Darren McKay only wishes Chuck Knox or Don James could come witness his Todd Beamer High School football team run the ball and play defense.
“Those guys would love watching our games,” McKay said. “We’re not playing basketball on grass.”
Indeed, Beamer threw the ball one time last week. Beamer’s brand of football is more suited for James’ “Purple Reign” Huskies defense or Knox’s “Ground Chuck” Seahawks style.
The Titans have allowed the fewest points in the 4A North Puget Sound League this year (13.1 per game). It was the only school of 16 in the 4A NPSL to be in the top three in rushing offense (222.9 yards per game) and total defense (217.6 yards allowed per game).
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And McKay said those two coaches would have really enjoyed Lincoln Liulama-Mitchell as an edge rusher.
He leads the team with five sacks in a 4A North Puget Sound League Olympic division that was filled with running backs and running quarterbacks. Beamer (8-1) will host Bellarmine Prep (6-3) in the 4A district playoffs at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“His first step as a defensive end and outside linebacker is as good as it probably gets,” McKay said. “He’s so quick off the football.
“He’s very laid back and quiet. But he’s very different on the field. He’s done some things that aren’t always sound to the integrity of the defense, but you almost have to give him a little bit of leeway.”
Such as against Decatur last week.
Decatur’s punt was muffed and traveled about 10 yards. As McKay and coaches were yelling for players to get away, Liulama-Mitchell decided to catch it, and then ran it to within five yards of the end zone.
But his favorite play was against Auburn, when he sprinted 15 yards off the edge to block a punt, chased the ball down before it rolled out of bounds, side-stepped a would-be tackler and ran it in for a touchdown.
When he makes a big play like that, or like the game-saving tackle at the goal-line against Auburn Mountainview, he said he likes to point up to the sky and remember his aunt who died about a year and a half ago of cancer. He said she raised him growing up in Hawaii before he moved to Washington in the fifth grade.
“I play for her,” Liulama-Mitchell said. “She was like my mom.”
And now he’s part of a senior class that has produced the most successful football teams in the 13-year history of the school. Beamer had never won as many games as it has so far this season and is one win away from its second 4A state tournament appearance since these seniors were sophomores.
And they won the school its first league title, finishing first in the 4A NPSL Olympic.
“We would really like to make it to the (Tacoma) Dome — all of us seniors, our last year,” said linebacker Desmond Nelton, who also starts at quarterback. “That’s what we’re working toward.”
He and Liulama-Mitchell, who is also a tight end and wide receiver on offense, have been playing together since their youth football days with the SeaTac Sharks, when they both played defensive end.
“The way he gets off the ball — he’s in the backfield it seems before the play even starts,” Nelton said.
“It’s unnatural,” said Kuma Scanlan, who leads Beamer with 79 tackles this year.
But to continue this storied run they’ll have to first get past Bellarmine, which has only lost so far to 4A SPSL stalwarts Sumner, Graham-Kapowsin and Olympia. But McKay has some familiarity with the Lions’ program — he coached against them when he was at Timberline (1995-99) and again at Gig Harbor (2000-11). And his nephew, Garrett McKay (2010-13), was a standout wide receiver at Bellarmine.
McKay said Lions quarterback Christian Moore is the best they will have faced.
But that’s where a good edge rusher comes in handy.
“I’m excited for it,” Liulama-Mitchell said.