Before the football is in the air on a punt or a kickoff, Andrew Brown is already thinking ahead: He wants a touchdown.
But will the opposing team kick to Brown, Tumwater's do-it-all player, and perhaps the most dangerous return man in the state? Or will they choose to squib kick or simply kick it out of bounds and take the penalty to avoid Brown and his jet-like speed trying to run for another special-teams score?
More times than not, Brown, The Olympian's All-Area football Player of the Year, gets the ball and puts on a show.
Brown has set multiple school records this season, including the marks for most punt returns for touchdowns in a season (four) and the longest interception return for a touchdown (100 yards). He also has two kickoff returns for touchdowns, giving him six total special-teams touchdowns through 13 games.
He'll be the first to tell you he gets a lot of help from his teammates along the way.
"I have a lot of trust for the other 10 guys to block," Brown said. "I know they're going to be right there if we go right or left."
The 2A Evergreen Conference's MVP has had a breakout season, as the Thunderbirds prepare for their 2A state championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday against Lynden at the Tacoma Dome.
He is responsible for 26 touchdowns this season: He rushed for 14, passed for one, caught four TD passes and returned an interception for a score, in addition to his six special-teams TDs. He's the team yardage leader in rushing (1,237) and receiving (378).
In last weekend's semifinal win over Prosser, he score a pair - one through the air and one on the ground - and rushed for 60 yards on 13 carries and had another 35 yards receiving.
Brown's success in track and field has translated well to the football field. As the two-time defending 2A state champion in the 400 meters, his blistering speed makes it difficult for defenders to catch him in the open field.
"I don't stop running," Brown said. "I keep that speed and it's helped me tremendously. All the track training doesn't go away."
Tumwater coach Sid Otton puts Brown in a select group of athletes he has coached. It includes Scott Gurnsey, a member of the 1989 Tumwater state title team who held the state's career punt-return record; and Kyle Warner, a do-it-all player from Tumwater's 2010 state title team and the 2A State Player of the Year.
Otton said Brown sparked the team from the start, especially after its 42-21 season-opening loss to Shelton.
"The reality is, we would've struggled early," Otton said. "He provided a lot of things that enabled us to get on the winning track."
Brown calls his leadership role a change from his 2011 season.
Coming into this year, Brown was looked to as a leader on a young Tumwater team that returned just four starters - including Brown - from last season's 7-3 team that lost in the first round of the 2A state playoffs.
Now, the team is on an 12-game winning streak and one win away from the sixth state title in the program's history.
"That first loss kicked us in the butt a little," Brown said. "After that loss, I remember everyone came out and worked hard at practice. Since then, we've been rolling."
CLASS 2A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
LYNDEN vs. TUMWATER
Time: 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1
Site: Tacoma Dome
Advance tickets: Available at Lynden High School main office between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Tickets cost the same as they will at the Tacoma Dome - $15 for adults and $11 for students with ASB cards.
OTHER CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
Class 4A: Skyline vs. Bellarmine Prep, 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Class 3A: Bellevue vs. Eastside Catholic, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Class 1A: Royal vs. Montesano, 10 a.m. Saturday
Class 2B: Morton-White Pass vs. Lind-Ritzville-Sprague, 4 p.m. Friday
Class 1B: Liberty Christian vs. Neah Bay, 4 p.m. Saturday