With input from coaches, each year The News Tribune selects its All-Area football team that traditionally publishes on Thanksgiving Day.
This year, 19 different South Sound schools are represented with players and coaches on the All-Area first team. The 31 spots broken down by leagues are: SPSL South (five), 3A SPSL (five), 3A Narrows (five), 4A Narrows (four), SPSL Northwest (three), SPSL Northeast (three), 2A SPSL (two), 2A EvCo (two), 1A Nisqually (one) and 1A EvCo (one).
All published statistics are through a nine-game regular season, unless noted.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Every time the SPSL Northwest MVP tailback touched the football, folks held their breath. He led the entire South Sound in rushing during the regular season (1,837 yards, 26 touchdowns) and through the playoffs (combined 2,283 yards, 31 TDs). And his 91 total touchdowns in four seasons is a school record. Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Washington are his four finalists for colleges.
COACH(ES) OF THE YEAR
All for one — all as one. Nearly five years ago, this quintet of staff assistants made a pact: If we get a chance to run our own program, we do it as co-head coaches. And they have at Emerald Ridge, leading the Jaguars this season to their first SPSL South title in school history. One of their wins was against 4A state semifinalist Graham-Kapowsin.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR OF THE YEAR
He’s been around some of the area’s best offenses at Bethel (1988-89), Curtis (1992-94; 2000-06) and now Peninsula (1994-2000; 2007-present). And he’s never had an offense more efficient than what the Seahawks showed this season. They averaged 399.6 yards and 37.6 points per game, turned the ball over a league-low nine times and QB Robert Kvinsland had a 186.6 passer rating.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR OF THE YEAR
Seen this name before? He was the All-Area defensive coordinator of the year last season — but this could be his best Thunderbirds’ unit in 39 seasons. Tumwater forced 36 turnovers, scoring seven touchdowns. It has allowed just 26 first-quarter points, and it sent seven starters to the all-2A Evergreen Conference first team, including co-MVPs Trevor Davis and Addison Barrett.
Much more soft-spoken than his former NFL-playing father, Jon, Jordan steered the Abes’ complex, aggressive passing game into a 3A Narrows League Player of the Year campaign. Including playoffs, finished with 3,702 yards and 55 touchdown passes.
Focal point of Lions’ offense — if defenders could not locate “Nate the Great” early behind blockers, it usually was too late when they did. With amazing hips and wiggle, 4A Narrows League’s leading rusher (1,515 yards, 14 TDs including playoffs) was tough as nails.
Always the best athlete on the field. With speed to burn on jet sweeps, this top in-state recruit for 2016 gave the Thunderbirds a big-play threat at wingback (1,051 yards, 1,631 all-purpose yards, 15 TDs). Tumwater led area in rushing offense (323.1 yards a game).
The hands were reliable — the yards after catch made him the 4A SPSL’s most dangerous receiving weapon. He led the league in receiving (58 catches, 959 yards, 12 TDs), including a state-best 349-yard, six-TD effort against Tahoma.
Really broke out in the Tides’ playoff game at Wenatchee in 2013 — and built on that this season (28 catches, 511 yards, four TDs, 250 rushing yards) as the 4A Narrows offensive MVP. Also the face of the team’s outreach community program.
JAYSON WILLIAMS III
The bigger the game, the better this All-3A Narrows League first-teamer played. A Curtis transfer, he immediately became a trusted deep threat for the Abes (66 catches, 1,266 yards, 11 TDs including playoffs). Was an All-Area first-team punter in 2013.
Utah State commit is probably a better inside linebacker but has improved on his route running considerably this season — and led the Cougars in receiving (17 catches, 431 yards, six TDs). Two-time 1A Nisqually League Defensive Player of Year — and second All-Area nod.
After an injury to J.J. Silao, he moved from right guard to center — and graded out higher than any offensive lineman coach Darren McKay has ever had. All-4A SPSL Northwest first teamer got to second level quickly, and leveled linebackers with wrestling scrapiness.
Team’s unsung MVP at left tackle, and the glue to pass protection. On the Abes’ 300 dropback passing attempts, PuaPuaga gave up just three sacks — and issued more than 50 “pancake” blocks. Was named the 3A Narrows Offensive Lineman of the Year.
6-6, 310, Soph.
So “Fozzy” gave up the first sack of his career against Skyline, it still doesn’t change the fact he is “college ready” right now, coach Eric Kurle said. In second varsity season, 4A SPSL South Lineman of the Year finished blocks better — and played more on defense.
Coach John Meagher calls him the best run blocker at right tackle he’s had in 20 seasons — and opposing coaches agreed, voting him the 4A SPSL Northwest two-way Lineman of the Year. Behind him, Eagles averaged 316.8 rushing yards a game.
Injuries forced Smith back to his old position — right tackle — this season. And the 2A SPSL Lineman of the Year did not miss a beat. Because of tenacity, effort and ability to get wide, he was asked to block league’s top pass-rushing beasts.
What didn’t the 4A Narrows player of the year do in his first season as the Tides’ full-time starting quarterback? He passed for 1,844 yards, rushed for 682 yards, accounted for 26 touchdowns — and even set three school records in guiding team to league title.
Not even the long, gnarly grass of home Memorial Field could stifle Philichi’s booming leg. For his career, he made 22 of 25 field goal attempts (7 for 8 this season), and nearly 55 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks in 2014. Also the punter (35.3 yards per-punt average).
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
The beast of the best defensive line in the area, he was limited in sack totals (five), but not in impact. On the field, the all-SPSL Northeast first-teamer demanded double-team blocking on the edge. Conks led South Sound in total defense (193.2 yards per game).
The big man along an undersized defensive front, he knew how to disrupt passing lanes when lined up on left side for the SPSL South champions. Set single-season school records for tackles for loss (20) and sacks (12).
If he got a paw on you, you were toast. 3A SPSL’s single-most disruptive force never saw single blocking, and still finished with four sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Area’s top NCAA Division I recruit will also play in Semper Fi All-American game.
Unique blend of power and aptitude, Williams saw full-time duty at quarterback (his 580-yard passing game is No. 2 all-time in state) and right defensive end (a SPSL Northeast-leading 141/2 tackles for loss) — and was even team’s long snapper.
Nothing better than being humble and hungry. After garnering All-3A Narrows honors at defensive end last season, he switched to outside linebacker (69 tackles, 10 sacks in seven games) — and made the All-League first team again as Rams’ emotional leader.
Who was that perpetual blur? With reckless abandon (and long hair) like Pittsburgh Steelers star Troy Polamalu, unanimous 2A SPSL defensive player of the year (78 tackles, 141/2 tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles) never came off the field.
Never flashy, always reliable. The SPSL South linebacker of the year (561/2 tackles, eight tackles for loss) manned the middle with a level of toughness that makes him one of coach Eric Kurle’s all-time favorites. Also started at fullback.
Teammates knew him as “Clark Kent” — but he never disguised his desire to lay the wood on ball-carriers. Two-time, All-3A Narrows first-teamer had an unbelievable season (95 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, three interceptions).
The Seahawks’ one moving piece in opponent-specific game plans, Goddard lined up everywhere — and graded out as the team’s most productive tackler (81 tackles, 10-1/2 tackles for loss). Was also 3A state runner-up at 145 in wrestling last season.
Ask 3A SPSL coaches to identify the league’s next great player, this is the name that comes up. He was what made the Lions’ 3-3 stack defense so effective (73 tackles, three interceptions) as a speedy, downhill-running terror.
Did his work much like the NFL’s best cornerback Richard Sherman by lining up on the left side, but switching to shadow another team’s star receiver in crucial situations. Led the 4A SPSL with seven interceptions, returning two for scores.
Few impacted a game in an all-around manner better than this guy. The 1A Evergreen player of the year was a tailback, receiver, kick returner (1,006 all-purpose yards), linebacker and safety (78 tackles, two interception returns for touchdowns).
In space, the 3A SPSL’s most dangerous playmaker (986 all-purpose yards, seven TDs). He also served as the team’s rugby punter, leading the league in average (37.8 yards per punt average) and fake punts (seven converted into first downs with two scores).