ALL AREA: Rivalries Fostered in Childhood Reach Peak Form on the Football Field
By Jordan Nailon
Kolby Steen and Tyler Pallas were two of the first area prep players to show up for the glamourous All-Area football photo shoot last week. While the two W.F. West Bearcats patiently awaited the rest of the accomplished cast to arrive one question simmered too hot to go without asking.
“Is Gravy going to be here?” they asked.
Looking around the empty Centralia College gymnasium I wracked my brain to no avail. Puzzled, I looked over the official All-Area roster for clues to the genesis of the unfamiliar name and came up empty.
Confounded, I asked the Bearcats for a clue as to the identity of the mysterious “Gravy” character.
With a pair of hearty belly laughs that would make Santa Claus proud, Steen and Pallas told me that Gravy is the name that All-Area MVP Wyatt Stanley was given by his teammates — including Pallas and Steen — way back in their Little League days.
As it turns out those youthful relationships, forged beyond strict city and town lines and in between the more inclusive lines of baseball diamonds, soccer pitches, basketball courts and of course Pee-Wee football fields, have held strong over time like the congealed top layer of a table-cooled holiday gravy boat.
Asked about his country-fried nickname Stanley, the Liberty-slaying quarterback of this year’s State 2B championship Napavine team, let out a young man’s chuckle as a lifetime of competitive memories washed over him like warm gravy on a steaming pile of mashed potatoes.
Taking stock he noted that through the formative years of youth sports in Lewis County nearly all of the area’s prep athletes eventually cross paths, either as teammates or familiar foes.
“You get to know these guys pretty well. It’s all good guys here and it’s good to recognize them for their athletic ability,” said Stanley. “It’s a pretty special group.”
Standing at the head of that talented crop of gridiron standouts is Stanley himself, who took his Tiger team to the championship game for the third straight year and helped to finally bring back the trophy with a 163-yard, two-touchdown passing performance (he ran in two more scores for good measure) in the penultimate contest. For the season “Gravy” amassed an incredible 3,197 yards and 46 touchdowns in the air alone.
Stanley credited a tough Southwest Washington 2B League schedule for creating a battle-tested Tiger team that was ultimately able to claim the title.
“It definitely helped us,” said Stanley. “I think some of the east side teams that don’t have as tough of a schedule. The speed of the game is a lot different and they have a hard time keeping up for four quarters.”
Napavine landed six other players on the All-Area team, all of whom helped Stanley to collect those gaudy statistics and, more importantly, the coveted golden pigskin trophy.
Tiger receivers Mac Fagerness, Jordan Purvis and Noah Lantz all had outstanding seasons reeling in heaves from Stanley. Fagerness finished the season with 56 receptions for 970 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Purvis hauled in 48 passes for 665 yards and 16 touchdowns and Lantz caught 41 passes for 804 yards and 9 touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball Napavine’s Sam Fagerness, Austin Filley and Conner Locke helped to steel the Tigers stingy team defense, with Fagerness and Filley garnering two of the All-Area linebacker spots and Locke earning a defensive line nod.
Looking outside of his own team, Stanley noted that, “There’s a lot of good players in this league.”
Two of the best players in the area, according to the baby-faced man-child they call Gravy, were Toledo quarterback Dalton Yoder and Pe Ell-Willapa Valley running back Kaelin Jurek.
Yoder, whose Toledo team made it all the way to the semifinals before falling to Napavine in a tight contest, took the All-Area quarterback honor after a season of tormenting opponents with his over-the-top strong arm and ham-hock legs. For the season Yoder tallied 858 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground while throwing for 920 yards and 14 touchdowns on a near 50-percent completion rate.
“He had a great year both defensively and offensively,” said Stanley of his quarterback brethren, who doubled down as a defensive end for Toledo.
Jurek carried the water all season long for a tough Titan team, totalling 1,845 yards rushing. He compiled those stats with an impressive 7.4 yards per carry and 153.8 yards per game, and notched 33 touchdowns for the season.
“He was definitely the best back we’ve seen all year,” said Stanley of Jurek.
Isaac Ingle of Adna was another 2B wrecking ball who wound up on the All-Area team as a running back after compiling 1,335 rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns this season. Ingle, a four-year varsity player, chewed up 8.9 yards per carry and 148.3 yards per game this year for the Pirates.
Austin Emery of W.F. West filled the final All-Area running back slot on the merit of his 1,060 yards and 10 touchdowns in nine games.
A workman’s crew of offensive lineman came together to round out the offensive side of the All-Area team. Those pile driving and pocket protecting stud muffins included Brad Prestegord of PWV, Brayden Andrews of Centralia, Brynden Jaeger of Adna, Carson Lewis of Morton-White Pass and Zach Huffman of Onalaska.
Taking the rundown back across to the defensive side of the gridiron, W.F. West’s Kolby Steen filled the final linebacker slot after a slobberknocker campaign for a Bearcat team that was undefeated until a Week 9 crossover tilt with a terrorizing Tumwater team.
Filling out the defensive line slots were Seth Nichols and Dakota Robins of Toledo and Tyler Pallas and Hunter Arredondo of W.F. West. Nichols totalled 77 tackles (17 for a loss) and five sacks on the season while Robins collected ten sacks and 58 tackles (14 for a loss).
In the All-Area secondary Cedric “Bo” Miles of Mossyrock cobbled together an impressive season 117 tackles, 79 of which were of the solo variety, and three forced fumbles. A dual threat, Miles also rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season. Centralia’s Jose Pineda made the All-Area secondary via his consistent shutdown coverage, as well as PWV’s Ryan Shepherd who got in on 61 tackles this year, 34 of the solo variety, and hauled in three interceptions. Toledo’s secondary stalwart Dylan Hoiseck rounded out the defensive All-Area team with three interceptions to show for his season’s efforts.
After crunching stats and shaking hands with the cream of the area’s top football crop it’s evident that southwest Washington towns both large and small can produce Grade-A meat-and-potatoes gridiron talent that’s on par with the any other slice of this great state. The rest, as they say, is just Gravy.
THE CHRONICLE’S ALL-AREA FOOTBALL TEAM
MVP: Wyatt Stanley (QB), Sr., Napavine
QB Dalton Yoder Sr. Toledo
RB Kaelin Jurek Sr. PWV
RB Austin Emery Sr. W.F. West
RB Isaac Ingle Sr. Adna
WR Mac Fagerness Sr. Napavine
WR Jordan Purvis Jr. Napavine
WR Noah Lantz Jr. Napavine
OL Brad Prestegord Jr. Pe Ell-Willapa Valley
OL Brayden Andrews Sr. Centralia
OL Brynden Jager Jr. Adna
OL Carson Lewis Jr. Morton-White Pass
OL Zach Huffman Sr. Onalaska
LB Austin Filley Sr. Napavine
LB Kolby Steen Sr. W.F. West
LB Sam Fagerness Sr. Napavine
DB Bo Miles Sr. Mossyrock
DB Ryan Shepherd Jr. Pe Ell-Willapa Valley
DB Dylan Hoiseck Sr. Toledo
DB Jose Pineda Sr. Centralia
DL Seth Nichols Sr. Toledo
DL Tyler Pallas Sr. W.F. West
DL Hunter Arredondo Sr. W.F. West
DL Dakota Robins, Sr. Toledo
DL Conner Locke Sr. Napavine