TUMWATER — A fair few minds in the Washington high school football scene certainly expect Tumwater to have a down year, and coach Bill Beattie has his own sort of proof.
“Teams that typically wouldn’t play us wanted to play us this year,” he said with a laugh.
Indeed, the Thunderbirds, who have made it to the past two 2A state title games and lost out on the state championship to Lynden last fall, are in a bit of a retooling mode, after three straight graduating classes of over 30 kids moved on.
But that doesn’t mean Beattie and his staff are planning for a dip in production.
“It’s going to take a little bit longer to get to where we would typically be than usual when we had big, experienced senior groups,” he said. “This year we don’t, but the expectations are the same.”
The T-Birds do get the benefit of returning starters in a few key spots. Under center, Alex Overbay comes back to handle field general duties, and sling the ball around a bit when the coaching staff does open it up a bit. As important in Tumwater’s system, Carlos Matheney — a three-star Idaho commit who led the team in carries last year — returns, moving over in the backfield to start at fullback.
“He understands that the spotlight’s on him, but he’s up for the task,” Beattie said. “He’s been working hard and I think he’s really taken on the role and is looking forward to being the guy people are trying to stop.”
With Matheney now the No. 1 option in the offense, Beattie named senior Luke Reid and junior Logan Cole to step into the tailback spots and rack up carries as the second option in the run-based offense. But with so many holes to fill and new faces coming in to fill them, they’re just leading a big group of prospects.
“We’re fortunate,” Beattie said. “We have six, seven backs who can all play. It’s just a matter of who gets up to speed the fastest.”
That tailback room includes a fair few sophomores getting plugged into what’s become one of the most prominent ground games in the state of Washington. But that’s not the only group heavy on the youth. Beattie said the Thunderbirds could have upwards of 10 sophomores either starting or logging significant playing time — with two or three on the line, in the backfield, and out wide.