eight sacks. He also returned a punt for a TD.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Winning back-to-back league titles. It was an ultimate moment because the excitement in that game and the intensity in that game was high.”
Linebacker, 6-2, 220, sr.
It will be difficult to imagine Sumner’s “Black Flag” defense without Wilson when he’s at TCU next year. The three-time All-Area linebacker had just about as many tackles (106), tackles for loss (eight) and sacks (two) as last year, only he’s also led Sumner with 1,166 rushing yards and 20 TDs entering its second consecutive trip to the 4A semifinals.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Against Monroe after I hurdled the kid for the touchdown and the crowd was going crazy. After the PAT I got into the bleachers and hyped up the fans and it got wild. After that I took a bow and I just got chills throughout my whole body. It was a great experience.”
Linebacker, 6-2, 215, sr.
Coach Brett Thompson knows linebackers, being a former linebacker himself at Tahoma and Western Washington. But even he was in awe of everything Fuala’au could bring. Fuala’au could play any position (even long snapper … and QB) but as a linebacker, the team captain had 85 tackles, eight sacks and two interceptions.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “My last time playing on French Field where I’ve played since I was young.”
Defensive back, 5-11, 175, sr.
He was once Timberline’s ball boy. Now he’s 3A SSC’s MVP on a team that went undefeated and to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2006. Every time he touched the ball he was a threat to score and was a ball hawk as a DB. Finished with 1,180 rushing yards and 10 TDs, and had 61 tackles and four interceptions (with two TDs).
Most memorable moment in 2017: “The game-winning touchdown in the first round of the state playoffs after being down for most of that game and then last-minute coming back to win that game. Moving on was huge for us and moving on for the first time in more than 10 years to the (quarterfinals) was huge.”
Defensive back, 6-1, 190, sr.
Between all the carries, catches, kick returns, punt returns and interception returns, Weed had 2,054 all-purpose yards and 33 total TDs entering this week’s 4A state semifinal game against Woodinville. That’s even more than the 2,048 all-purpose yards Connor Wedington had for Sumner before heading to Stanford. Weed, the 4A SPSL MVP, has eight interceptions this season.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Our last game at Sumner High School and making it to back-to-back semifinal trips. That’s pretty exciting.”
Defensive back, 6-1, 190, sr.
Just like his father, he won a state basketball title at Foss. But Crosby also shines on the turf. The 2A SPSL Mountain defensive player of the year had seven interceptions (two returned for TDs) and four sacks in eight games (Foss won two games by forfeit). He also had 47 catches for 881 yards, 452 return yards, 302 rushing yards, 125 passing yards and 15 TDs.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Against South Delta (Canada) I had three interceptions. So that’s my most memorable one. And winning the state championship for basketball.”
Defensive back, 6-2, 185, sr.
How do you best describe Neff’s impact? “Irreplaceable!” Puyallup coach Gary Jeffers said. “The type of player that a coach wants on the field for every play.” The hard-hitting safety and team energizer brought an invigorated ferocity to the 4A SPSL champs. Yes, champs. Neff was an all-league DB and receiver (and basketball player).
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Securing the league title. Nobody expected us to get the league. And we shocked the league and the state and became a powerhouse.”
In Mullen’s return to the Timberline sideline, one thing was certain: opposing offenses would have to earn every point and every yard. Mullen, who returned as the Blazers head coach and defensive coordinator after two years focusing on his athletic director duties, orchestrated a Timberline defense that was limiting offenses to 43.9 rushing yards per game before its quarterfinal loss to Bellevue.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Being able to come back this year with this group of seniors this year who were freshmen when I stepped down to be the AD. It was very memorable because Michael Barnes and Conner Warick and those guys were ball boys when they were younger. That was a good time to come back to see those guys out for their last year after being with them for so long. They’re my guys.”
Coach of the year
You weren’t going to find many who thought this 4A SPSL was anything but a race between Graham-Kapowsin and Sumner. But there was Puyallup, beating both those schools in back-to-back weeks and earning its first undefeated league title run since 2006. Jeffers took over more control of the defense this year, which allowed 18.3 points per game (it was 41.7 a year ago).
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Capturing the SPSL championship and being able to bring that home to our kids and community. It’s been a long time coming. There are high expectations in Puyallup because we have a great tradition and history and it’s been a while. So to bring that home and have this group of kids be the ones that did it was special.”
Jacome prepared himself for this dual-quarterback offense by heading to Corona Centennial in California in the offseason. And it paid off with an offense that averaged 46.5 points, even with his quarterbacks alternating every possession. This is the second time in Jacome’s three years Lincoln has averaged more than 45 points per game.
Most memorable moment in 2017: “Probably the O’Dea game. Just because of the buildup to that game the whole offseason and as a coach some of the things I took from our loss the prior year and it was at Husky Stadium and we’re starting two quarterbacks and the kids were so excited and the environment was so big.”
ALL-AREA SECOND TEAM
Quarterbacks – Sam Huard, Kennedy Catholic, fr.; Nate Hughes, Bethel, jr.; Justin Seiber, Kentwood, sr.
Running backs – Nazje Briscoe, Stadium, jr.; Bear Kuro, Enumclaw, sr.; Delvon McNeely, Hazen, sr.; Dylan Paine, Tumwater, so.
Multi-purpose – Conner Lambro, Tahoma, sr.; Parker “PJ” Talen, Tacoma Baptist, sr.
Wide receivers – Christian Brown, Bellarmine Prep, sr.; Xavier Mason, Stadium, jr.; Darius Morrison, Puyallup, jr.; Chris Penner, Capital, jr.; Jabez Tinae, Kennedy Catholic, fr.; Corbin Walker, Hazen, jr.
Tight end – Stephen Watson, Kentwood, sr.
Offensive line – Chase Bowes, Timberline, sr.; Riley Clark, Sumner, sr.; Parker Danielson, Steilacoom, sr.; Bailey Elder, Stadium, jr.; Josh Hanigan, Bellarmine Prep, sr.; Eyvar Robles, Auburn Riverside, sr.; Mila Saole, Foster, sr.; Ezekiel Sayavong, Lincoln, sr.; Alex Vinton, Bethel, sr.; Logan Wood, Olympia, sr.
Defensive line – Ilyas Anjaz, Kentlake, sr.; Chase Chandler, Bellarmine Prep, sr.; Vance Dumas, Hazen, jr.; Logan Mayer, Sumner, sr.; Quinzy Salu, Decatur, sr.; Jayden Simon, Lincoln, jr.; Aiden Slater, Tumwater, sr.; Daniel Tauaese, Stadium, jr.;
Linebackers – Alex Gillies, Lincoln, sr.; Hunter Briggs, Rogers, sr.; Mike Faaitu, River Ridge, jr.; Khalil Lewis, Lakes, jr.; Justin Martinez, Mount Rainier, sr.; Brendan Ngotel, Puyallup, sr.; Jayman Stokes, Franklin Pierce, sr.
Defensive backs – Kasai Childress, Graham-Kapowsin, sr.; Connor Clark, Tumwater, sr.; Jamin Faalogo, Timberline, jr.; Falani Jennings, Fife, sr.; Machiah Lee, Bethel, sr.; Tomasi Manu, River Ridge, jr.; Taj Moffett, Curtis, sr.; Jaden Robinson, Auburn Riverside, sr.
All-purpose – Alex Bing, Franklin Pierce, sr.; Tyquan Coleman, Cascade Christian, sr.
Kicker – Manav Gill, Kentwood, sr.; Ben Stanford, Peninsula, sr.
Punter – Chase Fazio, Thomas Jefferson, sr.; Jase Paulsen, Curtis, sr.