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Bracket Breakdown: Washington (WIAA) football playoff game-by-game analysis, picks in Class 3A semifinals

Yelm is in the state semifinals for the first time in school history; can the Tornados ride their undefeated streak all the way to the state championship?

The question of whether Yelm was an actual contender in Class 3A was thrown out long ago.

The Tornados have answered that question time and time again this season.

With blowout win after blowout win though, Yelm finally got a close game for the first time in a long time in last week's quarterfinal matchup with Kennewick.

"Kennewick has size, toughness and skill," Yelm coach Jason Ronquillo said. "They are by far the toughest defense we've seen all season long."

To go with their fight against Kennewick, the Tornados also had to battle some injuries and sickness throughout the team last week.

Ronquillo said that just goes to show how resilient his team is.

Despite a tough opponent and banged up players, the Tornados found a way to pull out a win and are now making their first state semifinal appearance in school history.

Yelm has gotten here with an amazing number of pure athletes on the team.

The Tornados are led by quarterback Damien Aalona, athlete Kyler Ronquillo, linebacker Ray Wright and running back Brayden Platt.

The four of them have combined to run over, past and through every single team that has lined up on the other side.

So what exactly makes this year's Yelm team different than ones in year's past that never made it this far? Jason Ronquillo said everything has come down to preparation this season.

"As long as the athletes are willing to prepare properly for their next opponent, the sky is the limit," he said. "(It's just) one day at a time."

Yelm enters its semifinal matchup with defending state champion Bellevue boasting a 12-0 record. The Tornados have outscored opponents by a ridiculous 648-110 margin.

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"It's been an incredible run so far, but our boys have their eyes set on the final prize," Jason Ronquillo said.

CLASS 3A LIVE BRACKET

Editor’s note: Here's a game-by-game breakdown, including top individual performers, outlook and score prediction, of this weekend’s 2022 WIAA Class 3A football semifinal matchups.

NO. 3 O'DEA FIGHTING IRISH (10-1) at NO. 2 EASTSIDE CATHOLIC CRUSADERS (11-0)

Washington high school football 2022: Bothell at O'Dea

1 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Seattle

Statistical leaders: For O'Dea – QB Luke D'Anna (44-77, 679 yards, 10 TDs), RB Jason Brown Jr. (179 carries, 1,539 yards, 19 TDs), RB Christian Winn (48 carries, 386 yards, seven TDs), LB Brendan Murphy (83 tackles, 1.5 sacks), LB Xavier Agasid (41 tackles, one sack). For Eastside Catholic – QB Brady McKelheer (128-224, 2,113 yards, 21 TDs), RB Masen Uribe (130 carries, 848 yards, 10 TDs), RB Richie Fotualii-Aliifua (70 carries, 492 yards, 14 TDs), WR Jayden Reyes (36 catches, 522 yards, four TDs), WR Branden Ganashamoorthy (26 catches, 536 yards, six TDs), TE Gabe Hoffmann (29 catches, 458 yards, four TDs) and LB David Lene.

What to watch for: O'Dea will have a shot at redeeming its only loss of the season this week with another battle against Eastside Catholic on deck. The two teams met in Week 5 and Eastside Catholic came out on top in a 24-17 thriller. The Fighting Irish and Crusaders know each other well, so expect another close game that could come down to the wire. The last time O'Dea and Eastside Catholic met in the playoffs was the 2019 state title game - a 20-12 Crusaders' victory.

Pick: O'Dea, 20-17

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NO. 5 BELLEVUE WOLVERINES (9-2) at NO. 1 YELM TORNADOS (12-0)

2022 Washington high school football: Camas at Yelm MAIN

1 p.m. at Art Crate Field, Spanaway

Statistical leaders: For Bellevue – QB Lucas Razore (27-53, 654 yards, 15 TDs), RB Carson Rubin (143 carries, 1,234 yards, 20 TDs), ATH Ishaan Daniels (64 carries, 1,059 yards, 15 TDs; nine catches, 237 yards, four TDs), TE Hogan Hansen (eight catches, 178 yards, six TDs), LB George Kruger (80 tackles, one sack, 8.5 TFL). For Yelm – QB Damian Aalona (139-196, 2,166 yards, 26 TDs), RB Brayden Platt (85 carries, 1,013 yards, 21 TDs), ATH Kyler Ronquillo (59 carries, 553 yards, nine rushing TDs; 47 catches, 732 yards, nine TDs; 602 return yards, one TD), RB William Carreto (63 carries, 752 yards, nine TDs), LB Ray Wright (97 tackles, 17 TFL, five sacks, four INTs), LB Isaiah Patterson (89 tackles, 16 TFL, 10 sacks), DL Onyx Carter (43 tackles, 13 TFL, nine sacks).

What to watch for: What better way to earn your first state championship game appearance than by knocking off the defending champion? That's what Yelm will have to do. The Tornados have made easy work of every opponent this season until last week. Bellevue is coming off a thrilling comeback win over Lincoln. Both teams are riding a ton of momentum heading into the semifinals. Difference might be how Yelm's talented linebacking corps handles the Wolverines' punishing Wing-T offense.

Pick: Yelm, 35-34

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