Prep Football: Onalaska’s ‘Milkman’ Eager to Go Toe-to-Toe with Washington’s Best
Small Towns on a Big Stage: Lawrence, Eaton, McCollum, Chilcoate, and Stanley to Represent C2BL on All-State Gridiron
By Jordan Nailon
Tristen Lawrence is the definition of country strong. The recently graduated senior lineman from Onalaska has never had an affinity for the weight room but he’s also never shied away from hard work that’s typically too uncomfortable, and downright stinky, for most folks to embrace.
Lawrence, who was listed on Friday nights at a height and weight of 6 feet, 255 pounds, prefers to buck two bales at a time and he knows that the work’s not done until all the hay is in the barn. Moreover, he spends many of his days working a pitchfork and shovel on the family dairy farm where he’s in charge of maneuvering a never ending stream of manure into more appropriate piles.
That sort of calloused tenacity has served Lawrence well off the hayfields and mucking stalls as well. Most notably, he’s put his country boy strength to work on the gridiron the last four years, pushing the opposition into more appropriate piles for the Loggers football team. This year his hayseed bonafide resume has landed Lawrence on the roster for the 25th annual Earl Barden Football Classic. That All-State style football game will pit the top talent from around the state against each other at Eisenhower High School’s Zaepfel Stadium on Saturday, June 22, at 1 p.m.
Onalaska football coach Mazen Saade is the man responsible for nominating Lawrence for the All-State game. He said it was a no-brainer of a decision based on the lineman’s physical attributes along with his first-rate intangibles.
“That’s simple. He’s a great football player but he’s an even better person than he is a football player. He’s a great ambassador for the game of football and the community of Onalaska,” explained Saade. “As a coaching staff we are pretty lucky to have a kid like Tristen. He allows us to do a lot of things offensively and defensively. It’s been a blessing. It makes your game planning a lot easier when you’ve got a kid like that.”
Lawrence spent most of his time cracking skulls in the trenches as a defensive tackle and an offensive guard but he also handled kicking duties for the Loggers. Saade noted that Lawrence even returned a kickoff about 50 yards this year and managed to punch in a two-point conversion in typical Logger rumble fashion.
“He scored an extra point for us this year. We put in a Meat Package with him, Cleveland-Barrera and the Frazier kid,” Saade said in his typically flamboyant fashion.
As for Lawrence, he says his love affair with smashmouth football began as soon as he strapped on a helmet and shoulder pads for the first time in third grade.
“My brothers played so I thought I should try it out and it worked out for me,” remembered Lawrence. “I was bigger than everyone else when I was little and I got a lot of tackles.”
Saade said that sort of contribution never really changed over the years. He and Lawrence headed to Yakima on Tuesday to begin preparation for Saturday’s game so he did not have season stats handy but he was not at a loss for words when summarizing Lawrence’s impact on the field.
“We call them significant plays and he has a lot of them,” said Saade.
When forced to choose, Lawrence conceded that he enjoys defense more than offense because he gets to put a helmet on unsuspecting ball carriers rather than just the big uglies across the line of scrimmage. Either way though, you’ll never find Lawrence complaining.
“I’m happy as long as I get to hit somebody and that’s a guarantee on the line. There’s always somebody in front of you,” Lawrence noted.
Looking back on his prep football career, Lawrence pointed out his team’s battle with Rainier last fall as a contest that stands out above the rest. Trailing 21-6 at intermission Onalaska was able to mount an improbable comeback to win 34-28 and hand the Mountaineers their first loss of the season. He says that the 2018 incarnation of Onalaska football was a special group that was uniquely suited to toppling talented foes.
“This year especially we had lots of family together. There were 11 of us. Eleven actual family members and then we’ve got a lot of kids who just love to be a part of the team,” Lawrence said. “All of our captains just bring people together. There’s no talking down to anybody. It definitely brings us together. We’ve got a good culture.”
Lawrence pointed out that he was flanked on the field by talented bruisers like BJ Cleveland-Barrera and Alex Frazier. He admitted that in the heat of the battle their conversations on the gridiron can turn a little salty. However, that’s all part of doing business in Onalaska and making sure they’re ready to fell any given opponent.
“We’ve definitely got to talk to each other about blocking schemes and different defenses and stuff. It gets a little heated in the middle but we always get it figured out,” said Lawrence.
Saade pointed out that Lawrence generated a wave of interest from college football programs during his prep football career but he’s not entirely sure just what the future will hold for his anchor on offense and defense. No matter what Lawrence decides to do after Saturday, Saade says he’s not worried in the slightest.
“Whatever he wants to do, he’s going to be great at it. He’s going to be a great dad. A great husband. A great employee. And you know as well as I do that that’s what’s most important,” Saade said.
Zaepfel Stadium is located at 611 South 44th Avenue, Yakima. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. and the game will feature 80 of the best players from the 2A, 1A, 2B, and 1B ranks. Other local players selected to participate in the All-State game include Jason Chilcoate of Adna, Hunter Eaton of Toledo, as well as Jared McCollum and Dawson Stanley of Napavine.