Bradley McGannon played a little fullback in middle school. His Yelm High School coach, Jason Ronquillo, fooled around during spring practice with the idea of having the second team All-Area offensive lineman carry the ball on occasion.
But neither foresaw where the Tornados’ “Jumbo” formation was headed.
In a game where Yelm didn’t complete a single pass and was outgained by host Timberline, 442 yards to 217, McGannon’s sure hands and hard-driving legs scored most of the Tornados points as they took advantage of a couple of Blazer mistakes Thursday night to score a 35-30 victory in a 3A South Sound Conference finale at South Sound Stadium.
“I’m definitely OK with it,” McGannon said. “I was hoping to get the rock a little bit this year, but I didn’t think I’d be used as much as I have been or having it be as effective as it has.”
McGannon scored three two-yard touchdowns and a two-point conversion as Yelm solidified its hold on the second seed from the SSC into next week’s playoffs, improving their record to 6-3 overall and 5-1 in league. They’ll host the winner of Friday’s Wesco League seeding game between Shorecrest and Ferndale next week.
Timberline was knocked out of any playoff consideration and will travel to Wilson in week 10 for a non-playoff crossover game.
“We’ve been doing it all season and Bradley’s being doing a good job with it,” said Ronquillo. McGannon has scored seven touchdowns for the season and has never carried for lost yardage. “When you don’t complete one pass, to have our running game do as well as it did paid dividends.”
McGannon’s first score came at the end of a game-opening 10-play, 86-yard drive and gave Yelm a 7-0 lead. Timberline seemed to turn the momentum when Mason Joubert kicked a 36-yard field goal and the Blazers forced the Tornados to punt on their next possession.
But Timberline fumbled the punt back to Yelm and, on the very next play, Carson Amendt burst up the middle for a 36-yard touchdown that put the Tornados up, 14-3, after a quarter. Amendt led Yelm in rushing with 26 carries for 96 yards.
“Carson was a workhorse for us,” Ronquillo said.
The Blazers rallied, though, to take the lead on a lineman rush of their own, sending Will Lafaele into the end zone from two yards out, then connecting on a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Adam Dafoe to Keola Allison.
Dafoe would finish with 14-of-17 for 181 yards and made good decisions under pressure, pulling the ball down and running for 63 total yards. But his one mistake proved costly.
In the final minute before halftime, Timberline tried to add to its lead and instead went into the locker room trailing, 21-17, when Dafoe’s downfield pass was picked off by Yelm defensive back Eli Osso and returned 80 yards for a touchdown.
“I was sitting in my zone and I watched the quarterback turn,” said Osso. “He looked right at the receiver who was a few yards ahead of me. When he threw it, I had time to break on the ball.”
The Blazers weren’t done, taking the lead a final time, 24-21, when Jaden Gorman, who would carry 28 times for 180 yards, went into the end zone from six yards out.
Yelm countered with McGannon’s second touchdown and a dramatic defensive stand. Down 27-24 early in the fourth quarter, the Blazers gained a first-and-goal at the Tornados’ six-yard line. Three attempts by Gorman couldn’t get the ball in, so Timberline tried another direct snap to Lafaele, who was stopped a foot short of a score.
“That was a critical turn of events,” said Ronquillo.
McGannon got Yelm out from the shadow of its own goal posts with a season-long eight-yard rush up the middle, moving the pile. Twelve plays later, he went into the end zone again and Yelm was never in serious danger thereafter.
“That was a great battle. That’s the best our kids have played,” said Timberline coach Nick Mullen despite the disappointment of seeing a three-game winning streak end. “Offensively, our team always steps up in the big games.”
Yelm 14 7 6 8 - 35
Timberline 3 14 7 6 - 30
Y – Bradley McGannon 2-yard run (Braden Hill kick)
T – Mason Joubert 36 field goal
Y- Carson Amendt 36 run (Hill kick)
T – Will Lafaele 2 run (Joubert kick)
T – Keola Allison 14 pass from Adam Dafoe (Joubert kick)
Y – Eli Osso 80 interception return (Hill kick)
T – Jaden Gorman 6 run (Joubert kick)
Y – McGannon 2 run (kick failed)
Y – McGannon 2 run (McGannon run)
T – Dafoe 1 run (pass failed)
Y – Hoffmann 0-7-0-0.
T – Dafoe 14-17-1-181.
Y – Anthony Chipres 5-38, Hoffmann 13-65, Amendt 26-96, McGannon 5-18.
T – Dafoe 13-63, Gorman 28-180, Stanton Hayes 2-(-1), Lafaele 2-2, Noah Cunningham 3-15, Max Aunese 1-3.
Y – None.
T – Aunese 4-55, Allison 6-82, Cunningham 3-32, Gorman 1-82.