The road back to success for the Tumwater football team won’t be as simple as rolling the same team out onto the field and expecting similar results.
Instead, after graduating 30 seniors for the third straight season, the Thunderbirds have undergone a much more thorough reloading process, with plenty of new bodies scattered all over the field.
“As coaches, we realize that we have a lot of guys that have had limited playing time, so it takes a little bit longer, but the standard doesn’t change,” coach Bill Beattie said. “What we expect out of those kids is the same as any other group that’s come here. As coaches, we’ve had to be a little bit more understanding, take them through a little bit more, spend a little bit more time talking and chalking.”
Beattie estimated that the number of sophomores playing meaningful minutes could hit double-figures easily. But with nearly the entire lineup in turnover, even many of the upperclassmen are in a similar position to the 10th graders, stepping into a starting role for the first time.
“They’re doing a good job,” Beattie said. “A lot of them are in the same boat. They’re looking at starting for the first time, so their reps are very valuable as well.”
The good news for the T-Birds starts with a couple familiar faces that are back. Alex Overbay is well-versed in the offense and ready for another year as Tumwater’s starting quarterback, and Carlos Matheney, who spent 2021 as the second option to Payton Hoyt, will slot into the fullback role as the ground game’s primary weapon.
“Inherently in the Wing-T, the full back is the guy,” Beattie said. “He’s typically going to get more carries than anybody else. However, the great thing is that if that’s who you focus on, there’s two or three other guys who are going to get the ball and go.”
The new-look Thunderbirds will have to grow up in a hurry, going from a Week 1 matchup with Burlington-Edison to a Week 2 showdown against 2A state semifinalist North Kitsap, with a trip to 3A Kelso wrapping up the non-league portion of its schedule.
“Our young guys are going to get valuable experience, and then Week 5, we’ll have another top-10 team in Chehalis coming to play,” Beattie said. “If nothing else, we’re going to get quality reps and quality experience that will make those young guys grow up in a hurry.”