Washington’s Top 50 high school football teams: Can Kyler Ronquillo, deep stable of playmakers keep No. 14 Yelm in the 3A title hunt?

SBLive is previewing the Top 50 high school teams in Washington ahead of the fall 2021 season. Here’s an inside look at the Yelm Tornados of the 3A South Sound Conference – the No. 14 team in our countdown.

SPRING 2021 IN REVIEW

6-0 in COVID-impacted 3A South Sound Conference (first place).

COACH’S RESUME

  • Jason Ronquillo, eighth season.
  • Overall record: 47-36.
  • Coordinators: OC – Bryan Irion (spread “zone 10”); DC – Jason Ronquillo (3-4).

NOTABLE DEPARTURES

OL/DL Slade Edwards

OL/DL Dylan Jemtegaard

OL/DL Josh Piland

RB/LB Sean Rohwedder

RETURNING STARTERS

Offense – 7. Defense – 6.

TOP PLAYERS

OL Landen Barger, 6-2, 290, soph.

RB/LB William Carreto, 5-9, 185, jr.

OL Kollin Gifford, 6-0, 265, sr.

WR Nathan Paul, 6-3, 180, jr.

RB/LB Brayden Platt, 6-2, 235, soph.

DL/OL Logan Platt, 6-3, 210, sr.

WR/DB Kyler Ronquillo, 5-10, 170, jr.

WR/DB Aden Schaler, 5-10, 165, jr.

LB Ray Wright, 5-10, 5-10, 190, jr.

THREE TO SEE

Kollin Gifford, offensive tackle

Versatile lineman whose speed and tenacity (coaches call it “spitfire”) allow him to excel across the line. Will move from right guard to right tackle, and may project best as a college center.

Kyler Ronquillo, wide receiver

Asserted himself among the state’s top two-way playmakers in the spring as a sophomore, amassing nearly 800 total yards of offense and eight touchdowns in earning league MVP honors.

Ray Wright, inside linebacker 

League defensive MVP (67 tackles, four sacks, 10 TFL, INT) as a quick, instinctual ball-carrier hunter. Since school has been out, his strength numbers have skyrocketed.

FALL 2021 OUTLOOK

Yelm was one of the state’s most impressive bright spots in the shortened spring season, turning an undefeated run into a league title.  

Expectations remain high — state championship-level high — but the Tornados didn’t spend the short offseason taking a victory lap. Instead, they had high attendance, competitive scrimmages and weight-room commitment all summer – under the pointed directive of their coach.

The message? The past don’t matter. Get better.

“Nothing in the past matters if you’re not willing to work,” Ronquillo said. “Obviously, success builds confidence, but we’re always trying to strive for more.”

The season also served as a passing of the torch of sorts, from a strong senior class to an early-blooming 2023 group.

The nucleus of Yelm’s tough, young group starts with two incoming juniors: SSC MVP Kyler Ronquillo, the team’s top offensive weapon and lockdown cornerback; and inside linebacker Ray Wright, the conference defensive MVP.

Their spring run was preceded by a harrowing 2019 first-round playoff exit and a state quarterfinal run in 2018. Can this be the year the Tornados compete for a state title in a crowded 3A field?

The biggest area they must address is the offensive line, and how to replace Dylan Jemtegaard (now at Cal) and Slade Edwards (Central Washington). While Ronquillo says there are plenty of bodies to fill those spots, such as returning all-3A SSC first-teamer Kollin Gifford, who is moving to right tackle, and Landen Barger, a returning second team all-conference pick, their impact was felt most as leaders of the locker room and coaches on the field.

Also, there will be a change at quarterback. Nathan Paul, who saw snaps under center in the spring, will move back to wide receiver. Timberline transfer Palaina Hooper, a senior, is the favorite to win the job over sophomore Damian Aalona.

While each program navigated months-long COVID-19 shutdowns differently, Ronquillo said the Tornados ratcheted up their weight-training workouts. Players bought in, especially a talented 2023 class of impactful players.

“Our athletes are hungry,” Jason Ronquillo said. “Once you tell them they’re a good athlete, they still want more.”

FALL 2021 SCHEDULE

  • Sept. 3 vs. Lincoln of Tacoma
  • Sept. 10 at Mount Si
  • Sept. 17 vs. Timberline
  • Sept. 24 at River Ridge
  • Oct. vs. Capital
  • Oct. 8 at Gig Harbor
  • Oct. 14 at North Thurston
  • Oct. 22 vs. Peninsula
  • Oct. 29 at Central Kitsap

(Featured photo by Carol Thompson)

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