Home USA News Yelm defeats Bellevue in 3A state football tournament semifinals

Yelm defeats Bellevue in 3A state football tournament semifinals

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Facing a 4th-and-goal from the Bellevue 1-yard line, everyone on either side, the crowd — heck, everyone across the state watching the game — thought the ball was going to Brayden Platt.

In the end, the Yelmo four-star recruit shredded Bellevue’s defense all game, racking up 159 yards and three touchdowns on the ground while carrying Bellevue defenders for extra yards. He was relentless, physically dominant, the best player on the field in a game with no shortage of talent in Yelm’s Class 3A state tournament semifinal game at Art Crate Field on Saturday.

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Somewhere in that pile was the game-winning touchdown for the Yelm Tornados in their 28-27 win over the Bellevue Wolverines in Saturday’s 3A state football semifinal at Art Crate Field in Spanaway, Wash., Nov. 26, 2022. Tony Overman toverman@theolympian.com

That’s what made the stealth defender game risky, unexpected, and ultimately brilliant. Damian Aalona rushed into the end zone behind an offensive line that imposed its will throughout the contest, giving Elmo the lead late in the fourth quarter. Yelm looked to win 28-27 to advance to next weekend’s 3A state championship game.

“We only had to go one yard,” Aalona said. “All our coaches thought we only needed one yard.”

Understandably, Bellevue was concerned about Platt potentially getting the ball in a tight-yardage situation. Platt was thrilled to have Aalone — who doesn’t always get the headlines he and some of his teammates enjoy — calling his number when the game is on the line.

“It was amazing to see,” Platt said. “I always enjoy seeing my brothers eat, so it was amazing to see him and the line work together and all get it there together. … I knew he was going to get it. … When he got into the end zone, I was glad to see him go. They were stacking the box because they knew we played the same game 30 times. They thought it would.”

It was a wrinkle Yelm had yet to use this season.

“We didn’t compete in the QB Wedge at all this year,” Yelm coach Jason Rankillo said. “The short yardage situations have always been about handing the ball to Brayden Platt or handing the ball to Ray Wright. It was a situation where the whole crowd, the team, their team thought Brayden Platt was getting the ball.”

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Yelm’s Isaiah Patterson, left, Brayden Platt and Nathan Ford lead the Tornadoes in a postgame salute to thank their fans for their 28-27 victory over the Bellevue Wolverines in Saturday’s 3A state football semifinal at Art- Crate Field in Spanaway, Washington, Nov. 26, 2022. Tony Overman toverman@theolympian.com

Up until this point, the game had gone as expected, with Bellevue pulling off some big plays in its well-oiled Wing-T offense and Platt being hard to bring down in the Yelm game. It felt like the game could come down to who had the ball last. Indeed, after Bellevue’s Kaden Matsudaira four-yard field goal to take a 27-22 lead with five minutes left on the clock.

Yelm fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Tornadoes a 94-yard field goal. Aalona made three crucial shots on the drive and Platt continued to have success on the ground. Yelm put together an 18-play, 94-yard touchdown drive, draining most of the clock in the process.

“We got the ball with about five minutes to go, we just had to knock it in,” Platt said. “We knew we had more heart than them, we wanted better. So we just had to keep going and keep going.”

Rankillo has seen a lot of big games from Platt over the past few years. While he’s had more yards in games before, Saturday’s effort may have been his most impressive yet.

“Warrior mentality, beast of a player,” Rankillo said. “Everyone dresses up in overcoats and rides them. Actually, me too. I said, ‘Let’s give the ball to our best players and let them win this game.’ It’s not about the coaching staff, it’s about how the guys play on the field. Why don’t we just hand it to the best player on the field and see what happens.”

Bellevue coach Michael Kneip tipped his hat to Plata and the Tornadoes after the loss.

“The clock just ran out on us,” he said. “But (Platt) is just a great player.”

Until the 2022 season, Elm had never advanced past the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. Yelm will play in the school’s first state championship next weekend at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, facing Eastside Catholic in the 3A state championship game. In the other semifinal match, Eastside Catholic defeated O’Dea.

This story was originally published November 26, 2022 at 5:58 p.m.

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