Yelm High School builds its offense around attacking various zones coach Jason Ronquillo and his staff map on the football field. They start out installing plays to control areas closer to the line of scrimmage and build outward.
Judging from Friday night’s 42-18 home rout of Gig Harbor, which came into the game undefeated and receiving votes in the statewide Associated Press 3A poll, the Tornados (2-2) are ready to attack downfield.
They scored three times on passes of 17 yards or more and had eight passing plays in double digit yardage on the night.
“We’re starting to open up the playbook. We’re trying to get the ball into places the defense isn’t and the kids executed that well tonight,” said Yelm coach Jason Ronquillo, whose team is 2-0 in 3A South Sound Conference play. Gig Harbor dropped to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in league.
On the first real football weather night of the season, breezy with temperatures in the high 40s throughout, neither team distinguished itself early as three of the first five possessions resulted in turnovers.
Yelm was the first to take advantage.
One play after Cameron DuBose recovered a Tides’ fumble, quarterback Ben Hoffmann kept the ball and sprinted to the left pylon, putting the Tornados up, 6-0, after eight minutes of play.
After forcing a three-and-out on Gig Harbor’s ensuing possession, Yelm struck quickly to score again on its final play of the first quarter. Hoffmann launched a bomb up the right sideline to Sylas Franklin, wide open behind the Tides secondary.
“They were playing aggressive, run-first, defense so I was able to run by them,” Franklin said.
“I thought we came out hot and continued from last week (when Yelm shut out Central Kitsap 28-0). I’m really proud of the guys,” Ronquillo said. “Our execution was shaky in our first game, got a little better in our second game, even more so last week and this game we were hot.”
Again, Yelm’s defense and special teams put the offense in position to score again quickly. Gig Harbor managed one first down on its next drive but, on fourth down from its own 35, had quarterback Cade Dessert punt quickly out of a shotgun formation and speedy Tornados receiver Auzzie Schaler returned it 46 yards.
Setting up shop at the Tides’ 24, Yelm scored on its sixth consecutive running play, a nine-yard dash by Hoffmann into almost the same spot in the end zone he found on his first touchdown.
Gig Harbor got on the board before halftime, making it 20-6 with a methodical 14-play, 63-yard drive ending in a one-yard touchdown run by Trevor Zeitner, who led the Tides in rushing on the night with 15 carries for 40 yards.
The teams traded touchdowns late in the third quarter, when Carson Amendt, who led Yelm in rushing with 87 hard-earned yards on 19 carries, barged through the pile to score from two yards out, only to see Jacob Dolven successfully end Gig Harbor’s next possession with a one-yard run.
But Yelm scored 16 unanswered points after that to take a 30-point lead midway through the final period, ending Gig Harbor’s hopes. Hoffmann threw touchdown strikes to Schaler and Franklin and the Tornados added two-point conversions to make it 42-12.
“Their defensive backs were really aggressive on our short routes. I could use my eyes to make the DBs go where I wanted them to,” said Hoffmann, who lured those defensive backs into overcommitting, then threw long.
On Franklin’s second touchdown grab of the night, he fought off coverage from Gig Harbor’s Griffin Sparrow.
“We both had our hands on it, but I was able to come down with it,” Franklin said.
The Tides concluded the scoring on a 25-yard pass from Dessert to Zane Skansi, who caught six passes for 96 yards. Dessert completed just one first half pass but, with Yelm’s defense holding Gig Harbor below three yards per rushing attempt, finished with 15 completions in 26 attempts for 186 yards.
“Our defense was really stout,” said Ronquillo. “Gig Harbor usually has a really strong running game. They took to the air in the second half because they had to. Hats off to our defense for making them do that.”
In addition to Amendt, Anthony Chipres had a nice night running the ball for Yelm with 74 yards on seven carries.
The Tornados believe the win over a favored opponent can help them build momentum for the rest of the 3A SSC season.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Franklin.
Hoffmann contrasted the Tornados difficult pre-season schedule – losses to 4A Skyview and 2A’s top-ranked team, Tumwater – with their hot league start.
“We played really tough competition our first two games, it feels great to be 2-0 in league. Hopefully we’ll have a nice run to go to the playoffs,” he said.
Gig Harbor 0 6 6 6 - 18
Yelm 12 8 6 16 - 42
Y – Ben Hoffmann 12 yard run (kick blocked)
Y – Sylas Franklin 43 pass from Hoffmann (kick failed)
Y – Hoffmann 9 run (Franklin pass from Hoffmann)
G – Trevor Zeitner 1 run (run failed)
Y – Carson Amendt 2 run (pass failed)
G – Jacob Dolven 1 run (kick blocked)
Y – Franklin 17 pass from Hoffmann (Amendt run)
Y – Auzzie Schaler 32 pass from Hoffman (Amendt pass from Hoffmann)
G – Zane Skansi 25 pass from Cade Dessert (kick failed)
G – Dessert 15-26-2-178.
Y – Hoffmann 13-21-1-186.
G – Zeitner 15-40, Griffin Sparrow 5-16, Dolven 6-18, Dessert 6-14, Skansi 1-1, Mick Blake 2-2.
Y – Anthony Chipres 7-74, Hoffmann 8-28, Bradley McGannon 1-3, Amendt 19-87, Schaler 1-(-1).
G – Tate Turnbull 4-44, Zeitner 1-3, Sparrow 2-22, Jack Emery 1-8, Skansi 6-96, Hudson Cedarland 1-3.
Y – Schaler 6-72, Franklin 4-83, Chipres 3-21.