Here’s a breakdown of this weekend’s 2019 WIAA Class 2A football championship matchup:
NO. 2 STEILACOOM SENTINELS (11-2) vs. NO. 1 TUMWATER THUNDERBIRDS (13-0)
4 p.m. Saturday, at Sparks Stadium, Puyallup
Game nugget: Tumwater defensive assistant William Garrow is very familiar with the Sentinels. He was their defensive coordinator from 2008-14.
Coaches: Colby Davies is in his third season at Steilacoom (30-7). Bill Beattie is in his third season at Tumwater (33-5 record).
State championships: Tumwater in 1987, 1989, 1990, 1993 and 2010.
Road to the Gridiron Classic: Steilacoom – Defeated No. 15 Ridgefield (42-21) in the first round, No. 7 Prosser (48-15) in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Lynden (42-0) in the semifinals. Tumwater – Defeated No. 16 Franklin Pierce (56-7) in the first round, No. 8 Archbishop Murphy (48-0) in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Hockinson (55-7) in the semifinals.
About the Sentinels: By reaching the state championship game for the first time, they feel like this is their moment. And they are playing like it, blowing out traditional powerhouses Prosser and Lynden to set up this showdown. To have a chance, they need to hit on big plays with QB Chance McDonald (3,333 passing yards, 45 TDs) and WR Emeka Egbuka (65 catches, 1,427 yards, 31 total TDs) – then get enough stops with a much-improved defensive front, paced by DLs Judah Jackson (14 tackles for loss) and Caleb Colbert (10 TFL)
About the Thunderbirds: They are putting together one of the most dominant 2A seasons in state history. And this week, Tumwater knows exactly what it is up against after playing the pass-happy Sentinels twice in 2017, then scrimmaging against them a couple times over the offseason. Backfield pressure from DEs Jacob Schuster (26 TFL), the 2A EvCo player of the year, and Cooper Wall (team-high 11 sacks) will be as big a key as anything to slowing Steilacoom down. RB Dylan Paine (1,500 rushing yards, 25 TDs) leads a Wing-T rushing attack averaging 378.8 yards per game.
Scorebook Live WA pick: Tumwater, 34-32.