Like a lot of football coaches, Yelm High School’s Jason Ronquillo wants his offense to stretch the field.
The Tornados divide the downfield area into 10 zones and work to attack each, denying defenses the ability to narrow their focus to one facet of Yelm’s multiple set/no huddle offense. It’s a great theory. Some teams can’t quite make it reality, but Ronquillo has playmakers with the skills to make it successful.
Yelm returns second team All-Area running back Brandon Thompson, who surpassed 1,700 yards in total offense (1,100 rushing) as a junior, and second team All-Area wide receiver Kaleb Lunderville, who caught 46 passes for 893 yards and 15 touchdowns. Both are seniors.
“With those guys, it’s easier to spread the field both vertically and horizontally,” said Ronquillo, entering his fourth season as the Tornados head coach.
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A year ago, Yelm finished 5-5 in its final season in the Class 4A ranks. In Week 7, though, the Tornados did something they had never done before, beating Bellarmine Prep, 42-35 in overtime. The decisive play highlighted the versatility of Yelm’s offense.
In the overtime, from the 18-yard line, then-quarterback Daylon Matthews found Lunderville on a “choice route.” Matthews first option was to hand the ball to Thompson but saw a safety coming forward, so lofted the ball over the defense to Lunderville in the end zone.
“Kaleb made a great play on the ball,” Ronquillo remembered.
Thompson and Lunderville appreciate what the other does for Yelm’s offense.
“All week before a game, when we watch film, you see defenses designed to stop run or stop pass,” said Thompson, who is being recruited by all three U.S. service academies, Washington State and Yale. “With us you have to be ready for both. Pick your poison.”
Lunderville, on the radar of Eastern Washington, Central Washington and Linfield, sees teams struggle with that decision on the field.
“When I’m running a route over the middle, I can see the linebackers keying on Brandon,” he said. “It makes it easier for me to get open.”
Ronquillo sees a wealth of qualities in each player, versatile enough to double as defensive backs on defense and to play another sport for Yelm. Lunderville was a decathlete, before limiting his track events to focus on football. Thompson also plays baseball.
“Brandon has quickness, great vision, flat-out speed. He’s got great hands if you want to send him out on a route,” Ronquillo said. “Kaleb has speed, but his best asset is his size. He’s a 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver, with great overall athleticism and nice strong hands.”
Another asset both bring to the table is a higher level of varsity experience than even the typical senior.
Early in the 2013 season, Yelm’s workhouse running back, Aaron Rivera, broke his hand and missed two weeks. Thompson was playing with most of his fellow freshmen on the Tornados’ C-team. Yelm had other running backs on varsity and on junior varsity but Ronquillo called Thompson up for a simple reason:
“He was killing it on C squad. He was clearly our next best option.”
Rivera returned, but Thompson continued to split time with him.
Lunderville experienced a growth spurt during his sophomore year.
“He started to stand out,” Ronquillo said. “We recognized his athleticism and his ability to run.”
With Matthews graduated, Yelm needed to determine a new quarterback starter to deliver passes to Lunderville. Senior Dakota Hill won a tough competition with sophomore Kyle Robinson and will begin the season as the starter.
Ronquillo is also happy with the way the Tornados’ offensive line has progressed and gotten bigger. Sophomore Jacob Dimond (6-4, 285) and senior Franky Ramos (6-6, 308) are the tackles, senior Jeffrey Bouillion (5-11, 245) and junior Triston Mesteth (5-11, 265) are the guards. Senior Jeremy Smith (6-foot, 220), also a star wrestler, is the center.
“This is a great time for us,” Ronquillo said. “The seniors are the freshmen we had when we first came here. They only know me and our system and philosophy. This is gonna be a fun year.”