We have made it to the end of our 8-part series that became 9…well almost. Yes an epilogue will finish it off next week focused on the Coaches. Part 9 is really unfair to many of the teams. Our focus will be on the 2010 season that brought Tumwater its 5th Championship. That means from 2000-2009 there won’t be much covered but we all know that each season is special regardless of the outcome. There is hard evidence that each season has been used as a building block in some way to reach that ultimate goal.
Maybe indeed a full 49-chapter book is needed to fully tell this story and to give fair credit to literally thousands of young men who have been blessed to experience Tumwater Football. In all of this I also have barely mentioned others associated with the program such as the bands, cheerleaders, mascots, PASS club Coaches wives and countless others who have put their heart and soul into this program.
So let’s get started with the years 2000-2009. When we last left off we had experienced the 4th State Championship and the opening of Black Hills high school and the repercussions that included the 1st losing season since 1979. That fall out continued with some ups and downs through the early 2000’s.
Despite some great league records and league titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002 the T-Birds simply didn’t have the depth they had prior to the opening of Black Hills that split the student body. Tumwater posted records of 10-1, 9-1 and 10-1 with 2 quarterfinal appearances and one year they lost the crossover. Again, timing is everything and if these years had happened prior to 1987 the celebration would be ten times more than they got during this time because the expectations had been raised so far that a trip to the Dome was more than a hope, it was expected.
This type of expectation was unfair for this group of T-Birds. No doubt they believed they should have gone further and no doubt there were games they’d love to play again. But the reality is what they were achieving was pretty dang remarkable. The program hit another dip in 2003 as Tumwater suffered only their 2nd losing season since 1979 and Coach Otton’s 7th losing season at Tumwater.
**Side Note or Fun Fact you decide: Since Tumwater Football played their 1st snap of football in 1961 they have had a total of 16 losing seasons ouy of 56, including 2016. Tumwater has a winning record 72% of the time. Under Coach Otton he has now had 36 winning seasons out of 43 or a winning season 84% of the time. If we go from 1980 on that would be 35 winning seasons and 2 losing years or a 95% win clip. (This includes 2004 who finished 5-5.)
Speaking of 2004, a team that finished 5-5, this was only the 2nd time a Tumwater team finished with an even record. The other season was in 1962 where they went 4-4-1. The T-Birds in 2004 did not win the league title but did finish high enough to get in the crossovers and lost to finish with the even mark.
2005 was the beginning of turning the program back into the machine it was known for and despite not getting to the State Tournament, 2005 set up a big return in 2006. In 2006 that familiar feeling began to fill the stands at Tumwater District Stadium. Names like Patrick Prentice, Rocky Hinkle, Hank Bryant and the Johnson twins led this team back to the expectations set in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
In 2006 they began the year getting blown out by Olympia 27-0. The T-Birds used that loss to build momentum and rolled to wins over Timberline, Aberdeen and WF West. In week 5 they got by a stubborn Hoquiam squad 27-21. They handled Elma, beat Centralia by a touchdown and then took the Pioneer Cup with a 24-7 win over Black Hills. Tumwater cruised right into the play-offs with an easy win over River Ridge. They belted Steilacoom in the opening round of the play-offs 56-7 but then escaped with a win over Colville at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane 28-25.
This set up what would become quite the rivalry with Lynden. The Lions would outlast the T-Birds 20-10 in their return to the Tacoma Dome for the 1st time since 1996. Both teams would not move on to the big game and in 1996 it marked the beginning of a downturn for 10 years and 2006 was just the opposite as it marked the return of the domination of Tumwater Football.
In 2007 the T-Birds returned to the State Quarterfinals finishing with an 11-1 season. 2008 they went 9-2 and knocked out in the Regionals and in 2009 finished with a 6-4 season and lost in the crossover with RA Long 16-14. This brings us to 2010 and to reach the lofty goal they had the 2010 team would have to do something no other T-Bird State Championship team had done and that is to win it all without getting to a Dome game the year prior, In 1987, the 86 team lost in the Tacoma Dome in the Semi-Finals. 1989 was preceded by the 1988 squad who lost in the Semi-Finals followed by 1990 who clearly was in a Dome the year prior. Then in 1993 this followed a return to the Semi-finals by the 1992 team. 2010 would do this coming off a loss in the crossovers, so history was not on their side.
2010, 1 for the Thumb!
2010 began like 2006 a loss to Olympia. This served as inspiration for this group as they then put together a 12-game winning streak culminating with a thorough pounding of the #1 ranked team in the state Arch Bishop Murphy. This year would also be a huge challenge for Coach Otton on a personal level and the Otton family.
Coach Otton had gotten word prior to the season from his longtime assistant coach Gary Taylor that the prostate cancer he was battling was not getting better. Coach Taylor had been with Coach Otton nearly from the start beginning in 1975 and stepping down in 1996. He spent time as the offensive line coach and several years as the Freshman Coach with Cliff Johnson. Coach Taylor passed away shortly after his final conversation with his friend on June 29th, 2010.
The team would honor Coach Taylor with a GT sticker on each player’s helmets for the entire season. Taylor’s sons Casey and Gentry were both big parts of 2 Championship teams, Casey in 1989 and Gentry in 1993. Both were on the sidelines of the 2010 Championship game.
This wouldn’t be the first time the T-Birds had to deal with a death from cancer during a Championship run. In 1989 Pat Alexander’s wife Sandy passed from Breast Cancer. Sandy was a longtime High School secretary and beloved by everyone. She was the sweetest person and in her way had a tremendous impact not only on the team but the entire student body. Cancer would again hit very close to home in 2010, we’ll have more on that coming up.
Let’s get back to this magical 2010 season that ended at the top of the mountain!
This re-cap is not going to be as extensive as the earlier seasons and the simple reason is the press coverage had changed so much there was not nearly the amount of coverage as in the prior decades. Coach Otton’s wife Marjean for years had put together a “scrapbook” of articles and pictures from all the papers for years. It was those books that allowed me to re-cap all those games, history was right there. In the 2000’s she stopped doing it because there just wasn’t a whole lot to put in as coverage has shrunk along with the delivery system. Long gone are comprehensive box scores and stories on each team every week. So I have re-capped the games I found information on with most of the focus on the Post-Season.
I did get help from some of the seniors from this season. It was a small class of seniors only 14. It’s such a small class I will list them for you since we are going to be short on game coverage from this season. In numerical order, 13 Kyle Warner, 16 Seth Jones, 25 Jamison Dowers, 29 Christian Bush, 30 Michael Glasgo, 35 Brady Grondel, 39 Joe Piper, 40 Joe Aulabaugh, 41 Hayden Zabel, 49 Demetrius Jones, 60 Marques Bryant, 71 Easton Hargrave, 75 Easton Elkin and 79 John Williams.
Hargrave, Warner, Glasgo, Dowers and Bryant got together and re-capped the season as they remembered it in a power point style presentation. Here is how they summed up the Pre-Season. They felt they were coming off a bad Junior year where they were knocked out of the post-season by RA Long. They called it as they saw it, “we choked against RAL”. They thought they would be better than that 6-4 season but as a group felt they were likely going to be average.
Part of that thought process was due to the small Senior class and only 7 returning starters. They were also a fairly small team in stature. There were several positives that they instilled, first they recognized they may be on the smaller side of size but they knew they were an exceptionally quick and fast as a team. They had a strong summer camp where “Trust” was the key word and not just among the seniors but all the way down to the Freshman. This senior bunch knew they needed a total team effort to take a significant step forward and had built great unity going into the 2010 season.
As this team prepared for their opener against Olympia. For us geezers from before the Black Hills days, Oly was our natural rival. They were our Cougars if you are a Husky fan. Part of this was that we knew each other off the field and had competed against them from little league on up. Olympia High School (actually William Winlock Miller High School, I always wondered why not go with Miller high? especially so close to the Olympia brewery that was in Tumwater what a rivalry, Oly vs Miller…but I digress.)
It was heartening for me to read from this group of guys that despite Black Hills being their crosstown rival there was still a special meaning in beating Olympia. These guys said they grew up going back and forth with Olympia and it was a good rivalry. Leading up to opening day they never missed any team workouts and were set to begin this season with a win over a solid 4A Olympia team.
Olympia 27, Tumwater 21 (OT)
Things got off to a great start for the T-Birds as Warner would take the opening kick-off and return it for a TD. Little did they know this was indeed a great sign for the season, but for this game…not so much. The game was a hard-hitting affair and a mistake on a snap late in the game sent the game to OT where the Bears pulled out the win.
The team afterward had to decide which way they wanted to go, look for excuses after not starting the season like they had planned or move past this quickly. That would be the choice, afterall this is a T-Bird team and they did what many Tumwater teams had done in the past they took this loss to heart and never forgot it. They said they weren’t sure if they had beat Olympia if they would have won the State Championship. Every time things got tough they used the feeling of this game to motivate themselves, to dig down and find a way. Is there such thing as a good loss? This team believed so in the end.
Tumwater 42, Yelm 21
Tumwater 15, WF West 12
Tumwater 46, North Thurston 14
This was the turning point mentally for this team. This is when they began to believe they may be a lot more than average after handing a tough Rams team a huge loss. This team was still finding themselves with the win over Yelm and then the close call with a solid WF West team. The confidence level was building slowly until the North Thurston game when everything clicked.
This resulted in quite the snowball effect as both the traditional shut down defense was working hand in hand with a high powered offense. They would roll through the rest of the league schedule tabbing 33+ point wins for the next 5 games including the crossover game with Aberdeen. Aberdeen had decided to play football in the GSHL 2A league to avoid having to play Tumwater but could not escape the T-Birds in the crossover.
Tumwater 55, Hockinson 13
Tumwater 40, Centralia 7
Tumwater, 49, River Ridge 6
Tumwater 54, Black Hills 7
Tumwater 49, Aberdeen 7
1st Round State Tournament
Tumwater 21, Lynden 10
Lynden had already become a dirty word and it was the luck of the draw and other factors that matched the #2 ranked team in the State, Lynden with the #3 ranked T-Birds. It was Coach McGrath who set the tone that week after hearing the complaints from all angles about having to play Lynden, McGrath turned it around and told the team, “I’m tired of everyone saying we have to play Lynden, Lynden has to play us!”
Coach Otton and his staff had certainly been down this path before and despite being considered the underdog by most observer’s this team knew the coaches truly believed in them and they felt that as the coaches insisted Tumwater was the team to beat.
I have fun with Coach Alexander many times prior to a game he will joke by throwing on his Lou Holtz persona claiming they have no business even playing the team they are playing. He’ll say things like have you seen how big those guys are? Have you seen how fast they are? We don’t have a chance, I don’t even know why we’re bothering to play this game.
But you know from his confidence and the gleam in his eye he knows not only will his team compete, he knows they are going to leave it all on the field. That’s part of the specialness (not sure that’s a word but I like it.) of this coaching staff. Winning was a reward for your hard work and commitment, giving your all, having your team mates back and never giving up was the expectation. That’s the little secret to this program’s success. It never has been about wins and losses. Those are the product of the work and effort each individual puts in to being part of this family.
The life lesson learned here is that even when you do all those things you’re still not guaranteed anything. As chronicled through these 9 parts, many other T-Bird teams could have easily hung a Championship banner with a play going your way here or one there but that’s why this is so hard. The T-Bird way is to compete like heck, do everything you can to accomplish your goals, work hard and constantly look for ways to improve.
This team epitomizes the T-Bird way characteristics. They rose to the challenge of facing Lynden who came in on a 23-game winning streak and put it to the Lions from the get go. Warner scored 2 1st half touchdowns scoring on an 8-yard TD pass from Daniel Hinkle capping a short drive after GATA recovered the opening kick-off fumble. The Hinkle to Warner connection would strike again in the 2nd quarter on a 21-yard play and then they would push the score to 21-0 a few minutes later when Hinkle found Zach Wimberly in the corner of the endzone on a 4th and 6 from the 21.
Lynden would get on the board late in half and they would go to the break leading 21-7. In the 2nd half the offense stalled but the Tumwater defense was shut down other than a field goal late in the 3rd quarter and the dominating performance would end Lynden’s season on the Civic Stadium field in Bellingham.
Tumwater 49, Burlington-Edison 8
With the win over the Lions the T-Birds got to host their quarterfinal game against Burlington-Edison. Olympian reporter Meg Wochnick reported it was a frigid night on November 20, 2010 but said everything went Tumwater’s way. Michael Glasgo had 2 big interceptions to lead the defensive charge and returned a punt 54-yards for a touchdown, showing a touch of speed he inherited from his Dad, John. More on the father son connection of this team later.
GATA was on fire in the cold, sacking the Tigers QB 3 times and holding the rushing game to negative yards in the 1st half. It was a complete whitewashing in all phases of this game. Kyle Warner scored 4 times on runs of 10, 57, 2 and 90. Ronnie Hastie returned an interception for a touchdown and Glasgo’s punt return saw every phase put up points in this game.
The win meant a trip to the Semi-Finals but this season they were in the bracket that sent them to Eastern Washington to face East Valley of Spokane….or would they?
Tumwater 63, East Valley (Spokane) 27
This was a weird week. The frigid temps of the quarterfinals turned into blizzard like conditions all over the State. Tumwater got prepared for the snow and cold weather by practicing on their own snow covered field at Tumwater District stadium. The T-Birds made the long trek over to Spokane, got checked into the hotel and were ready to play the Knights of East Valley in a cold Saturday afternoon showdown. The problem was not that there was snow, there was so much snow more than 2 feet the field and conditions at Joe Albi were declared unplayable and so the game was cancelled. The WIAA quickly made arrangements to switch the game to the Tacoma Dome on Monday, November 29.
When the game kicked-off the T-Birds were ready to roll as the scored on every offensive possession for the 1st 3 quarters. If the defense was the star of the quarterfinals then the offense took their turn in this one. They would rack up over 200 yards rushing and Hinkle threw for near 200 yards for more than 400 yards of offense.
Although the defense gave up more points in this game than they did since the 1st game of the season against Olympia, they also helped their own cause with a Warner interception for a touchdown. The 63 points set a Tumwater play-off record and they were on their way to the State Championship.
This would also be a time of great concern personally for Coach Otton and his family including son Tim who is and was an assistant coach for the T-Birds. Coach Otton’s wife Marjean was dealing with a health issue and on the day of the Semi-final game she was in the doctor’s office while the team prepared to play East Valley. Mrs. Otton explains the situation and the extraordinary bond the Otton’s have with each other:
By Marjean Otton
Tumwater 34, Arch Bishop Murphy 14
This season would end with the T-Birds on a huge roll scoring 426 points since their game with North Thurston 9 games earlier and giving up just 99 with nearly a third of those in the 63-27 blowout in the Semi’s. In their final 9 games the T-Birds were scoring an average of 47 points and giving up 11. But Arch Bishop Murphy had been ranked #1 for most or all of the season in some polls. The T-Birds were again underdogs to everyone else but themselves and the T-Bird believers.
Tumwater would not have a regular week of practice with the Semi-final game being played on Monday. Tumwater had to get right to work installing a game plan and getting through the scouting reports while the team did not have time to enjoy or celebrate their Semi-final win. Tumwater was 4-0 when they got to the State Title game and 2010 was not ready to snap that string.
When game day arrived the only thoughts about the Monday game impacting this team came from prognosticators and outsiders. The short work week would not impede but rather kept this team laser focused. Easton Hargrave told us there was no time to soak in the Semi-Final win or even look back at how they got here.
As much as the offense dominated the Semi-Final, GATA would rule the day in the Title tilt. Tumwater’s offense would only rack up 257 total yards but the reason was due to so many short fields provided by the defense. GATA grabbed 5 turnovers including 2 fumbles and 3 interceptions. Kyle Warner would score twice on offense catching 1 of Daniel Hinkle’s 3 TD passes and ran one in. Warner would also throw a TD pass to Grant Brandt on a halfback pass.
Tumwater would build a 27-0 lead and the T-Birds cruised to the win giving up touchdowns on the last series of the half and the last series of the game. It was complete domination from start to finish and this rag tag group of T-Birds would be the first Tumwater State Championship team to win it all without the prior year being in the Semi-Finals.
The group remembers some the atmosphere of that game calling it insane. They said it felt like half the city was there to cheer them on. They also remember the coaches being calm and cool and not letting the team get over-hyped.
The halftime lead would not stop Coach Alexander from delivering what they called the best halftime speech they ever heard. There was no way ABM would make a comeback on this day. It was Tumwater’s day and they finished it.
The win ended a 17-year absence from the title game and they would also improve to 5-0 in State Championship contests.
There was another oddity about this team. Coach Otton had been coaching kids of former players for some time now but there weren’t as many as in 2010. 11 players on the 2010 Championship team had father’s who played for Coach Otton. Coach Otton was quoted as saying “Tradition never Graduates”.
Interestingly enough none of the father’s were part of a Championship team except Chris Doelman, the youngest father who was also Tumwater’s only 3-year starter at QB in the early 90’s winning the 1990 title as a Sophomore. His son Minh Doelman added to the family legacy. Other’s included Easton and Trevor Hargrave and their Dad Greg Hargrave from 1982. Hunter Shaner with his Dad Kraig and Michael Glasgo and father John both Kraig and John from 1981. Daniel and Brennan Hinkle and their Dad Rob Hinkle from 1980 who also is a long time and current assistant coach for the T-Birds.
Then there was a string of players from the 1986 Semi-Final year that included Riley Prentice and his Dad Tony Prentice who also is a Tumwater football assistant and the T-Birds Head Wrestling Coach. Chandler Rodriguez and his father Hildo Rodriguez, John Williams and his Dad Eric Williams and Taylor Wood and his Dad Craig Wood.
2010 would turn out to be a crazy ride and once again a season that ended with the top prize that many may not have thought they could reach. There were ups and downs and in the end this team stamped this season as their’s and their’s alone. There are 5 State Championship T-Bird teams. Each one with their own personalities, their own way of doing things but under the guidance of Coach Otton and his staff that encouraged individuality in a team sport. Every single T-Bird who has been a Senior set out to lead their team in their way under the guidance of the T-Bird Way of rules.
That’s what makes this program so special and the man who has been out front the entire ride he not only allows his coaches but encourages them and players to find what it is that is going to lead them to success. He is not set in only doing things one way, he has been open to finding alternate pathways that lead to accomplishing the team goals.
This season set in motion a string of successful seasons but none reaching the summit of the Mountain but getting darn close. In 2011 the T-birds would get ousted by the team they beat up in the 2010 Championship, ABM in the opening round of the State play-offs.
In 2012 the T-Birds would make it back to the State Championship game continuing an unbelievable run dominating the Evergreen 2A Conference with 6 straight undefeated league titles, 6 straight State Tournament appearances, 5 Semi-Finals and 4 State Finals.
2012 though would be the first year to snap the string of State Title wins. After an impressive run through the season building a 12-1 record they would meet their match against Lynden as the Lions rolled with a 41-7 impressive win over the T-Birds.
2013 the T-Birds were attempting to be the 3rd undefeated State Champion in school history running their record to 13-0 with impressive play-off wins over Sehome 52-22, White River 45-7 and a shoot-out with Prosser in the Semi’s 45-40 resulting in a 2nd straight showdown with Lynden. The Lions would again prevail jumping out to a big early lead and then holding as Tumwater’s furious come back fell short losing 38-28.
In 2014 once again the T-Birds were looking to start their ring collection on a 2nd hand but this time it was a heartbreaking loss to Sedro-Woolley in the Semi-Finals losing 28-27 the difference a missed extra point. To further rub salt in that wound the Cubs would go on to beat Lynden the following week snapping the Lions run of state titles.
This brings us to 2015, just last season. Who can forget this memorable run. Tumwater again enters the play-offs undefeated and runs through the 1st 2 rounds of the post-season with a 55-14 win over Franklin Pierce and 38-21 over Squalicum. This set up a faceoff with ArchBishop Murphy, many people’s choices as the #1 ranked team. It appeared the Wildcats had this game put away when the defense late in the game came up with a huge turnover and the offense would score late to win the game 24-21.
The T-Birds would get back to the Championship game for the 3rd time in 4 years and 4th in 6 years to face Prosser. The Mustangs have long been known for their high flying offense and in this Championship would do just enough to again deny Tumwater their 6th title with a 22-15 win. Tumwater got a late turnover and the offense was knocking on the door inside the 10 yard line to try and tie the game or who knows go for 2 and the win when they fell short and turned the ball over on downs near the goal line.
I didn’t mention who got those 2 late turnovers in the final 2 games but T-Bird fans know that’s big #10 Cade Otton, Coach Otton’s Grandson. Cade is Coach’s 2nd Grandson that he has gotten to coach following Jaden Croft who was the T-Birds QB during the 2012 and 2013 season’s. Cade wearing #10 is also a great tribute to his Dad Tim. Tim, Coach Otton’s 1st son was the QB of the 1985 team that ran off 6 straight wins only to fall short of getting to the play-offs including a season ending win over Shelton. This was significant because Shelton would go on to win the State Title that year.
Jaden is the son of Coach Otton’s daughter Tana. Tana was always involved with and around the football program. She is now a teacher and coach at THS and has developed a similar program with her volleyball team. She has 2 State Championship banners hanging in Thunderbird Pavilion with multiple State appearances and placings and has one of the most dominate programs in the state. The old saying the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree certainly applies to this father/daughter combination. It won’t surprise me if someday someone sits down to chronicle the success of Tumwater’s Volleyball program under the direction of Coach Otton.
Coach Otton’s son’s, Tim and Brad and Grandson’s Jaden and Cade was just part of a long tradition of coaches sons playing for them as T-Birds. I am going to miss some here so please forgive me or better yet, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to add the names to this story. This is ALL from my feeble memory so I’m gonna give it a shot…
T-Bird Coaches with Sons and Grandsons who played for them
Coach Sid Otton: Tim Otton, Brad Otton, Jaden Croft, Cade Otton
Coach Tim Otton: Cade Otton
Coach Pat Alexander: Kelly “Kip” Alexander
Coach Gary Taylor: Casey Taylor, Gentry Taylor
Coach Randy Reynolds: Ryan Reynolds, Robin Reynolds
Cris Harmia: Devin Harmia, Kyle Harmia
Coach Jamie Weeks: Cameron Weeks, Jeremy Weeks
Coach Rob Hinkle: Rocky Hinkle, Brennan Hinkle, Daniel Hinkle
Coach Tony Prentice: Patrick Prentice, Riley Prentice, Jack Prentice
Coach Scott Haury: Jason Haury
Cliff Johnson: Corey Johnson, David Johnson
This brings this series to a conclusion. There is one last piece that will come out next week and it’s focused on Coach Otton, Coach Alexander and Coach Shoun. We will have some surprise guest writers and other fun facts and figures from this incredible run.
Additionally, if you’d like to have a comment included to this awesome trio of coaches that have been so impactful to so many, drop your thoughts or comments to me at email@example.com. Please understand I will simply copy and paste your entire comment and post it on the final part next Thursday.