High School Sports

No upset this year as Paine, T-Birds blow by Steilacoom

joshua.bessex@gateline.com

Dylan Paine played the entirety of his freshman season on Tumwater High School’s C-team.

Five weeks into his sophomore season, he’s the T-Birds’ leading rusher on varsity. Paine has rushed for more than 700 yards this season, and showed again Thursday night at Steilacoom just why he’s Tumwater’s workhorse running back.

“I think it started at Central (Washington University) camp before summer started,” Pain said. “They put me in and I just ran as hard as I could — kept my shoulder down, kept my head down — and they really liked that. I think I earned my spot that way.”

Paine rushed for 178 yards on 25 carries, recording three touchdowns, as the fourth-ranked T-Birds blew by the Sentinels, 48-12, in their final nonleague contest.

“I love playing with these guys,” Paine said. “My offensive line was blocking great today. It just feels so good to be part of something.”

Paine and Tumwater (3-2) made it plenty clear that the program is on track after losses to ranked teams in higher classifications — Bellevue (3A) and Union (4A) — the past two weeks.

“We played well against those two big programs, and we didn’t get the ‘W,’ and that was something we really wanted to emphasize this week,” Tumwater coach Bill Beattie said.

“I think the kids came out and knew we could play with anyone if we came ready to play.”

The T-Birds focused on getting off to a quick start this week, Beattie said, and did just that.

Tumwater recovered a Steilacoom fumble on the first play of the game, and junior Zane Murphy punched in a 2-yard score two plays later.

Paine took over from there. He scored Tumwater’s next three touchdowns, on rushes of 1, 15 and 13 yards to give the T-Birds a 28-0 lead in the second quarter before the Sentinels ever crossed midfield.

“He’s a tough little son of a gun,” Beattie said of Paine, who is 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. “He runs really, really hard. He didn’t miss workouts in the summer. He’s a dedicated kid.”

Steilacoom (3-2) scored on its next two drives, on a 16-yard pass from junior J.J. Lemming to freshman Emeka Egbuka, and 14-yard scramble by Lemming in the second quarter to cut Tumwater’s lead to 28-12.

But the Sentinels never got closer, coming up empty on all five of their second-half drives.

“We got our ends to stay outside (in the second half),” Beattie said. “We kind of knew what they were going to do a little bit. Connor Clark came up huge for us defensively tonight.”

Clark picked off Lemming in the first half to halt a Steilacoom drive, and broke up several passes. Tumwater stopped the Sentinels on fourth-and-long three times during the second half, caused two turnovers in the first half, and forced five total punts.

Steilacoom managed just 21 rushing yards and relied heavily on its passing game. Lemming finished 9 of 25 for 168 yards and the two touchdowns.

Egbuka was a bright spot for the Sentinels, catching seven passes for 138 yards and a touchdown.

But it was Tumwater that put on a running clinic, its historic wing-T looking as mechanical as ever. Nine different players carried the ball, combining for 451 yards on the ground.

“This was a good springboard into league season,” Beattie said.

Paine led all rushers with his three scores, but Clark (71 yards), Murphy (2), and senior Jakob Holbrook (24) each found the end zone for Tumwater. Clark also passed the century mark, rushing for 112 yards on six carries.

Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473, @smithlm12

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